Esk 726 was the last within the Danish air force to convert to the F-16. They had to wait until the aircraft of the follow-on order came off the Fokker production line starting from 1986. This meant that its predecessor, the F-104G/CF-104D Starfighter, remained in RDAF service for over 23 years.
Originated as the second Danish attack unit on the F-16, the mission of the squadron changed in the course of 1993. In that year the final Danish RF-35XD ‘Drakens’ were fazed out with Esk 729 based at Karup AB. The Danish military staff didn’t want to loose their dedicated reconnaissance platform and therefore decided that Esk 726 would be enrolled in a reconnaissance task.
RDAF F-16A block 15 #E-007
from Esk 726 is passing the lens at Leeuwarden AB on August 30th, 1995. [Airliners.net
photo by Joop de Groot]
At first the ‘Red Baron’ recce pod was used. This pod was designed by the Per Udsen company (now Terma) and it used the older Vinten cameras from the RF-35XD aircraft. In later years an infrared line scanner and a passive sensor system was installed to enhance the pods operations. However, even with these upgrades the pod was still only used as a low-level daytime reconnaissance asset. During the late nineties this pod was replaced by the more capable Modular Reconnaissance Pod (MRP), which is also produced by Terma. This change was combined with the introduction of the MLU version of the F-16, of which Esk 726 was the first to receive in 1999.
During a plan to reduce the number of F-16 squadrons by one, the sister squadron Esk 723 was disbanded in 2001 leaving Esk 726 as the only flying unit at Aalborg AB. In a second reorganisation plan, the Danish government decided that Esk 726 should be disbanded and Aalborg AB closed for F-16 operations. The disbandment happened at the end of 2005, which means the RDAF only has one operational F-16 airbase left, being Skrydstrup AB.
RDAF F-16AM #E-008
from Esk 726 is photographed in the static display at RIAT on July 16th, 2005 with a new Danish made recon pod. [Photo by Asif Shamim]