Via the Belgian Armed Forces site:
"To date, the Belgian F-16 detachment in Iraq has destroyed 107 [ISIS] ground targets. The missions are carried out together with an international coalition in the fight against Islamic State, as requested by the Iraqi Army", says Major General Frederik Vansina, BAF commander. "No collateral damage was inflicted while taking out the ground targets".
The Belgian F-16's operate only over Iraq, not over Syria. In the course of six months, they carried out 600 missions, good for about 5 per cent of the total flown by the entire coalition.
Our country still has about thirty military advisors who are training Iraqi soldiers for the fight against IS. According to Belgian Army commander Major General Jean-Paul Deconinck, those Belgian soldiers work in a "highly secure" location near Baghdad's airport."
Some stills of the strikes:
Now for the bad news. While the Iraq mission, following a nine-year BAF presence in Afghanistan and several hundred successful missions against the Qaddafi regime three years back, prove that the small Belgian Air Force can still pull its weight, it should not be forgotten that in the long term its future - indeed, the future of the entire Belgian military apparatus, looks rather bleak. This is what retired Defense Chief of Staff General Delcour had to say last November:
FORMER DEFENCE CHIEF OF STAFF LASHES OUT AT GOVERNMENT'S AUSTERITY MEASURES.
"Belgium has lost all credibility"
"It has become impossible to efficiently run the MoD", General Delcour claims in an open letter. "What strikes me is that only two months ago, during the NATO summit in Wales, Belgium promised to not further reduce its defense budget, while the government's recently taken austerity measures show the exact opposite. This is incoherent and will have serious consequences for the credibility of Belgium and its defense policy."
"Freeloader on the NATO train"
General Delcour sees several dangers in the new defense cuts. "Absolutely necessary investment programmes threaten to be frozen perpetually, merely functioning on a daily basis and training of personnel will suffer. Moreover, Belgium has now for a long time been a freeloader on the NATO train". "Strong international pressure seems inevitable if the budget will be reduced even more.
"The situation is serious."
"The new government would do well to seriously ponder the Belgian defense policy", says General Delcour. "Because we - Belgium, Europe and NATO - have made very serious errors with regards to the evolution of the [European] security situation", referring to the Russian coup in the Crimea and the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. "That Belgium, given the circumstances, should not further hollow out its defense budget seems to me to put it too mildly. The situation is serious."
General Delcour's warning must be seen against the backdrop of the measures taken by the new "center-right" government which was installed in Belgium last autumn (under PM Charles Michel, of the Walloon Liberals). A center left government, a center right one, a centrist one... whatever its leaning, a Belgian government actually conducting a responsible defense policy has throughout history been rather the exception than the rule. Sadly this has been a given practically all the time since the country's Independence in 1830. Only at the time of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), when the Belgian Army was one fifth the size of the French Army, or just prior to WWII, when the Armed Forces fielded 650,000 men, and for some time during the Cold War, could defense policy be considered realistic.
The current predicament of the Belgian Armed Forces goes back to the late nineties, when basically all politicians, of all stripes, seem to have read Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man, and taken its message for granted. The collapse of the USSR and the neutralization of the Saddam regime, brought about by two Republican presidents (Reagan and Bush, although few Belgian politicians will ever admit this), seemed to herald a new era in which armies would, in time, become something of the past. This notion was not significantly disturbed by the events in the Balkans or the war in Chechnya, and during the nineties leftist "intellectuals" openly questioned NATO's raison d'être. With Russia's transition to a free-market democracy seemingly mired in endless convulsions, and both its economy and military in tatters, there seemed to be no need anymore for robust defense spending, and especially since 2000, the Belgian defense budget, which during the Cold War had still been over 4 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, shrank yearly, until by 2009 it represented but a mere 1.2 per cent of GDP anymore.
This was an evolution in fact welcomed by socialists and greens, who never made it a secret that they actually wanted to swap the budgets scheduled for Development Aid (under 0.7 per cent of GDP) and Defense.
Anno 2015 the sad truth is - and this has literally been claimed by General Delcour - that the decade-long deployment of small numbers of fighter-bombers (over Afghanistan, against Gaddafi's regime, and now over Iraq) actually serves as a smokescreen to fool our allies that Belgium still maintains a responsible defense policy. It's quite obvious why F-16's are chosen time and again to participate in the War on Terror - chances of personnel being killed are minimal. I know how the mind of your typical Belgian politician works - he or she is a total military ignoramus and a coward, always whoring for votes. This is of course true for politicians the world over, but even under socialist governments France, The Netherlands and Denmark were willing to send ground troops in harm's way to Iraq and/or Afghanistan, with after some time the inevitable fatalities. In Afghanistan e.g., The Netherlands lost perhaps 20+ KIA. Likewise, Norway, Denmark, and France lost several tens of soldiers killed, and scores more wounded and maimed. Great Britain and Germany took heavier losses. Yet in none of those countries there was a significant outcry "to get the troops back". A single fatality involving a Belgian soldier however would have led to socialist and green bigwigs like a Dirk Van Der Maelen (SP.a) or a Wouter De Vriendt (Groen) hysterically screaming blue murder in Parliament - and I'm not exxagerating.
I do not want to imply that I would have liked the Belgian Army to send a brigade to Afghanistan and would have been happy with body bags returning for the good of our reputation. No, what I want to imply is that these are very serious, even very dangerous times, that, like it or not, the West is at war, and that it has been totally unfair to let our allies pay the blood toll in the theatres in which the War on Terror is fought.
Well... here we are then, with a Belgian Army, Navy and Air Force almost literally starved to death. With less than a shoestring budget, our Armed Forces have done, and are doing, wonders. Ground troops and paras train soldiers in hotspots in Africa; Special Forces have come under fire from Sudanese attack helicopters while protecting refugees in Chad; countless minefields and ordnance have been cleared/neutralized by deminers in Lebanon and Afghanistan. Belgian frigates have done their part in securing naval routes from pirates off Africa's East Coast. As for the Air Force, it has been the only component firing its guns in anger at islamic terrorists from Libya over Iraq to Afghanistan.
The next budget cuts, which will lower the GDP percentage spent on defense even under 1 per cent, may well constitute the final straw. It is highly unlikely that with such meager resources, the means will be found to replace our old F-16 fleet, now down to a mere 60 units (if even that). Gone are the times when the Belgian Air Force fielded over 130 of these sound machines - all of them built under licence in our own country at the SABCA factories in Haren and Gosselies. The most optimistic scenario plans for a successor fleet of 35 jets, and you can bet that socialists and greens will do everything in their might to have the MoD buy the worst candidate.
The world has become a very dangerous place, not in the least because the current US Administration has basically opted for it. In eschewing and even denouncing its own exceptionalism, the US has deliberately created a leadership vacuum - and the natural result is that this vacuum is being filled, though by countries which are far from the benign behemoth that the US basically is. The Russian incursions in the Crimea and Ukraine and the brazen Chinese sabre-rattling in the South Chinese Sea, not to mention a suicidal nuclear deal with Iran are the logical result of America folding back on itself. The world has perhaps become more of a powder keg than we realize, and there's not one, but several fuses smouldering.
Against this backdrop, some European countries do see the sign on the wall: the Baltic Republics, The Netherlands, Germany... All of them have recently boosted their defense budget. The Netherlands intend to pump up the defense budget to at least 2 per cent of GDP, and only weeks ago the German military decided to add some 100-odd mothballed Leopard II tanks to its tank fleet. Both significant measures seem to be to-tal-ly lost on Belgium's political class.
As an example of how deluded the usual suspects among this class are, how about this? Last autumn, the merest mention that a few sane heads in the new government were somehow trying, within extremely tight fiscal constraints, to find a successor for the F-16, evoked shameless demagoguery from seedy characters like the Green's Kristof Calvo:
"AUSTERITY MEASURES FOR FAMILIES, WHILE THE CHEQUE FOR EXPENSIVE JETS IS READY"
Opposition party Groen reacts furiously following the news that federal government negotiators want to invest in a successor for the Air Force's F-16s. "While severe cuts harm families and the man in the street, the cheque for expensive as hell jets has already been signed", says fraction leader Kristof Calvo.
Such shameless demagoguery and utter intellectual dishonesty is common among our moral betters - for the acquisition of new jets (the candidates are the Saab Gripen, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, the F-18, and the F-35) is still meant to somehow being realized without exceeding the paltry 1 per cent or so of GDP. In other words, Calvo is lying. Not more money would be spent, specialists are only looking at means to shifting or postponing certain expenses within the existing budget, in order to at least address the now very urgent need to replace a fighter bomber force of which the youngest planes left the assembly lines around thirty years ago.
Heck, you could abolish the ENTIRE Belgian Army, Navy and Air Force - send all the troops home, sell what few armoured cars, choppers, or minesweepers are left...
.... and you would only end up with a few more bread crumbs more for, say, Social Security - while the country would be defenseless.
The mind of leftists is weird.
I have to end on a positive note - can't allow those bastards to get me depressed. KUDOS for our flyboys!