Jordan flies about a dozen ex-Israeli Air Force Bell AH-1E/F Cobras in the “border patrol”, counter-insurgency role and in operations against so-called Islamic State forces, according to a fresh report by Reuters.
The international press agency quotes sources with insight in the deal, in which Israel apparently has transferred 16 of its decommissioned Bell attack helicopters to its Arab neighbour. Some are used for spare parts, but it is believed that 10 to 12 actually do fly. The Royal Jordanian Air Force already received 32 ex-US Army AH-1Fs, delivered in the late 1990s and beginning of the 2000s. About 20 to 25 of those are believed to still be operational, flying out of Zarqa Airbase, although some sources say only 12 are in flyable condition.
The location of the ex-Israeli Cobras is unknown, but may very well be a forward operating base aligned to the Cobra units based at Zarqa. Israeli Air & Space Force’s 160 Squadron flew the Cobras until it was disbanded in 2013 for budgetary and safety reasons. Jerusalem tried to sell the attack choppers to Nigeria first, but that deal was blocked by the United States as we reported earlier.
Belgian Air Component F-16s no longer take part in operations against IS-forces in Iraq. The six fighter aircraft and 120 personnel returned home on 2 July after ending their participation earlier in the week.
The Belgians had been supporting operations from October 2014, flying from an airbase in Jordan along with Dutch F-16s. The latter are continuing their effort, albeit with four aircraft instead of six used earlier.
The Belgians withdrew their aircraft since the government in Brussels did not allocate any more budget to the operation.
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.
The United Arab Emirates Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16E/F Desert Falcons are into their second day of renewed air strikes against the so-called Islamic State forces (ISIS / ISIL / Daech).
Through the UAE news agency WAM the UAE Armed Forces issued a brief statement on Tuesday 10 February 2015, saying that the UAEAF F-16s carried out a series of strikes on Tuesday morning from the Jordanian airbase they deployed to in the weekend. The fighters returned safely back to base after striking their targets, according to the UAE.
Experts assumed that the strikes took place in Syria, possibly around Raqqa, but this has not been confirmed independently.
Jordan F-16s have destroyed 56 Islamic State (ISIS) targets over the last three days, the Jordan government in Amman stated on 8 February. The stepped up effort is a response to the brutal execution of the Jordan F-16 pilot captured by ISIS last December. On the same day, US foreign minister John Kerry said the international coalition has significantly forced back ISIS.
Along with actual bombardments, the Jordan authorities have also stepped up propaganda effort, with lots of footage of bombs being loaded and airstrikes being carried out, showing up on YouTube. The Jordanians are now responsible for 20 percent of all air strikes against ISIS. Weapons depots and hide outs have been destroyed, according to Amman.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) has several dozen Lockheed Martin F-16s in use, mostly of the F-16AM and BM versions. The first contract for 16 aircraft was signed in 1996, with deliveries starting in 1997. All are ex US, Belgian or Dutch aircraft, with 15 more former Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) aircraft on the way.