FALCON AIR MEET 2009


Muwaffaq Salti Air Base (MSAB)/Azraq, Wednesday October 19, 2009. Two young operational F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots of No.349 squadron of the Belgian Air Component and four Belgian groundcrew rush to their two F-16AM's lined-up some ten meters in front of them. Only seconds after hearing the 'GO'-whistle, "Deuce" and "Smack" have boarded their aircraft and lit their powerful P&W F100-engines. At the same time both mechanics performed the vital external checks to secure a safe and procedures-conform start-up of both aircraft and arming of the on-board armament.

 

This highly professional ground-ballet, witnessed by some 100 international spectators, ended when the last of the two jets moved forward to abruptly stop a few seconds later. "Deuce" and "Smack" just terminated the first part of the 'Air/Air Scramble' competition event of the 2009 Falcon Air Meet, organised at the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF)'s prime F-16 fighter base, located in the desert some 100 kilometres east of Amman. The stopwatch of the all-seeing referee - a pilot of USAF's Colorado Air National Guard- will later on tell if they 'overclassed' their American and Jordanian 'opponents'.

Belgian F-16AM Taxiing out

Minutes later both Belgian aircraft would take-off from MSAB to intercept a RJAF CASA 295 bi-engined transport aircraft. Each formation needed to score as soon as possible -after brakes release on the runway- a "Fox II" short-range heath-seeking -but simulated- missile 'kill' on the unfortunate CN295. Competition-points would be deducted if the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile was 'fired' outside pre-determined distances to and attack-angles with the 'target'.

The first Falcon Air Meet was organised in 2006 at MSAB, attended by the RJAF, 522FS/27FW Cannon AFB/NM and the Turkish Air Force (161 Filo / Bandirma), under supervision of 120FS/140FW Colorado ANG (COANG). In 2007, the Belgian Air Component participated for the first time by sending F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons of No.1 squadron (Florennes) to MSAB.

F-16 refuelling procedure

F-16 refuelling procedure

From 2009 on the operational emphasis of the Falcon Air Meet shifted from a multinational flying and ground-handling competition into an overall large force employment (LFE)-orientated air-exercise using the vast airspace over eastern Jordan and the available multinational air-assets.

Unfortunately the Turkish Air Force had in extremis to decline its traditional participation in FAM 2009. Mid October 2009, three F-16AM Fighting Falcons of No.349/Belgian Air Component and six F-16CJ Block 52 'Vipers' of 157FS/169FW South Carolina ANG would join RJAF's MSAB-based No.1 squadron, equipped with MidLifeUpdated F-16AM's. Several of these Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16's were purchased second-handl from the Belgian Air Component in 2008 but were degraded from MLU M3 to M2-status before delivery.

Belgian & Jordanian AEF F-16AM's

Jordanian AF F-16 taxiing out

Parallel to the intense flying programme, the FAM competition also tested the skills of maintenance and armament-personnel by giving scores to individual sortie generation success. The various nations had to compete in a missile loading competition during which groundcrew needed to install an inert AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM on two of the aircraft (wingtip) hardpoints. Once more groundcrew of the COANG supervised the competition and deducted vital competition-points for incorrect hardware-manipulations or safety hazards.

By far the most spectacular FM-event was the live air/ground bombing competition in which all participating F-16's dropped two live Mk.82 Snakeye general-purpose bombs on training targets, close to the airbase. This competition-event was integrated in a large-scale 'time-sensitive' insertion and extraction-exercise of Jordanian Special Forces, making a C-130H Hercules-borne assault landing. All pilots needed to drop their bombs within 30 seconds spacing from the preceding aircraft. Each flightlead (i.e. first pilot in the formation) of four aircraft needed to be over the target exactly two minutes after the last aircraft of the previous formation.

To keep all pilots and groundcrew 'competitive' until the end of the FAM2009 no individual and/or intermediate scores were 'declassified' before the official closing ceremony on 03/11/2009. Eventually the USANG would become the overall-winner of the various FAM-competitions.

 

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Text and pictures

 © Stefan Degraef & Edwin Borremans (November 2009)

 

Last updated 07/04/15 07:38   Daniel Brackx

daniel.brackx@telenet.be