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Belgian F-16s like "Bambi on ice" during exercise Battle Griffin

March 10, 2005 (by Whity) - NATO forces faced a Cold War of their own during exercises in Norway. Battle Griffin is a Norwegian invitational exercise with 14,000 participants from 15 nations. The main objective is to practise the Deployed Forces Concept.

BAF F-16AM #FA-107 taxiing on a snowy winterday at Florennes AB on January 28th, 2004. [Photo by Emiel Bonte]

The Cold War took on a whole new meaning Tuesday for NATO and other troops practicing winter warfare techniques in snow-swept parts of Norway.

Bad weather forced three Belgian F-16 fighters to make an unscheduled landing last week at the Bodø Airfield (host to the 132th Wing) in the Arctic, some 850 kilometers (530 miles) north of Oslo, to wait for better conditions.

A Norwegian military helicopter also had to rescue two French soldiers from a mountainside, both suffering from hypothermia, the Norwegian military said.

When things improved on Monday afternoon, the jets taxied briefly, and then froze, refusing to move. "Bambi on ice," said the exercise's official site, evoking the image of a fawn, struggling to take its first steps, wobbly and slipping and sliding.

But don't be mistaken by that image, as funny as it might sound. The Belgian pilots an technicians were simply complying to the peace-time standards in affect with the Belgian Air Force.

According to those, when an aircraft is parked on an ice covered surface, the crew chief is not allowed to come close to a running turbine. The aspiration of air is tremendous and the technician is at great risk of being sucked into the jet engine (these types of accidents unfortunately happened in the past).

Even worse, as the BAF wheel chocks don't have ice spikes, their jets started to move on the ice already during engine start. Sometimes, the ground was covered by more than 4 cm of ice. For those specific reasons, Belgian pilots asked the Norwegians to tow the airplanes to a place free of ice before starting the engines.

"The pilots did not want to take a chance on moving on that slippery surface. They stopped the aircraft on the taxi-way, and called for Norwegian ground personnel who were used to the harsh conditions." the article says.

The Belgian crews fulfilled every mission given to them, as mentioned by captain Thom Knustad, spokesman of the Norwegian forces. "During the exercise, the Belgian F-16's were on top. If some day I had to rely on them to defend my country, I would feel perfectly safe."

The scenario of this years exercise takes place in a country with severe internal conflicts, where the UN decide to intervene and help. Norway gets the mission to command a multinational force, to end the riots. The exercise starts when the forces enters the conflict area, and will offer training within most relevant operational levels for the forces.

The foreign contribution to the Norwegian invitational winter exercise is large; Germans alone count 2,000 troops, and both USA and the Netherlands participates with 1,000 troops each. Together, the 14 visiting nations counts 6,000 troops in land, sea and air forces. - Managing interoperability between the nations is one of the highest priorities.

A total of 22 F-16s participate to the exercise:
  • Denmark: 6 F-16s
  • Norway: 12 F-16s
  • Belgium: 4 F-16s
The exercise lasts through March 11. So does the cold weather.