Belgian F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons will take on the Baltic Air Policing duties of NATO from September to December 2013, reports the press service of the Belgian Air Component.
From Šiauliai Airbase in Lithuania four F-16 fighter aircraft supported by 50 personnel will provide air cover and air interception for NATO’s most eastern North European aerospace. It will be the third time for the Belgian Vipers, after earlier participation in 2004 and 2006.
Every Belgian fighter pilot will clock about 15 tot 20 flight hours per month, totaling 320 flight hours for the entire mission. NATO’s detachment of fighter jets in Lithuania regularly intercepts or shadows Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea. The former Soviet Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are since 2004 part of NATO. Since they lack proper air defence assets themselves, other NATO members jump in on the joint task to protect the airspace of its member nations. The same defence agreement also counts for the NATO countries of Luxemburg, Iceland and Slovenia who all lack fighter aircraft.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 5: In the year 2014 Norway can still count on six F-16 pilot training positions in the USA (Forsvaret). But how it looks in 2015 is still uncertain.
The Norwegian Armed Forces (Forsvaret) and political parties are ‘not amused’ by a recent American move to cut the number of Norwegian F-16 pilot training positions in the USA from six to only two, reports Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten on July 17th, 2013.
The US action could be both for financial reasons and to free training spots for Iraqi and Japanese pilots, say sources to the newspaper.
Norway has committed itself to the F-16 and more or less to its successor the F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter). The biggest Norwegian opposition party (conservative Høyre) now wants the government to postpone signing the F-35 main contract or cancel it all together.
Currently six pilots are doing their lead-in fighter training in the USA on the T-38 Talon. For four of them it is now highly uncertain if they can continue as previously planned on the F-16 Fighting Falcon in Tuscon (Arizona) later this year. It also confronts the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) with the possible lack of qualified pilots for the defence of the country.
A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 fighter made the 3 millionth Dutch image of Afghanistan with the photo reconnaissance system RecceLite in mid-June.
The Koninlijke Luchtmacht (KLu) detachment has been using the recce pod in Afghanistan since 2009, making tens of thousands of photos every day. They help to detect so-called improvised explosive devices (‘home-made bombs’) that pose a threat to soldiers and civilians on the ground.
According to the Dutch Ministry of Defence F-16s of the Royal Netherlands Air Force are the only assets in northern Afghanistan to use advanced photo recon technology.
KLu F-16 also provide close air support when requested by NATO/ISAF command and have been doing that ever since the multi-role fighters were first deployed in the Asian country in 2002.
In 2011 Cambrai hosted the 50th NATO Tigermeet. Because of this anniversary and the fact that this French airbase was due to close the Tigermeet provided a last opportunity to visit Cambrai while still at operational status.