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Belgium and Netherlands ready to intervene in Libya under NATO umbrella

March 18, 2011 (by Lieven Dewitte) - After Denmark, who was readying four F-16 fighter jets on Wednesday, Belgium and The Netherlands now also follow suit to take part in an internationally-backed no-fly zone over Libya.

BAF F-16AM #FA-129 taking off at Volkel AB, The Netherlands

Belgium is ready to take part in the military action under a NATO umbrella with six F-16 fighter planes and a frigate, European Affairs Minister Olivier Chastel said Friday.

The government decided to "tell NATO that we are available, offer what we have and wait for a common command," Chastel told reporters after a government meeting.

"Belgium has six F-16 jets currently stationed in Araxos, Greece and a frigate in the Mediterranean" that could be used in a NATO mission, he said.

The six single-seat F-16s that have been assigned to the Libya mission are part of a larger group that was already on a training mission to Greece when the no-fly zone was established. 12 or 13 pilots will accompany the planes, making it possible to keep them in the air for twenty-four hours a day.

Each Belgian F-16 will carry 2 AMRAAM missiles and 2 Sidewinders.

"We are not war heroes, only people who do their jobs. It is our task to carry out a political decision," says the leader of the Air Force. "There are already casualties on the ground. Our people understand that they will be in dangerous situations. We do not want unnecessary casualties. In Afghanistan we have six F-16s. So far we have had no cases of collateral damage." Major-General Van de Voorde was quoted in Het Nieuwsblad, a Belgian newspaper.

NATO ambassadors were meeting Friday to decide what role the 28-nation alliance may take after the UN Security Council approved military action to stop Moamer Kadhafi from wiping out rebels.

Dutch foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal says the Netherlands is also ready to take part in a military intervention against Libya, but so far has not received a request from NATO to take action.

Defence Minister Hans Hillen has said the Netherlands could provide F-16 fighter jets or know-how.

[Update 19/03]: Six F-16s from Norway will also take part in the military operations against Libya and Greece will apparently provide 4 F-16s.

Additional images:

A unique photo showing both the Belgian and Dutch demo team on July 3rd, 2009. The special coloured birds are the demojets, while the standard grey aircraft are the spares. [Photo by Eric Coeckelberghs]