Report by : Jacques Vincent & Thierry Letellier
To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Belgian Air Force was presented an exceptional exhibition during the Belgian Air Force Days on the 25th and 26th of June at Florennes Air base in the south of Belgium.
20 years of F-16 operations. In October 2016, with the operation Joint Falcon, it will be 20 years that our F-16 has been engaged for the first time in foreign expeditionary operations, as part of the NATO Response Force, IFOR- Implementation Force (who will become rapidly the SFOR- Stabilization Force) above the Bosnia-Herzegovina and in partnership DATF (Deployable Air Task Force) with our Dutch allies. Since then, the operations have succeeded one another in the Balkans until 2001, in the Baltic countries, in Afghanistan for more than 6 years, in Libya in 2011 and until the operation Desert Falcon in 2014-2015 above Iraq which should take up again in July 2016. During the BAFDAYS16, the exhibition was aim to show and to describe all the operations performed since 20 years while highlighting the skills of the men and women of our F-16 units who have made and, who are still making possible to execute these missions with success.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and with, on the one hand, the Evolution of Europe, that was progressively becoming a continent marked by the unity, the freedom and the peace, but, on the other hand, the growing spectrum of unpredictable crisis turning quickly to conflict at the outskirts of NATO, as in the Balkans, the central line of the quick reaction has passed from the reinforcement inside the North Atlantic Treaty to the response to these crisis outside this area. During the 90’s, on the base of the experience acquired during the Gulf War, Belgium and its Allies turned their forces to make it capable to perform on a short notice expeditionary operations at a strategic distance away from Europe. Despite many engagement attempts of the F-16 in the Balkans since 1993, the first F-16 expeditionary operation is only possible since the installation of RADAR Warning Receiver, CARAPACE, as from March 1995, and which is completed by a jamming pod, ALQ-131, as from October 1995. In October 2016, with the operation Joint Falcon, above Bosnia-Herzegovina, it will be 20 years that the BAF F-16 has been engaged for the first time in foreign operations. Ever since, the operations have succeeded one another from the Balkans to Afghanistan, including Libya, till the operation Desert Falcon above Iraq which will start again in July 2016. Over the operations, the F-16 and their utilization, as well as their equipment and their armament, has constantly evolved in order to better answer to the challenges encountered in the operations all different from one another. Today, the Belgian F-16 remain well equipped to execute all types of missions whether it be in the ground support, the neutralization of ground targets, aerial defense mission or aerial survey.
350 Sqn 75th anniversary. The 350 Sqn was created during the World War II with Belgian staff in the Royal Air Force on the Valley Base, in Great-Britain. Older than the Belgian Air Force, this unit was presented its history through an exhibition during the Belgian Air Force Days. In 1941, Belgian pilots have started with convoys escort missions with Spitfire. These aviators and their legendary planes have participated afterwards in flotilla missions during the Landings as well as offensive missions in France and in Belgium. Then, The 350 Sqn has been transferred to the Belgian Air Force. In 1949, pilots of the 350 Sqn received the first jet airplanes Gloster Meteor MK4. Before being operational on F16 in 1982, the Squadron distinguished itself also on Hawker Hunter MK4, Avro Canada CF 100 “Canuk” and F-104G. In 1996, the 350 Sqn incorporates the 2nd Tactical Wing in Florennes where it is still based.
In spite of the poor weather conditions ; those Belgian Air Force Days 2016 will remain as a memorable event for most of the present aviation minded poeple . Specially for the oldest of us ; that were reminded the good old times of the TLP in Florennes…