Monday, February 09, 2009



In the meantime, the Belgian wing of four F-16 fighter bombers operating from Kandahar Airfield is into its fifth month. Currently, the personnel manning the planes and the ground crews are drawn from the Kleine Brogel-based 10th Tactical Wing, a "Flemish" unit (the first shift was from a "Walloon" wing, the 2nd Tactical Wing). It's very, very hard to obtain hard information about the operational deployment of the F-16s. Contary to the 2006 operation, this time it's a fighting mission which means the planes are called in not only for reconnaissance and "scare" flights but also for CAS (Close Air Support). If necessary they can be embedded in an OEF mission.


One of our Herculeses resupplying the Kandahar detachment. Typically, a C-130 is uploaded and gone again in about 35 minutes, I suppose in order to avoid the attention of Taliban rocket attacks. These old workhorses from the 15th Transport Wing still perform extremely well and have seasoned and through and through experienced crews. While they will be around for some time yet, their successor has already been chosen, the Airbus A 400-M. As good as the good ole Herc is/was, this successor will represent a quantum leap in performance, what with e.g. a maximum payload of 37 tonnes (vs the 20 tonnes or so for our C-130 H's).


The photo shows a trooper working on an Iveco Light Multirole Vehicle (LMV), say a European variant of the Hummer. Belgium has ordered 440 of these Italian vehicles, with an option for a further 400. They replace the dangerously vulnerable Bombardier Iltis jeeps, with which a.o. the Canadians have had some nasty experiences. The LMV on the photo belongs to the small Kunduz detachment (including a demining squad), embedded with German troops in Afghanistan's north. Currently, Belgium has four commitmments in Afghanistan: the small 300-strong battalion guarding Kabul International Airport (a task it has been performing since 2002), the Kunduz detachment, the fighter bombers in Kandahar (the sole fighting mission) and, since mid-January, a team of instructors also in Afghanistan's north training an Afghan National Army (ANA) battalion. When the latter mission will be fully operational in mid-March, the total of Belgian military personnel in Afghanistan will be about 500. Still a far cry from the Dutch contingent, but finally, from a distance of about three kilometers, the Belgian contribution is starting to look like something halfway decent. It is ironic that, with finally our F-16's bombing and strafing Taliban positions and instructors patrolling alongside ANA soldiers in war zones, the US's new administration will likely scale down its efforts in Afghanistan (forget an AF "surge"). And elsewhere.


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