Tag Archives: Belgian Air Force

Belgium Reportedly Chooses F-35 Stealth Jets over Eurofighter Typhoons To Replace Its Aging F-16s

According to several media outlets, the Belgian Air Force has picked the Lockheed Martin F-35.

Belgium may become the 12th country to join the F-35 program. Citing Government sources, Belga news agency reported on Oct. 22, 2018 that a decision has been made to pick the U.S. 5th generation stealth aircraft over the European Typhoon to replace its fleet of 54 F-16s, whose phase-out is expected between 2023 and 2028.

A defense ministry spokeswoman declined to comment on the government’s decision, Reuters reported.

Belgium has been deliberating for years over the purchase of new aircraft: the order for jets, estimated to be worth 3.6 billion Euro (4.14B USD), had been expected ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels in July. The initial bid expired on Oct. 14, 2018 but on Belgian request the deadline was postponed to Oct. 29, as the government did not want to make any decisions in the run-up to the municipal elections.

Now, it looks like the decision has eventually been made, although not formally.

With the F-35 the Belgian Air Force would become the fourth European operator to replace its F-16s with the Lightning II: the other ones are the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. Moreover, if confirmed, the win would be a great boost to Lockheed Martin’s commercial efforts in Europe and a setback for the Britain-led Eurofighter lobby. The F-35 has long been considered the top candidate: according to the Belgian newspaper DeMorgen it turned out that the F-35 was the better choice both technically and in terms of price, compared to the Eurofighter. One of the requirements considered to be pushing more on the American aircraft side is the F-35’s ability to drop B-61 nuclear bombs: the Lightning II is the only competitor able to deploy freefall nuke bombs. If the Belgians wanted to keep their ability to deliver U.S. nuclear bombs, stored at Kleine Brogel, the Lockheed Martin’s LO (Low Observable) F-35 was the only viable option.

Actually, earlier this month, the Belgian media outlet Knack published a report, based on internal Belgian MoD leaked documents, according to which the Belgian Air Force allegedly manipulated the fighter competition so that the F-35 would be the only winner. The allegations have been strongly denied by the Belgian authorities but some doubts (for instance those surrounding the actual pricing) have yet to be clarified.

Meanwhile, Belgians had their first look at an F-35A Lightning II on Sept. 8-9, when an Italian Air Force F-35 made its European airshow debut and was one of the highlights fo the Belgian Air Force Days at Kleine Brogel.



F-16 Completely Destroyed By Another F-16 After Mechanic Accidentally Fires Cannon On The Ground In Belgium

Bizarre F-16’s “ground-to-ground” kill injures two. It’s the second accidental aerial weapon discharge in Europe this year.

A Belgian Air Force F-16 has been destroyed and another aircraft damaged when the M61A1 Vulcan 20mm cannon on board a third F-16 was accidentally fired on the ground by maintenance personnel at Florennes Air Base in the Walloon area of Southern Belgium on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.

Multiple reports indicate that a mechanic servicing the parked aircraft accidentally fired the six-barreled 20mm Vulcan cannon at close range to two other parked F-16s. Photos show one F-16AM completely destroyed on the ground at Florennes. Two maintenance personnel were reported injured and treated at the scene in the bizarre accident.

In a nearby hangar, positioned at the extension of the flight line, a technician was working on an F-16. It is said that by accident the six-barrel 20mm Vulcan M61A-1 cannon of that F-16 was activated. Apparently, the cannon was loaded and some ammunition hit the FA128. This aircraft had just been refuelled and prepared together with another F-16 for an upcoming afternoon sortie. After impact of the 20mm bullets, FA128 exploded instantly and damaged two other F-16s.

Image credit: Tony Delvita

The airbase at Florennes is home to the Belgian 2nd Tactical Wing which comprises the 1st ‘Stingers’ Squadron and the 350th Squadron.

A report on F-16.net said that, “An F-16 (#FA-128) was completely destroyed while a second F-16 received collateral damage from the explosions. Two personnel were wounded and treated at the scene. Injuries sustained were mainly hearing related from the explosion.”

The news report published late Friday went on to say, “The F-16 was parked near a hangar when it was accidentally fired upon from another F-16 undergoing routine ground maintenance. Several detonations were heard and thick black smoke was seen for miles around. Civilian firefighters have even been called in to help firefighters at the airbase to contain the incident. About thirty men were deployed on site and several ambulances were dispatched. The Aviation Safety Directorate (ASD) is currently investigating the exact cause.”

The accident is quite weird: it’s not clear why the technician was working on an armed aircraft that close to the flight line. Not even the type of inspection or work has been unveiled. For sure it must have been a check that activated the gun even though the aircraft was on the ground: the use of the onboard weapons (including the gun) is usually blocked by a fail-safe switch when the aircraft has the gear down with the purpose of preventing similar accidents.

It is the second time this year an accidental discharge of live aircraft weapons has happened in Europe. On Aug. 7, 2018, a Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon accidentally launched an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) while on an air policing mission near Otepää in Valga County, southern Estonia. The incident occurred only 50km from the Russian border.

A report ten days after the incident said the search for the missing weapon was called off. The missile was never located. “All the theoretical impact points of the missile have now been carefully searched,” said Commander of the Estonian Air Force Col. Riivo Valge in an EDF press release.

”Over the past two weeks, we employed three helicopters, five ground patrols and fifty-strong units of personnel to undertake the search on the ground. We also got help from the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) Explosive Ordnance Disposal Centre and used Air Force drones in the search,” Col. Valge added.

“Despite our systematic approach and actions the location of the impacted missile has not been identified and all probable locations have been ruled out as of now,” Col. Valge concluded in the August 17, 2018 media release ten days after the missile was accidentally fired.

Because strict weapons safety protocols, especially with live ammunition, are in place during ground handling it is extremely rare for maintenance personnel to accidentally discharge an aircraft’s weapon.

Top image: BAF via Scramble.nl

U.S. Approves Possible Sale of 34 Lockheed F-35s to Belgium; Japan Deploying First F-35 to Misawa; India Allegedly Enters Conversation.

Based on latest news, it may have been a good weekend for the F-35.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement late Friday confirming it has approved the possible sale of 34 Lockheed F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to Belgium. The authorization permitting the sale of advanced defense technology is a key step toward completing the actual purchase, quoted to be worth up to “$6.53 billion USD”. The proposed contract with Lockheed Martin, builder of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, would include 38 new Pratt & Whitney advanced F-135 jet engines that power the F-35.

Based on reports Belgium would potentially buy the F-35A variant of the Lightning II, the same variant used by the U.S. Air Force. One of the selling points of buying into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is cross-force interoperability. Belgium potentially operating the same variant as the USAF, Dutch and Italians may have been one factor that helped propel the potential deal for Belgium.

Still, the F-35A is still not the replacement for the Belgian Air Force F-16s: the 5th generation aircraft will face competition from the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon in the response to a Request for Governmental Proposal (RfGP) issued by Bruxelles last year.

The decision from Belgium is expected by mid-2018.

Belgium received U.S. authorization for the purchase of the “A” version of the F-35 shown here at Nellis AFB as operated by the USAF. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)


Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force also announced this week it will begin its first-ever deployment of a Japanese ASDF F-35A Lightning II at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan later this month. The single aircraft to be stationed and operated from Misawa is the first of 42 Lockheed F-35A Lighting IIs to be delivered to Japan as their primary multi-role combat aircraft. The JASDF will deploy an additional 9 aircraft operationally to Misawa by the end of 2018 bringing the total Japanese operational F-35A force to 10 aircraft by year’s end.

A key weapon system on the JASDF F-35As will be the advanced, long-range Norwegian-built Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace Gruppen Joint Strike Missile (JSM). The JSM is a variant of the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile and is carried in the interior weapons bay of the F-35A, maintaining its low observable characteristics. The Kongsberg JSM can strike targets up to 500 kilometers away from its launch point, enabling Japan to strike many potential adversaries without leaving its own airspace, a key concern since Japan’s air force is labeled as a “self-defense force” and constrained from operations outside Japan’s legally defined defense air space in most instances.

Japan’s first F-35 will become operational this month according to Japanese media. (Photo: NHK Japan)

Finally, a story that appeared in India’s Economic Times said that, “American aerospace and defense major Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-35 fighter jets in India, which its officials say will give Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”

The story, that appeared in Indian media on Jan. 20, 2018, did not specify what “custom built” F-35s meant, but may hint at a down-spec version of the F-35 airframe with different avionics and sensors than some other export manufactured versions of the F-35 to maintain security interests.  The same article discussed the use of the AN/APG-83 radar system, different from the AN/APG-81 on the U.S. and other partner nation F-35s.

There is no additional verification of any Indian F-35 manufacturing program in other media outlets. Oddly, another Indian media outlet, the Free Press Journal of India, published a similar story on the same day claiming the U.S. planned to build F-16s (not F-35s) in India. The Free Press Journal of India story read, “American aerospace and defense major Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-16 fighter jets (ed’s note: not F-35s as quoted in the India Economic Times article) in India, which its officials say will give Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”

Confusing press coming out of India aside, Lockheed Martin and all of the F-35 subcontractors have to be pleased to start out the new year with a host of encouraging stories about the F-35 program.

Update Jan. 22, 19.30 GMT:

We were notified that the original version of a Press Trust of India article posted late last week, has since been corrected to remove the erroneous “F-35” reference in the first sentence of the article—see corrected article here: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/lockheed-martin-proposes-custom-built-fighter-jets-to-be-made-in-india-1802538. The first sentence of PTI’s article now reads:

“American aerospace and defence firm Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-16 fighter jets in India, which its officials say will give the Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”


Awesome footage shows Belgian F-16s of the 350 (F) Sqn at work during Red Flag, Cold Response, FWIT and more!

The 350th Squadron of the Air Component of the Belgian Armed Forces turned 75 today. And here’s a cool footage of its F-16 Fighting Falcon jets at work around the world.

The 350th Squadron of the Air Component of the Belgian Armed Forces was created on Nov. 12, 1941 at Valley airfield, Wales, during the Second World War, when it operated under British command as No. 350 (Belgian) Squadron RAF and flew the Spitfire painted with the letter codes MN.

The Squadron became famous in several operations like the Raid on Dieppe in August 1942, operation Overlord in Normandy in June 1944, the Battle of the Bulge and the Campaign of Holland and Germany.

After the war, the Squadron remained in occupied Germany for a short time, before heading back home to Beauvechain, Belgium, in 1946 flying the Supermarine Spitfire MK XIV.

Aircraft flown by 350 (F) Sqn include the Gloster Meteor, the Hawker Hunter, the CF-100 Canuck and the F-104 Starfighter.

In March 1980, the Squadron started its conversion on the new F-16, being operational as from January 1982. 350 moved to Florennes Air Base in 1996 where it would ensure its role of Air Defense together with 349 (F) Squadron stationed at Kleine Brogel Air Base, Belgium.

During the subsequent years, the pilots of 350 Sqn and their F-16s actively took part in several operations such as Joint Falcon, Allied Force, Deliberate Force, operations part of the Balkan Air War, flying Combat Air Patrol, Offensive Counter Air and Air Interdiction missions.

In 2005, the Squadron was deployed for the first time in Afghanistan, operating for 6 months from Kabul Air Base and later on from Kandahar, in support to ISAF troops.

The latest operations include Unified Protector in Libya out of Araxos, Greece and operation Desert Falcon in Iraq out of Jordan.

Currently, the Squadron is flying the updated F-16 MLU, equipped with the AIM-120 AMRAAM and the AIM-9 Sidewinder. In the air-to-ground role, the Belgian Vipers can be armed with the latest GPS guided or Laser guided bombs such as the GBU-54.

The following video celebrates the 75th anniversary of 350 Sqn with footage filmed during Red Flag, Cold Response (Norway), Belgium, Netherlands, FWIT (Fighter Weapons Instructor Training) course and much more.

Happy Birthday, 350!

H/T to Thieu De Reyean for sending this over to us!



Watch an F-16 suffer a compressor stall during the display at AirPower 2016 airshow

During the display at the Zeltweg airshow in Austria, the Belgian Air Force F-16 suffered a compressor stall that caused a loud bang and an impressive backfire.

On Sept. 3, during its display at the AIRPOWER 2016 airshow in Zeltweg, the “Viper” of the Belgian Air Force F-16 Solo Display Team suffered an apparent compressor stall that forced the pilot to perform a precautionary landing.

Take a look at the footage below. If you jump to 03:20 you will see the aircraft’s engine emanating flames (generating a loud bang you can’t hear) in what seems to be the typical behaviour of a compressor stall.

Compressor stalls (sometimes referred to as afterburner stalls in aircraft with reheat) are not too rare among military aircraft. They can be caused by several factors, including birdstrikes, FOD (Foreign Object Damage), ingestion of turbulent or hot airflow into the air intake etc.

A compressor stall is a local disruption of the airflow in the compressor whose severity may vary from a momentary power drop to a complete loss of compression.

A particular kind of compressor stall is the compression surge that occurs when the hot vapour generated by the aircraft carrier’s catapult is ingested by the aircraft air intake thus creating a breakdown in compression resulting in a the compressor’s inability to absorb the momentary disturbance and to continue pushing the air against the already-compressed air behind it. As a consequence, there’s a momentary reversal of air flow and a violent expulsion of previously compressed air out through the engine intake producing some loud bangs from the engine and “back fires”.

You can find several images of aircraft suffering compressor surges while taking off from airbases or being launched from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

As already explained on The Aviationist in the past, in most of the cases even after suffering a “surge” the compressor will usually recover to normal flow once the engine pressure ratio reduces to a level at which the compressor is capable of sustaining stable airflow.

Some engines have automatic recover functions even if pilots experiencing the surge can be compelled to act on the throttle or, in some cases, relight the engine.

Image Credit: Flight Video & Photo. H/T our friends at From The Skies for sending this over to us.