Wednesday, January 10, 2018


On DEC 26, 2017, the BAF F-16 detachment took off from their base in Jordan for the last time and flew back to Belgium, a trip which took 6 hours and during which they were refuelled by an Armée de l'Air tanker. During one and a half year, from July 1, 2016 to December 26, 2017, the jets (during the first year 6, from July 2017 4), logged 6,108 flying hours. Like in the previous deployments, the BAF air strikes accounted for 5 per cent of the coalition total. More info here. As before, the Dutch Air Force will now take over.

Before long, another detachment of 4 planes which operated from Amari AFB, Estonia since September 4, will also return home. They had been posted there in the framework of NATO's Enhanced Air Policing Mission. This deployment was the seventh.

The two simultaneous missions, although still very modest, leave open the question of what the Belgian military would be capable of if only it did not have to operate on less than a shoestring budget. There is indeed no department that has had to cut its budget for so long and so profoundly like defense.

As for the venerable F16's successor, another one of the candidates for replacement, Boeing with its F/A-18 Super Hornet, pulled out of the bidding process in April of 2017 already. The Saab Gripen is also out of the question since it cannot be equipped with nuclear weapons. The French government just recently probably overplayed its hand in promising Belgium 20 billion EUR in economic compensations if the BAF would decide for the Dassault Rafale. So basically there are only two serious contenders left: the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35A. The latter would be the most logical choice since it is truly a 5th generation aircraft, now outgrowing its development difficulties fast, but more importantly, the Dutch already use it (as do the Norwegians) and if the anti-ISIS operations over Syria and Iraq, and before that, the missions in Afghanistan, have shown anything, it's that by using the same aircraft the air forces of the Low Countries can and will develop even more synergies. A final decision is expected in the course of this year. It's about time.


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