Tag Archives: Belgian Air Component

Red Flag for big guys

For the past two weeks, Beja airbase in Portugal was the scene of multi national exercise European Air Transport Training (EATT15), organized by European Defence Agency (EDA) and European Air Transport Command (EATC). In other words: C-27J Spartan and C-130 Hercules galore in Portugal. This is Red Flag for the big guys.

Taking part in EATT15 were Portugal, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden and the UK, as well as observer countries Brazil, the United States and Poland. Next to C-27Js and C-130s, also present at Beja were Airbus C295s and C-160 Transall aircraft. In total, 20 transport aircraft and 2,500 military personnel were involved, not counting in three Portuguese Air Force F-16s and a sole P-3C Orion.

The EATT15 aims to train and prepare the crews of tactical airlift squadrons in order to guarantee their readiness for all kinds of operations within the European alliance. The concept of the exercise is to “provide joint training and ensure interoperability among the participating forces”, said Lt. Col. Laurent Donnet, overseeing EATT15 on behalf of the Belgian Air Component.

 (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
A long way from home: a Swedish Hercules in Portugal. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Also a long way from home, is this C295 from Finland. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Also a long way from home, is this C295 from Finland. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
 (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
A fine study of a Alenia Aermacchi C-27J. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

Scenarios
During the exercise, crews trained for various scenarios, such as operations to and from unprepared air strips, Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR), extraction of military and non-military elements, medical evacuations, plus air support in an urban environment and emergency situations.

The home team. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
The home team. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Blue skies surround this Spartan…. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
 (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
… and this Hercules. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

JPADS
During EATT15, crews used the Airdrop Joint Precision System (JPADS), a US military airdrop system using GPS, an onboard computer and steerable parachutes to direct cargo to a designated impact point.

EATT15 was also about efficient use of logistics, tooling and spare parts. The proximity of similar aircraft types and their crews allowed for standardization of procedures, exchange of know-how as well as the fostering of a spirit of unity. This spirit is embraced by European Air Transport Command (EATC), the institution directing and overseeing operations of hundreds of European military transport and tanker aircraft. The latter had their own exercise earlier this year.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com guest editor Jorge Ruivo – www.cannontwo.blogspot.pt
Featured image (top): A C-130 overhead Beja in Portugal. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

A Lithuanian Spartan. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
A Lithuanian Spartan. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
 (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Touchdown for the Spartan. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Flaring for landing. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Flaring for landing. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
EATT15's final landing was on 26 June. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
EATT15’s final landing was on 26 June. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

Dutch reduce ISIS fighting force

The Netherlands is reducing its airborne effort in fighting the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) forces in Iraq. According to sources in The Hague the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) will start sending its F-16s home from the operations base in Jordan.

Due to the increasing need for maintenance, costs and worries about the combat capability (read: lack of training for other missions) continuation of the entire RNLAF contribution to the international military effort to fight ISIS was in doubt.

The military and political leadership of the Netherlands now opt to reduce the number of F-16s dispatched to Jordan from the current six to four, plus two fighter jets in reserve. Plans call to keep the mission going until the end of June 2016 and there seems to be a majority in the Dutch parliament supporting the decision.

Belgian Air Component
There are still Dutch hopes for a rotating deployment in cooperation with Belgium. The Belgian Air Component currently flies six F-16s separately from the same base in Jordan as the RNLAF does, but Brussels says there is no money left to continue the mission after June.

But the Dutch decision that will be made public on Friday might influence the Belgians to reconsider sending a quartet of F-16s (plus two reserve) in October for a 3 month deployment, to be taken over by the RNLAF again in January 2016. High-level talks on this matter have already been done prior to the decision making.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Formation of Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Belgian choppers wrap up Czech exercise

The Belgian Air Component’s three Agusta A109 utility, armed scout and armed escort helicopters are wrapping up their bilateral exercise with the Czech armed forces on 10 April 2015. Exercise South Plains saw action of the rotary wing and ground forces of both countries from the beginning of April. Base of operations: Námest in the Czech Republic.

(Image © Dennis Spronk)
Airheadsfly.com exclusive report from Beauvechain Air Base

Beauvechain Air Base is normally the home for the A109s, but not for three lucky ones and their crew that were involved in a ten-day exercise in the Czech Republic. They were engaged in night flying missions, low altitude flying, close air support, and training for joint missions (COMAO – Composite Air Operation). The helicopters stayed mainly close to Námest, but used the Libava Military Training Area for live air-to-ground firing practices.

The Belgians were welcomed in style, landing in quite snowy conditions on the 1 April. Námest is home to the Czech Air Force’s 22 Wing (22.Základna Vrtulníkového Letectva (22.zL)), operating the Mil Mi-24V and Mi-35 “Hind” attack helicopters, as well as the Mil Mi-171Sh “Hip” assault/transport choppers.

The next exercise involving both Belgian and Czech helicopter units is planned for May this year during the Tactical Helicopter Procedures Update which will take place at the Belgian Beauvechain Base, then again in June in Italy during the Italian Blade Exercise, followed by the Trident Juncture Exercise in Spain in September.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, based on source information provided by the Ministerstvo obrany ČR
Featured image: The three Belgian Air Component A109s just after arrival at Námest in the Czech Republic (Image © CPT Jana Skrivankova / Ministerstvo obrany ČR)

Belgians and Dutch seal QRA deal

Belgium and the Netherlands closed a deal on Wednesday 4 March, in which both countries will share Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties. Also involved is Luxembourg, which has no air force of its own. The agreement was in the works for a long time already, as reported here on Airheadsfly.com.

The Belgian Air Component and the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) will in turn provide a QRA-capability for the whole airspace over Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Until now, both countries had their own QRA. Over the last year, NATO’s QRA fighter aircraft had their hands full intercepting nosy Russian aircraft.

By the end of 2016, the shared QRA should be in full swing. According to the Dutch Ministry of Defense, the arrangement frees up pilots and aircraft for other missions. That’s especially important, given the replacement of the current 67 F-16s with just 37 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightnings from 2018 onwards.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Lockheed Martin F-16 (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Sweden offers Gripen to Belgium

Denmark was considered “a waste of time”, but Belgium is a different story. Sweden has decided to join the race for the next-generation multi-role fighter jet for the Belgian Air Component.

The Swedish Defence and Security Export Agency (FXM) confirmed it submitted a background document to the Ministry of Defence of Belgium on 15 December 2014. “In June this year, FXM received a request on joining a feasibility study for the country’s future combat aircraft procurement. FXM accepted. The request applies to the next generation of SAAB Gripen, the Gripen E,” a press release reads.

Interesting detail in the Belgian communication about the current process is that Brussels calls it the Gripen R. Sweden is not the only country in the race. Belgium is also requesting information from France for the Dassault Rafale, from the United Kingdom for the Eurofighter Typhoon and from the United States for the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II and Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18 Hornet. Judging the current climate in Belgium we at Airheadsfly.com believe that the finale will be between the F-35, Rafale and Gripen, in that order of choice. Dassault already sent in its papers.

Since 1979, Belgium has been flying the Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16A/M which is due to be fully replaced by 2028. The Belgian Air Component officially has 54 of the F-16s left, but not all of them are operational. With the increased co-operation in a joint air defence with northern neighbour the Netherlands, the F-35 might be a most logic, but also an expensive choice. The Netherlands already buy 37 F-35s to replace their F-16s.

How many new fighters Belgium will buy is not decided yet. The base need is four fighter jets for Quick Reaction Alert, a maximum of 10 fighters deployed in two operations abroad, plus a number of jets for immediate ground support and longer term air defence in case of a threat/conflict at home.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, based on source information of the FXM and the Belgian MoD

Related: Rafale F3R offered to Belgium
AND: Joint Air Defence over Benelux

A Swedish Air Force JAS 39C Gripen fighter at Linköping-Malmen (Image © Marcel Burger)
Belgium is interested in the next-generation Gripen-E, which will also succeed this Swedish Air Force JAS 39C Gripen fighter at Linköping-Malmen (Image © Marcel Burger)