September 8, 2015 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Kleine Brogel and Florennes Air Base will deploy eight F-16s and about 45 Belgian F-16 pilots to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates from 11 October to 19 November for three training periods.
BAF F-16AM #FA-131shwoing off at an airshow in the Netherlands
The pilots will be deployed on a rotational basis, and the aim is to let them gain experience in an environment as close as possible to the current theater of operations and for them to maintain their qualifications.
Six of the Viper drivers will participate in the Advanced Tactical Leadership Course (ATLC) course held from 25 October to 19 November. The ATLC, hosted by the UAE
Air Warfare Centre, is being organized for the 25th time, but it is the first times the Belgians will participate. Other participants in this course will come from the UAE, Egypt
, Saudi Arabia, France, Britain and the United States.
The UAE Air Warfare Centre was established in 2000; the first facility of its kind in the Middle East. It was established to allow doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures to be developed and evaluated for the UAE’s own new fighters but its role was soon expanded to improving interoperability among Gulf Co-operation Council air forces and the air forces of their coalition allies. This was intended to promote the security and stability of participating nations.
The Centre’s flagship advanced tactical leadership course was modelled on NATO
’s TLP. It aims to facilitate integration and interoperability between participating air forces through the development of leadership skills in the participating pilots, who are taught how to employ multinational forces together to achieve mission success. The course takes pilots who are already qualified to lead a ‘four ship’ (four aircraft formation), and upgrades them to full ‘mission commander’ status, giving each student experience of commanding, planning and executing missions in realistic scenarios, with the syllabus moving through progressively more complex missions and more challenging scenarios.
The airbase at Al Dhafra is located approximately 32 km (20 mi) south of Abu Dhabi. It is a joint UAE and USAF facility and is home to most of the United Arab Emirates
’ fighter squadrons – with F-16E/Fs and Mirage 2000-9s, which provide ‘built-in’ ‘red air’ forces. There is also a French enclave at Al Dhafra, known as "Base Aérienne 104" which hosts a rotational detachment of Dassault Rafales from EC 3/30 "Lorraine".
Last year Belgian F-16s conducted almost 300 airstrikes against ISIS terrorists as part of the international coalition, but were eventually sent back for budgetary reasons. The intention however is to do keep up the operations in the coming years, albeit in a rotation with the Netherlands