Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM from Esk 727 with serial E-599 taking off (Image © Marcel Burger)

Blunder kept Danish F-16s far from ISIS, Canadians wiser

Not a single flight and certainly not a single shot fired. The seven Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcons Copenhagen sent to Ahmed Al Jaber Airbase in Kuwait to fight the so-called Islamic State forces (ISIS / ISIL) were grounded ever since they arrived there on 5 October 2014. Reason: a big diplomatic blunder. Maybe not so bad the Royal Canadian Air Force hasn’t arrived on scene yet. But things are becoming better, with the first two Danes lifting off in the early morning of 16 October for their first non-lethal patrol or familiarization flight, the Danish minister of Defence confirmed.

For ten days the Danish combat jets had not been cleared to use Kuwaiti aerospace, according to sources who’s information was published by Danish newspaper Berlingske on Wednesday evening 15 October 2014 on its website. While French, Australian, Belgian, Dutch and US air forces have been proudly advertising their involvement in trying to stop and degrade ISIS, we at already thought it was very quiet from our Danish friends. They are known for showing their actions, providing the internet community every once in a while with very nice footage from GoPro cameras, like earlier this year from a test flight over Greenland.

On 15 October, ten days after the Danish F-16s arrival, everything pointed at a hastily departure of the jets from Eskadrille 727 and 730 from Skrydstrup Airbase on the Danish mainland on 2 October 2014. According to sources not a single familiarization flight was made after the planes landed. That must be have been frustrating for the 140 Danish personnel at Ahmed Al Jaber – ground crew and pilots alike, being stuck in the desert heat. It must have be even more frustrating for the Danish MoD’s top brass having to tell their American brothers that they are ready to fight, but that they didn’t have the necessary papers to fly.

Truth is, with no flying whatsoever the combat readiness of the entire expedition is lower than wished for, putting another delay of likely 2 to 6 days for the fighter jocks to get back into the game before a real combat mission will be executed.

RCAF Hornets leaving Cold Lake during an earlier exercise (Image © Master-Seaman Steeve Picard / RCAF)
RCAF Hornets are planning to leave soon for Kuwait to fight ISIS in Iraq. Seen here taking off from RCAF Base Cold Lake during an exercise (Image © Master-Seaman Steeve Picard / RCAF)

Canadian Air Force
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic the Royal Canadian Air Force is getting sharp criticism in the official and social media. Why, do some people ask, has the RCAF not been able to send its six McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) CF-188 Hornet fighters, one Airbus CC-150 Polaris tanker, two Lockheed CP-140 Aurora aerial surveillance aircraft and air support personnel to Southwest Asia to fight ISIS like the Canadian government promised on 7 October.

Looking at the Danish blunder, the Canadians might be the wiser. They are planned to operate also from an airbase within Kuwait, maybe even join the Danes at Ahmed Al Jaber. Ottawa seems to be keen to clear all diplomatic stuff first. The time that it takes – and the criticism for the slow reaction – even got the Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff, General Tom Lawson, making a statement on 14 October.

While the preparations for the combat contribution to what the Canadians call Operation Impact are still underway, the general emphasizes that the Canadian armed forces were already involved. “The deployment builds on the work that Canada has done to help Iraqi forces to blunt the ISIS offensive on the ground. In addition to the Canadian Armed Forces members who are advising and assisting Iraqi forces, our aviators have flown in 1.6 million pounds of military equipment for Iraqi forces.”

Of course, the Danish – and soon Canadian – fighter jets seeing action in what the Americans call Operation Inherent Resolve was and is just a question of time. But the 10 days delay of the Danish combat force engaging in … well … combat while the practical assets are in place didn’t make a strong first impression. Both Copenhagen and Madīnat al-Kuwayt might have a hard time explaining that to the hundreds of thousands of people on the run or in danger in both Iraq and Syria.

© 2014 editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Postcard from home: a Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM that does fly (Image © Marcel Burger)

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