Tag Archives: Belgian Air Force

Benelux starts joint Air Policing operations

This could be a European Precedent

A couple of weeks ago, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands signed an agreement which is to regulate joint air defense operations carried out in their airspaces.

Signed by the Ministers of Defense of the Netherlands and Belgium, and Luxembourg’s Dutch Ambassador, the agreement, that ratifies that the signing countries will rotate the air policing duties, is a follow-up to a letter of intent signed by the countries back in Oct. 2013 that will have to be ratified by the respective governments, a process that could take about a year according to IHS Jane’s.

The memorandum may be treated as a precedent by other European Union member states, whose air forces, as a consequence of the ever shrinking defense budgets, lack some (basic) capabilities, including the ability to protect the sovereignty of their airspace round the clock.

However this is nothing new in Europe, where air arms are trying to embrace the “pooling and sharing” concept to save some money and NATO has carried out regional Air Policing missions, including the one in the Baltic (BAP), for quite some time now.

Anyway, the Benelux countries are willing to begin the joint air space security operation, starting from 2017.

According to the IHS Jane’s report on the issue, the fighter force of Belgium and the Netherlands will defend the countries, providing proper QRA (quick reaction alert) capabilities. Obviously, not only will the defensive operations cover the issue of military threats, but they will also be dealing with renegade aircraft. This means that a new scheme of air policing is to be implemented next year must take every situation into account.

Its legal implications are quite interesting. According to Jane’s, Belgians would be able to ask the Dutch fighters to shoot down renegades in the Belgian airspace and likewise, the Belgian F-16 could be authorized to neutralize such threat in the Dutch airspace.

This is a precedent in the European law, hence additional time is needed to discuss the legal character of the new operation. For example, according to euobserver.com, Luxembourg’s authorities have already excluded any use of lethal force over their territory.

When it comes to Luxembourg, the situation here is quite similar to that of Lithuania. The country has no relevant fighter force, hence help from the neighbors is required to provide air policing.

The situation is also interesting equipment-wise, since the Royal Netherlands Air Force is looking forward to replace its F-16s with the F-35, which will be probably delayed due to the problems related to the Lightning II program. The Belgians are going to replace their F-16s as well. Here the Rafale is a viable candidate, however the joint air policing operations may lead to different choices (including the F-35).

What is more, we can’t help but notice that the joint air-policing initiative is probably aimed at bolstering the Benelux capabilities to deter potential Russian intruders, who so far not only have been active in the Baltic area, but also within the airspace of UK and have often skirted the Dutch airspace.

 

Video of E-3F AWACS refueled mid-air by French tanker over Iraq

French C-135FR refueling Belgian Air Force F-16 and E-3F AWACS over Iraq during air strikes on ISIS.

You don’t see an AWACS refuel mid-air too often. Although AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) of E-3s take place quite often, the size of the aircraft and the rotating radar dome may make the operation a bit more difficult than usual.

In this case, the video shows a French Air Force E-3F taking gas from a French C-135FR over Iraq, during air strikes on ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.

During the same sortie, the French tanker refueled also an F-16AM of the Belgian Air Force, carrying a GBU-12 LGB (Laser Guided Bomb), a GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition), two AIM-120 AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) and two AIM-9 Sidewinder IR-guided air-to-air missiles.

The aging fleet of C-135FRs, the French variant of the C-135 used as dual-role tanker/cargo and troop carrier aircraft, will be replaced with A400M and A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft.

[Photo] NATO Nuclear Exercise “Steadfast Noon 2014”

Here are some images of Steadfast Noon 2014, a NATO Nuclear exercise.

With news, AIP supplements, comments all over the Internet, and photographs published on aviation websites and spotters forums across Europe, it’s not a secret that, at the end of October, Ghedi airbase, in northern Italy, hosted Steadfast Noon 2014, a yearly exercise whose aim was to train NATO units employing “special weapons” (i.e. nuclear bombs).

Tornado IDS turn

Needless to say, such exercises are routinely conducted without the aircraft carrying any bomb, since their purpose is to train the crews to load and unload nukes and to assess the participating units’ ability to safely deal with this kind of ordnance.

Turkish AF F-16 landing

In other words, Steadfast Noon exercises and Strikeval (Strike Evaluation) inspections and certifications are extremely important to ensure nuclear weapons can be properly managed should the need arise.

F-16 AV

Among the various European air arms taking part in Steadfast Noon there was also the Polish Air Force, that deployed to Ghedi its F-16 Block 52+ jets from Lask air base, in western Poland, the same airbase where U.S. F-16 are being frequently rotated.

As highlighted by the Federation of American Scientists in an article by Hans M. Kristensen, the participation of the Polish F-16s is particularly interesting since they are not believed to be assigned a nuclear strike mission under NATO nuclear policy.

F-16 RNlAF

Anyway, in this post you can find some interesting photographs depicting the Steadfast Noon participants, from Poland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and United States, taken by photographer Fabrizio Berni.

F-16 BAF

Tornado GAF

Image credit: Fabrizio Berni

 

The most interesting aircraft displayed at the Belgian Air Force Days

Here are some stunning photos of the Belgian Air Force Days, held at Kleine Brogel airbase.

On Sept. 13 – 14, Kleine Brogel airbase, in Belgium, hosted the Belgian Air Force Days, an airshow attended by several interesting local and foreign aircraft whose main themes were the +100 years of Military Air Power and the 40th anniversary of the F-16.

The air show, preceded by a Spotter Day on Sept. 12, was particularly interesting, as it featured not only the usual solo display of several aircraft types, including the Dassault Rafale and the Mig-29, but also a tactical event whose aim was to provide the spectators a better insight on the how the Belgian Air Force is integrated in a NATO operation: the BAF set up a fictional scenario based on the current PSO (Peace Support Operations) in Afghanistan, within which 10 F-16 jets, supported by A-109 and Mi-24 helicopters, B-Hunter UAV (from 80th UAV squadron of the BAF) and NATO E-3A AWACS demonstrated some of their capabilities to the public.

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Among the most interesting aircraft that took part in the BAF Days there were two Slovak Air Force Mig-29s, a single seater and a two-seat aircraft (the latter in static display only) belonging to the N° 1 Squadron. The Slovak Air Force is equipped with 12 Mig-29s based at Sliac.

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Even the Polish Air Force flew its Mig-29 Fulcrum, an aircraft they have used to provide Baltic Air Policing until Sept. 1.

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Another interesting aircraft was the F-16C Block 52+ of the Hellenic Air Force Solo Demonstration team “Zeus” from Souda Bay airbase, in Crete. The team, formed in 2009, flew its first official demo flight in November 2010 and has so far made only a few overseas appearances.

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Other highlights of the show included the special colored F-16 of the Solo Turk, the Turkish Air Force F-16 demo team, the Mirage 2000Ns of the RAMEX Delta display team of the French Air Force, the Dutch F-16 and AH-64 demo teams, the F-16 solo display of the Belgian Air Component, as well as the 7-ship Alpha Jet from 11sm formation of the Belgian Air Force.

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Several display teams took part in the show. Along with the world-famous Frecce Tricolori, Red Arrows and Patrouille de France, that have been flying for 50 years, there were also the PC-7 Team, the Team Breitling, the Royal Jordanian Falcons and a relatively new team on the airshow scene: the United Arab Emirates air force’s Al Fursan, or “The Knights”.

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The team flies six MB-339 trainers, the same aircraft as the Frecce Tricolori the team that helped the Al Fursan display team, in an attractive black and gold colour scheme, symbolizing the desert with oil underneath, with the colours of the United Arab Emirates’ flag on the bottom of the planes. The flag’s colours are also the colours of their smoke: white, red, green and black.

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All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographer Alessandro Fucito during the BAF Days.

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Image credit: The Aviationist’s Alessandro Fucito

 

F-16, F/A-18 and Mig-29’s Solo demos at Roma International Air Show 2014

Two F-16 Fighting Falcon jets, one F-18 Hornet and one Mig-29 Fulcrum were among the most interesting foreign guests of Roma International Air Show 2014.

Along with the Frecce Tricolori and Patrouille de France display teams and the usual solo displays by the Italian Air Force’s F-2000, Tornado IDS, AMX and C-27J, Roma International Air Show 2014, didn’t fail to meet the expectations of about 1 million spectators bringing in the skies over Ostia, on the coast to the west of Rome, Italy, some really interesting guests: the Dutch F-16 Demo Team, the Belgian Air Force F-16 demo team, the Swiss Air Force F-18 demo and the Polish Air Force Mig-29 demo.

In this page you can see some images taken on Jun. 28, during the airshow rehearsals.

F-16 RNlAF Demo team:

F-16 RNlAF demo

Swiss Air Force F/A-18 Hornet:

F-18 Swiss Air Force

F-18 SAF

F-18 fast climb

F-16 BAF Demo:

F-16 BAF turn and burn

F-16 BAF climb

F-16 cloud

Mig-29 Polish Air Force

Mig-29 pass

Mig-29 cloud

Mig-29 Polish Air Force