Sunday, September 04, 2016


Hat tip Bring the HEAT.

I remember seeing (at least parts of) that video when I was a boy, and especially the difference in takeoff between the YF-16 and the Phantom, which to that date I considered the world's prime air superiority fighter. I also remember reading an article in Reader's Digest (Dutch edition of course) titled "The F-16: fierce fighting machine for the West", with a gushing appraisal of this at the time very futuristic and promising design. Heck, on a whim I just checked whether that particular Readers' Digest article would still somehow be available online, and 'lo and Behold, I came up with this, the cover of the January 1977 issue:

 photo hetbestereadersdigest1977_zpszuwdlann.jpg

You see it over there, the second article from above (page 24). Of course, my parents had a subscription to the Dutch/Flemish RD issue, which was called "Het Beste" (The Best).

Those were the days when the Belgian Air Force still operated Starfighters, of which the BAF had 112. Of course, this number was never operationally available at any one time, given severe attrition through accidents. In all, 100 F-104G variants and 12 TF-104G trainers were procured, and with the exception of the very first three jets which came directly from the Lockheed Palmdale plant, all were licence-built in Belgium at SABCA's Gosselies plant. IIRC, the Starfighters were in service between 1963 and 1983.

 photo BAFStarfighters_zpsgsmaclfg.jpg

Two BAF F-104G's over the Belgian coast sometime in the seventies.

Compare this relatively short lifespan with that of the F-16, in service since 1979, and of which the BAF ultimately purchased the staggering number (for Belgium) of 160 units, all of them built and assembled at the SABCA factories (in Haren, near Brussels, and again in Gosselies, near Charleroi). At the time, there were enough jets to equip two fighter wings. These days, perhaps 56, or 60 at the very best, are left, and there's only two squadrons anymore. It is entirely possible that before the F-16's successor finally finds its way to the BAF, another eight years will go by, at which point this great fighter will have seen some 45 years in service!

As for the successor in question, the military definitely wants the F-35. They will be lucky if they get 34 jets in the end, because socialists and greens (who else) are waging a fierce opposition against what is in se a logical decision.


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