October 1, 2014 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Belgian F-16s stationed at NATO air base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, flew their last mission on Sunday September 28th thus ending Operation Guardian Falcon (OGF).
A Belgian F-16 is greeting by the local fire department and Belgian groundcrew upon leaving Kandahar airfield after concluding 6 years of Belgian presence in Afghanistan on October 2nd, 2014. [Mil.be
photo by Jürgen Braekevelt]
The operation was part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF
), led by NATO
, to help the Afghan people make their country a safer place.
Since 2008, and on a daily basis, two to four Belgian F-16s took off from Kandahar airfield for armed reconnaissance flights over Afghan territory in support of NATO and friendly ground troops.
Outside the scheduled missions, the F-16s took turns as part of a quick reaction force (QRA
). They shared this role with British fighter jets.
"Our fighter-bombers are the last ones in Kandahar", explains Davy Van Rompaey, leader of the OGF-detachment. "The Belgian and British detachments distribute the workload among themselves, for the planned and unexpected flights."
"The Belgians have demonstrated professionalism and an exemplary commitment" confirms Major General John McMullen, commander of the NATO air force in Afghanistan. "They have flawlessly supported the troops that were endangered in the field without any incident. Their approach was an example, despite the more than austere conditions.“
For six years there were constantly six F-16s and about a hundred soldiers present in Afghanistan, mainly in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar. In that time they clocked a total of more than 15,000 flight hours.
It was the first time the Belgian Air Component was deployed in the middle of an operational site. The detachment returns home early October, just days after the fighter jets returned to the 2nd and 10th Tactical Wing.
Meanwhile six Belgian Air Force F-16s left for the Middle East
last Friday where they will take part in the international coalition operation against "Islamic State" (IS) militants in Iraq
NATO recently launched the Return to Hope website, which provides an account of the 11-year ISAF mission in Afghanistan