An-12PPS special mission aircraft among those met by the Belgian Air Force “Vipers” during their BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) rotation.
The images in this post were taken by the Belgian Air Force during their latest rotation of support to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission.
Flying out of Amari Air Base, Estonia, the Belgian F-16 jets augmented the Lead Nation Spain’s Eurofighter Typhoon jets from January to April 2016.
The aircraft were often launched to intercept and escort Russian planes flying over the Baltics. Among them, Su-27 Flanker, Tu-134AK, Il-76, An-72 and also an An-12PPS.
The An-12PPS “Cub-D” is a jamming variant of the Antonov medium military transport.
According to “Russia’s Warplanes, Volume 1” by Piotr Butowski published by Harpia Publishing, one of the most authoritative sources on Russian-made military aircraft and helicopters today and set to become the standard reference work on the subject, the Russian Air Force operates several standoff ECM aircraft based on the standard An-12 airframe. Their task is to provide jamming cover to formation of transport aircraft carrying airborne troops by disguising the heading and composition of the formation during assault missions behind the front line.
Actually, the RF-90787 “19 Red” depicted in the photos taken by the BAF pilots lacks the most interesting equipment carried by the few An-12PPS aircraft: the Siren-D active jammer, usually mounted in four cigar-shaped pods, two under the forward fuselage and one on each side of the tailfin base. Still, it features another Cub-D’s distinctive feature: the SPS-100 Rezeda self-protection jammer built into the aircraft’s tail in lieu of the tail gunner’s turret.
Indeed, the aircraft is actually a former An-12PPS that was converted to the transport role back in 2001. Still, it’s a pretty rare bird!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographer Alessandro Fucito during the BAF Days.