|ISAF VIII - Operation "Eastern Eagle"|
On 6 July 2005 six Lockheed F-16AM Fighting Falcons (four aircraft + two spares) departed Florennes air force base heading for Kabul International Airport (OAKB) in Afghanistan to form part of the 6 month Belgian-Dutch detachment operating 8 F-16 fighters in the framework of the EEAW (European Expeditionary Air Wing). The Be/Nl detachment consists of 165 men (65 of which Belgians coming mostly from the 2nd and 10th Wings) which will work in strict cooperation on operational as well as maintenance level. Their main task is to provide Close Air Support (CAS) for the Provincial Reconstruction Teams present in the Western part of Afghanistan.
Ready : Lantirn equipped F-16AM FA-108 ready for its ferry flight to Kabul, Afghanistan
Besides the Air Component F-16 deployment (IAF Eastern Eagle), Belgian Defence is already present in Afghanistan with a commanding cell, an airfield securing company, a logistical and medical detachment (BELU ISAF VIII Kabul) and one Lockheed C-130H transport aircraft (ISAF VIII Det C130) forming part of the Belgian-Portuguese detachment. Some Belgian military also participate in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams at Kunduz (ISAF Kunduz PRT).
The ferry flight of the F-16's will be undertaken in two steps. On 6 July all 6 aircraft will fly to Akinci airbase near Ankara in Turkey, via Germany Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. In the morning of July 7th the two spare aircraft (FA-68 and FA-121) will return to Belgium if no replacement is necessary. The four remaining Lantirn targeting pod equipped F-16's (FA-98, FA-108, FA-116 and FA-125) will continue to Afghanistan. Near the Black Sea over Georgia, they will rendezvous with a Royal Netherlands Air Force (KLu) KDC-10 tanker (call sign NAF45) to be refuelled in flight. Continuing flying over Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan they will land together with the Dutch tanker aircraft at Kabul, Afghanistan at 16h30 local time after a flight of 4 hours over a distance of 3.650 km (Akinci - Kabul).
For the ferry flight the fighters are flying in a peacetime configuration consisting of 3 fuel tanks and the Lantirn pod besides a full set of self protection devices. Operational missions over Afghanistan will generally be flown with 2 x AIM-9M Sidewinder IR missiles, 2 GBU12 Laser Guided Bombs of 250 kg, the internal Vulcan 20 mm Gun, Chaff and Flares, the Lantirn Pod and 2 x 370 Gal fuel tanks. For the close air support missions to be flown over Afghanistan, the Laser Guided weapons are preferred over the Maverick air-to-ground missiles as they are much more precise in association with the Lantirn targeting pods. All participating F-16 fighters will be drawn from Florennes 2nd Wing and for the first tour pilots are coming from N° 1 Squadron. On 22 October 2005, pilots of Kleine Brogels' 10th Wing will start rotating to Afghanistan.
McDonnell Douglas KDC-10 tanker which is to accompany the fighters to Afghanistan
Before the departure both Defence Minister André Flahaut and Air Component Commander Michel Audrit called this "one of the Belgian Air Component’s most important days"
N° 1 Squadron pilots salute their colleagues on departure by showing the unit's symbols the Sword and the Mascot.
Arrival at Kabul International Airport (OAKB) on July 12th after an eventful ferry flight. (see news item of 12/07/05)
Lockheed F-16AM FA-116 landing at Kabul International airport on 12 july 2005
A Belgian friend landing at Kabul, the locally based Lockheed C-130H Hercules CH-04.
Thanks Remko for sharing your "Kabul" pictures with us.
Daniel Brackx (July 2005)
Last updated 26/10/12 08:55 Daniel Brackx