Four F-16s will depart for the Middle East on Tuesday at the Florennes air base. From Jordan, they will operate over Syria and Iraq for a year in the context of the operation “Inherent Resolve” (OIR) of the international coalition against terror group Islamic State.
Belgium has already sent fighter planes to the region twice before. The US has been pushing for a greater military effort from our country since last year. The renewed commitment would be necessary to prevent a revival of IS. The jihadist group continues to carry out terrorist operations and continues to distribute propaganda in prisons.
On June 26, the Belgian government gave the green light for the new operation, which is once again called “Desert Falcon”. The decision provides for an operational commitment for a period of one year, according to Defense.
A detachment of a hundred Belgian soldiers provides support for the deployment of the combat aircraft. They have already been deployed in recent weeks. The material was brought to the site by two large cargo planes. These were Ukrainian Antonov An-124 freighters.
The detachment soldiers were already in corona quarantine. The first rotation consists mainly of soldiers from the air base of Florennes.
The fighters can be deployed to support coalition forces on the ground. The intention is that the Belgian detachment will be operational from 1 October for a period of one year, according to various military sources to Belga.
Limited collateral damage
The Belgian F-16s are also being equipped with a new weapon for their mission in Iraq and Syria. The new bombs, type GBU-39 / B, are precision weapons. Steered by a GPS signal, they should allow them to target a target more accurately. These are bombs of 110 kilograms, which can drill through 2.4 meters of concrete. The smaller bombs, “Small Diameter Bomb”, were chosen for their “surgical precision”. They cause less air displacement, which should lead to less collateral damage. One F-16 can carry eight at a time, according to Defense.
It is thus already the third participation of the Belgian air component in OIR. Earlier developments took place in 2014-2015 and in 2016-2017, often in alternation with the Netherlands. That country is now sending some 35 soldiers to Jordan to protect Belgian fighter planes. In doing so, the Dutch Defense responds to a request for cooperation from Belgium.
This Dutch contribution builds on the earlier cooperation with Belgian during the deployment of Dutch and Belgian F-16s in the fight against IS. Belgian and Dutch soldiers took turns to ensure the protection of the fighters and personnel of the other country, the so-called “force protection”.
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