August 31, 2008 (by Bjorn Claes) - From September 1st, 2008 onwards, four Belgian F-16s are providing assistance to the ISAF operation in Afghanistan.
A Belgian F-16AM from the 2nd wing over Afghanistan during the first mission in July of 2005. [BAF photo by VADOR]
In a deployment - called operation 'Guardian Falcon' - the F-16s will be deployed from Kandahar airfield and will strengthen the Dutch F-16 contingent. This operation has an initial span of 6 months, but can be lengthened after that period by a government decision. This will mainly be a financial question.
The F-16s are tasked to ensure a 'show of force', including guarding communication lines, protecting ISAF
troops and in exceptional circumstances provide support to coalition forces when they are in a life threatening situation.
This deployment marks the first usage of the new SNIPER targeting pod. The SNIPER pod was only delivered to the Belgian air Force last year. Both pilots and ground crew have been training intensively with the new system over the past months to ensure a spotless integration in the F-16's mission profile.
Rotation within the contingent is set at a 6 week interval, making it possible for all four Belgian F-16 squadrons to participate in this operation and collect and maintain the necessary skills to operate in such coalition environments.