Belgian Secdef Steven Vandeput and several MP's had arranged to be present when the F-16 which logged the 7,000th flying hour since OCT 2014 landed on the Jordanian AFB whence the BAF detachment operates. In a first phase, the Belgian jets only conducted anti-IS missions over Iraq. Since July of 2016, they also fly missions over Syria. The total of missions over both countries since July 1, 2016 is 326, accounting for some 3,400 flying hours. Of those 326 missions, some 45 per cent were 'kinetic', meaning ordnance was dropped.
The pilot who logged the 7,000th hour, had just completed a 5-hour flight. I suppose he was refuelled once.
Some stills since all those videos disappear after a couple of months:
Vandeput (N-VA) is the guy in the center, in the dark blue blazer. He has vowed to bring the defence budget to 1.9 per cent of GNP in some three years, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
In other news, the Belgian government finally gave the green light for the procurement procedure which will lead to the F-16's replacement after some 35 years of faithful service in the Belgian Air Force. Via The Brussels Times:
"Appropriate cabinet ministers including the Prime Minister, Charles Michel, gave the Defence Minister, Steven Vandeput (of the New Flemish Alliance) the authority to send out invitations to tender. In government jargon these are known as “Requests for Governmental Proposals” - RfGPs).
These will be sent to five Government contractors, three European and two American. Each are offering to provide a different aircraft for this contract, with an initial total value of 3.59 billion euros.
It is thought that the total cost of the programme may come to some 15 billion euros throughout the future anticipated lifetime of the fighter, likely to be 40 years.
This invitation to tender, originally hoped by the military to be undertaken by the beginning of 2015, is eagerly awaited by the five manufacturers in contention. These are the American companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault, the Swedish Saab and British BAE Systems. They are respectively offering the F/A-18F Super Hornet, the F-35 Lightning II, the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, the Rafale F3R, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen E/F and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Mr Vandeput recently mentioned that his intention and that of the government was still to sign the purchase contract “in the second half” of next year. This will be after the analysis of tenders which, to be successful, will need to contain an economic component.
The Military Procurement Committee had last week given the green light to starting the procurement procedure, but had done so within conditions which the opposition denounced as lacking transparency."
~ Lars Andersen, The Brussels Times
I sincerely hope the venerable F-16's successor will be the F-35. I recall that when I was a student in Ghent more than 30 years ago, two of the other competitors, the Gripen and Rafale, were already operational. The Super Hornet is essentially a 4th Gen design, which entered service in the mid-nineties. If it is not the F-35, I hope it will at least be the Eurofighter Typhoon, the fifth contender in the race.
Not choosing the F-35 would not be a smart move, given the fact that with every passing year, the defence policies of Belgium and The Netherlands get more aligned. Certainly the top brass in both countries' militaries have expressed a desire to see the F-35 enter BAF service, espcially since the Dutch already operate the plane. The current operation in Jordan is a case in point of the desirability of operating the same jets.
Belgium never belonged to the pan-national JSF consortium like The Netherlands and a host of other countries did, courtesy the fierce opposition of our 'friends' the socialists and greens, SP.a/Groen! and Parti Socialiste/Ecolo alike. But it's not too late to correct that error.