July 6, 2005 (by Bjorn Claes) - Four F-16 jet fighters of the Belgian Air Force departed to Afghanistan on Wednesday morning to join their Dutch collegues who are stationed there already since April 1st.
BAF F-16AM #FA-121 from the 2nd wing spotted on the ramp at Florennes AB for departure to Kabul - Afghanistan. [Photo by Dirk A. Geerts]
A total of six F-16's departed from Florennes AB at 9.35am on Wednesday and headed for Akinci AB, located near the Turkish capital of Ankara. Four planes then traveled onwards to Afghanistan, and arrived around 4.30pm on Thursday (local time). The F-16 force consists of #FA-98
, with #FA-68
acting as spares for the flight to Akinci AB. #FA-101
were the standby aircraft at Florennes AB during start-up.
The ferry flight will be accomplished at FL290 at Mach 0.8 on July 6th with a flight time of 2:30 hours. The will leave Akinci AB on July 7th and will be refuelled by a Dutch KDC-10 over the Black Sea on their way to Kabul airport with a flight time of 4:00 hours.
The operation follows a decision made by the Belgian government on April 22nd, 2005 to extend the Belgian commitment within the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF
) force to include an F-16 detachment. They will join the Belgian army detachment who has been deployed to Kabul airport since 2002 already. The Belgian F-16s will operate in a DATF together with the Dutch F-16s. The Dutch government was asked to perform this joint operation on May 26th by Belgian authorities. Already on June 7th a first site survey was conducted.
The F-16s are to be deployed from Kabul airport in an operation that will span an initial six month period and will include the Afghan parliamentary elections due to be held in September of this year. The deployment can be extended, but that decision is due in the autumn of 2005.
This operation is code-named 'Eastern Eagle I' - part of ISAF VIII and the UN mandated operation UNSCR - and is aimed at providing air support (CAS
) for the ISAF troops, defense of Kabul airport (QRF) and reconnaissance.
The forces of the 2nd Wing will be supported by units of the Kleine Brogel based 10th Wing in a rotational scheme.