March 23, 2021 (by Bjorn Claes) - On October 15th, 1946 the Belgian Air Force was reformed a an independent part of the Belgian military. Until that day it was a part of the Belgian Army. Fighting alongside its allies during WWII, it followed the trend in other countries' where this experience led to new understandings in how to use the 'air weapon' in future conflicts and the importance of that weapon as an independent part, separate from army influence.
BAF F-16AM #FA-87 from 2W is being pulled out of the paint barn at Florennes AB on March 23rd, 2021 after receiving a special tail scheme to commemorate the Belgian Air Force's 75th anniversary which is celebrated later this year. [BAF photo]
In the past 75 years the Belgian Air Force developed in parallel to it's NATO
allies with the introduction of the first jet-engined fighter (the Gloster Meteor) in the same year. With the foundation of NATO in 1949 and the danger still present from the USSR and the Korean conflict the BAF
expanded very quickly to a fighter force of over 500 aircraft! Something unimaginable today. From 1955 onwards more new fighters were delivered all of them being more capable then their predecessors. Combined with already dwindling budgets this resulted in fewer airframes being purchased. By 1975 the fighter force was already reduced to a mere 200 aircraft.
That year the purchase of the F-16 Fighting Falcon was decided upon with the first aircraft being delivered to the BAF on January 26th, 1979 (#FB-01
). Deliveries continued over the years. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War in 1989 a period of austerity began for the BAF. In the early nineties the old Mirage 5's were withdrawn first with also some older F-16s being mothballed at the same time, reducing the fighter force to 90 aircraft. Further reductions were executed in 2003 till 72, 2007 till 60 and finally 2011 till the current level of 54 aircraft. But all this time, the F-16 stood firm as the backbone of the BAF's fighter force. Those F-16s being modernised in a somewhat permanent fashion till this day.
To celebrate the 75th anniversary and mark the occasion #FA-87
was painted with a special tailscheme.