September 26, 2014 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Six Belgian Air Force F-16s left for the Middle East where they will take part in the international coalition operation against "Islamic State" (IS) militants in Iraq. The F-16s left for Greece at around 16:30h today.
Two Belgian Air Component F-16A's perform a split break after receiving fuel from a USAF KC-10 Extender aircraft with the 908th EARS over Afghanistan on February 27th, 2012. [USAF photo by SSgt. Greg Biondo]
On Saturday morning the Belgian F-16s will fly on to Jordan
, which is one of the five Arab nations that have joined the US-led coalition. From their base in Jordan the Belgian planes will carry out missions above Iraq
. Syria is excluded from the nations deployment plans.
On Tuesday the United States government sent an official written request to Belgium
asking our forces to take part in a so-called “coalition of the willing” that would target ISIS positions in Iraq. Washington is attempting to organize a coalition of Western and allied countries to counter ISIS, which has seized large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, reaching up to the border with NATO
As Belgium is currently without a federal government, parliament has to approve any new foreign military interventions. The caretaker government approved Belgium’s participation on Wednesday, as did the relevant parliamentary select committees.
The final green light was given by federal MPs in the Chamber of Representatives on Friday afternoon. 114 MPs voted for Belgium’s participation in the “coalition of the willing", 2 voted against (from the far left PTB+) and 10 abstained.
Belgium will also provide C-130 cargo planes
to carry troops and material to Iraq. A previous suggestion to send about 35 special forces soldiers to advise local troops was not taken up by the United States.
The Belgian F-16s should carry out their first missions above Iraq by the middle of next week.
Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis announced that the Netherlands
will also deploy six F-16s and another two F-16s to be used as backups. They will also only be used for air strikes in Iraq. Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher said that in Iraq's case there is a clear request but that he did not see a mandate for Syria.
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt also announced they will seven F-16s to help combat IS militants in Iraq,
France already sent Rafale fighter jets into action in Iraq last week.