Operations on the F-16 started for the 31st squadron in 1982 when it converted from the F-104G Starfighter. The squadron has been a part of the 10th Wing for its entire lifespan. It has become one of the more famous squadrons in the BAF because of its Tiger mascot, often portrayed in special paint schemes. Infact it was a founding member of the famous NATO Tiger Association. This association unites all the NATO and partnership countries that have a Tiger as their mascot.
With the (almost) annual Tiger Meet, the squadron has been the winner of the Silver Tiger Trophy for 6 times over the past 40 years, marking the professionalism of the entire squadron.
With the first major restructuring after the end of the Cold War the squadron escaped the axe, although it lost 6 aircraft of its operational strength. Keeping 12 aircraft operational for NATO duty from 1996 onwards, just as all the other Belgian Air Force F-16 squadrons.
The squadron was also responsible for the strike role together with its sister squadron, the 23rd. Although a public secret, it is generally believed that Kleine Brogel AB hosts tactical nuclear devices of the B-61 type. This is a part of NATO deterrence which is still a key cornerstone of the alliances strategy till this day.
BAF F-16AM #FA-94
from 31 sqn is turning after take-off with the strakes visible at Kleine Brogel AB on July 20th, 2005. [Photo by Nico van Remmerden]
With the limited availability of fighters within the Belgian Air Force, it became apparent that all F-16s should be used in a swing-role concept. During the following years, 31 squadron was thus also converted from a pure air-to-ground squadron to a multi-role squadron also capable of performing air-to-air missions when it was required. Especially with the introduction of the MLU version of the F-16 in late 2002, the capabilities of the squadron in the different domains grew drastically. This update provided some state-of-the-art technology with the introduction of BVR missiles and precision-guided air-to-ground weapons like the AGM-65 missile and GBU-type weapons.
In 2002 the last major reorganization took place. Because of the fact that all squadrons had a multi-role task at that time, it proved more efficient to have 18 aircraft in every squadron. With the disbandment of the 23rd squadron within the 10th Wing, 31 squadron received half of its 12 airframes, thus having 18 F-16s at their disposal again.
Unfortunately, the increase in aircraft made available was quickly changed when in late 2003 the Belgian government announced a further reduction of the F-16 fleet as part of a cost reducing effort for the armed forces. This will mean that 31 squadron will loose 1/3rd of their F-16s again and will keep 12 planes operational in 2015.
In the meantime, the updates on the F-16 airframe keep going on. Installing new mission software makes it possible to introduce new weapon systems like new short range A/A missiles, Link 16, HMCS and new precision guided weapons like the JDAM and JSOW. These weapons will be introduced with the Belgian Air Force in the following years and will further enhance the squadron's capacities.
BAF F-16A block 15 #FA-72
of 31 sqn is seen at the Open House at Kleine Brogel AB in 1991. [Photo by Ed Groenendijk]