The Dutch goverment on Friday formally approved F-16 operations against Daesh forces in Syria. Since October 2014, Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) jets are already involved in offensive flights over Iraq.
Until this week, one of two Dutch government parties was opposed to actions over Syria, saying there was no international mandate for military actions over the country. Recent terrorist attacks in Paris in Jakarta changed the party’s point of view however.
Four RNLAF F-16s operate from Jordan, with two more in reserve. Their participation is supposed to end later this year, with Belgian F-16s taking their place.
Fighter jet deals worth billions of US dollars hang in the balance in the Middle East as they have been doing for a number of years, but things could be moving along now following the apparent ease between Iran and the West. Or did Kuwait and Qatar already make up their mind?
It is no secret that Kuwait is looking to purchase 28 Boeing Super Hornets to replace its fleet of older F/A-18C/D Hornets, and that Qatar has been seeking to buy up to 72 variants of Boeing’s F-15 Strike Eagle.
Both orders would come in handy to keep production lines in the US open, particularly the Super Hornet line. A batch of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) EA-18 Growlers is now in manufacturing and after that it will likely be the end of production for the F-18 Hornet and its variants.
Unless of course Kuwait indeed orders its Super Hornets. A deal never seemed close however, and the reason could very well be that the US did not want to spoil improving relations with shia-Islam orientied Iran by supplying advanced warfare machines to opposing sunni countries such as Qatar and Kuwait.
That standpoint may change now that the relationship with Iran seems on its way to normalization. On the other hand however, there’s also Israel to be taken into account. That country upgrading its F-15I Ra’am (Thunder) jets and won’t be very happy to see more Arab states getting similar capabilities, also considering the fact that Saudi Arabia already has an impressive fleet of F-15s – and another 84 new-build F-15SAs (Saudi Advanced) are on their way between now and 2019. The US may be sensitive to this also.
The coming months should tell if there will ever be Qatari F-15s and Kuwaiti Super Hornets. And finally, if there will ever be Iraqi Air Force Mirage 2000s, as the United Arab Emirates are reportedly looking to hand over some of their Mirages to Baghdad.
The US has approved an Iraqi request for weapons for its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s. The request and subsequent approval gives more insight into the capabilities Iraqi Air Force F-16 should offer in the near future, for example in the fight against Daesh forces. For a long time, the US was hesitant to even allow the F-16s to be delivered to Iraq in fear of Islamic rebels taking over the country.
The approval concerns twenty Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), 24 AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, 150 AGM-65D Maverick air-to-ground missiles, no less than 14,120 500lb General Purpose (GP) guided or unguided bombs, 2,400 similar 2,000 lb GP bombs, plus 8,400 Laser Guided Bomb (LGB) Paveway tail kits. Support, training and maintenance are included in the contract as well.
The Iraqi Air Force is to gain a considerably strike capability if it indeed pushes ahead with the purchase at an estimated cost of The estimated cost is 1.95 billion USD.
The first of 36 Iraqi F-16s flew for the first time on 7 May 2014. The first batch of aircraft was first send to Tucson, Arizona, for training. In reality, the US wasn’t eager to send the aircraft to Iraq as the country – or at least the airbase the F-16s were planned to go – was on the verge of being overrun by Daesh forces.
In July 2015, the first four aircraft finally arrived in Iraq. Two more follow this January.
The bombing of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS / ISIL / Daesh) forces in Syria and Iraq has mainly become a limited Western war. The Arab nations of the coalition no longer take part in it. Meanwhile, Germany is on course to join the coalition.
Apart from Syria and Iraq themselves that is. According to fresh reports it’s mainly the United States, Russia and France who currently operate in the entire region. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has been reluctant to fly into Syria, especially since Moscow sent its expeditionary wing to Hmeymim Airbase near Latakia on the Syrian coast. The RAAF focuses on Iraq only, from the beginning and now. The Royal Air Force and Royal Netherlands Air Force do take part in operations in Syria.
Many of those nations are now actively involved in the military operations in the Yemen, where some rivalising forces are supported by Iran – seen as a opponent by all Arab nations mentioned above. The shifting of involvement is – however – also considered a political one now that the conflict especially in Syria has become more complicated with the Russian armed forces involved.
Climax in Syria
An illustration of the troublesome and fluent situation in the skies over Syria from last Tuesday, 24 November: a Turkish F-16 downed a Russian Air Force Su-24 Fencer, with Moscow saying that the strike aircraft posed no threat to Turkey, and Ankara admitting the aircraft flew inside Turkish aerospace for only 17 seconds. It was the climax so far in a conflict that mainly sees the US, Russia and France in action. Their forces only sometimes cooperate in bombing raids against the ISIS, with the Russian adding an extra volatile touch by bombing all forces opposing the government army of Syria.
UPDATED 4 November | Eight former Czech Air Force L-159 Alca trainer and light attack aircaft are heading to Iraq in November. They will join the Iraqi Air Force in a deal brokered by US company Draken International. A total of 21 Aero Vodochody L-159 will transfer to Draken International, with an initial eight of those moving on to Iraq. Four more are to follow, plus three spares.
UPDATE | The first L-159s left the Czech Republic on Wednesday 4 November, wearing Iraqi markings. See pics below.
The deal has been in the works for quite some time, with negotiations lasting 18 months and signatures finally inked in 2014. The number of aircaft sold varied a little while talks lasted, but both parties settled for 21 in the end. The Czech Air Force still has 24 L-159 Alcas in service with 212 squadron at Čáslav airbase.