Defence Minister Flahaut in Afghanistan

 

ISAF VII / VIII

The Belgian Minister of Defence A. Flahaut visited Afghanistan July 22-23-24, where he paid a visit to the Belgian troops, contributing to the “ISAF” (International Security Assistance Force) ‘peace force’ under NATO command in Kunduz and Kabul. Currently Belgium has approximately 363 military personnel in Afghanistan at three locations. The Netherlands have deployed 503 personnel for ISAF operations at four locations and about 228 for the operation Enduring Freedom.

Minister Flahaut at Kabul

Minister Flahaut arriving at Kabul Airport

 The objective of  the ISAF troops consisting of 8000 military personnel (from 36 countries) is to maintain security in and around Kabul, to support the Afghan transitional government and to bring peace and stability in the Afghan territory. In anticipation of the parliamentary elections taking place 18 September 2005 an expansion of the ISAF capacity is expected.

 Belgium participates to this ISAF peace force since March 2002, when the first C-130 left for Karachi (Pakistan) to ensure logistical support. In March 2003 160 Belgians participated in securing “KAIA” (Kabul International Airport) under a German/Dutch command. 

 Since the beginning of 2004 Belgium has also contributed a military unit for the first “PRT” (Provincial Reconstruction Team) at Kunduz (northern Afghanistan) under German command, responsible for the handling (planning, loading and unloading) of aircrafts. Belgium also contributes with staff personnel, a communication and transmission team, as well as explosive clearance specialists. Kunduz is at approximately 300 km from Kabul, this is an equivalent of a ten hours drive on the local roads, by air both cities can be reached within +/-45 minutes.

C-130H at Kondoz

Belgian Air Component C-130H Hercules at Kunduz surrounded by "Ravens" which task is to protect the aircraft, military personnel and freight against rebels.

At the end of 2004 one C-130H Hercules was permanently stationed at Kabul and used for logistical flights. Subsequently to a request by “SACEUR” (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) Belgium deployed four F16’s (3 aircraft + 1 spare) to the Dutch detachment, particularly as a deterrent and for eventual firepower from the air to the ISAF troops.

ISAF VII at Kabul is currently under command of a Turkish Colonel. Turkey has actually three S-70A Blackhawk and one C-130E Hercules stationed at the international airport. The Turkish contingent will be replaced by two helicopters of the Italian Marine at the end of July 2005 and by one additional helicopter at the beginning of September 2005, as well as by three CH-47 Chinook of the Italian Force in August. As from 1 August 2005 Portugal will take over the Turkish command over the airport KAIA with ISAF VIII.

Kabul sandstrom

Typical for the harsh conditions in Afghanistan. A sandstorm is approaching Kabul International Airport

EASTERN EAGLE I

More information on the two Belgian and one Dutch detachments with aircrafts in Kabul is listed underneath. The C-130 detachment primarily conducts logistical- and fixed airline- flights for different authorities. Consequently the pilots can acquire very valuable experience and training skills in an international organisation, since they have to fly intensively in usually mountainous terrain at extreme weather conditions (heath and cold, snow and dust) and in sometimes difficult and dangerous circumstances (short runways, dirt strips, uncontrolled airspace, continuous threats from the ground). They are always accompanied by a “Raven” team, which has to ensure the safety of the aircraft, it’s crew and it’s cargo at departure and after landing on several landing points, while loading and unloading. In one year time 183 missions were conducted, 8400 persons and 445000 kg freight has been transported. This detachment, consisting of military personnel of the 15th Wing, will definitely remain in Kabul till mid August 2005.

Beside the above mentioned unit, a F-16 detachment is present. Since the 1 April 2005 the Netherlands deployed four F-16AM for a one year period. The first Fighting Falcons en pilots of  312SQN came from Volkel Airbase, to be relieved in July 2005 by military personnel of Leeuwarden Airbase. On 14 July 2005 the Dutch detachment was transformed into a “EEAW” (European Expeditionary Air Wing) consisting of 165 military personnel, 65 of which Belgians (pilots of the 2nd Wing and 10th Wing, military personnel of the 1st Wing, BKoks and Comopsair). In October 2005 the Belgian 2nd Wing pilots will be relieved by their colleagues of the 10th Wing from Kleine Brogel AB.

This EEAW was enabled by the Belgian deployment of a F-16 detachment for six months to Afghanistan. On 6 July 2005 six F-16AM of the 2nd Wing departed Florennes AB heading for Akinci AB (Turkey). The “TOA” (Transfer of Authority) was however delayed because the KDC-10 of the Dutch Air Force was stranded on Aruba with technical problems. Only by 12 July 2005 the ferry flight to Kabul succeeded by four F-16’s owing to the aerial refuelling by a C-135FR tanker of the French Air Force above the Black Sea.

The principal tasks of the Belgian/Dutch detachment in the framework of the “EPAF” (European Participating Air Forces) will be “CAS” (Close Air Support), “QRF” (Quick Reaction Force) and “REC” (Reconnaissance) flights. An punctual cooperation is indispensable for the operational purposes such as mission planning, intelligence and operations management as well as for the joint maintenance of the aircrafts.

 To carry out the different flights above Afghanistan the F-16’s are equipped in a standard way by a Lantirn Targeting Pod, detection and protection systems, a 20 mm Vulcan cannon, 2 external fuel tanks of 1400 liter each, complemented by two AIM-9L sidewinders and two GBU-12 laser-guided bombs.

Belgian F-16s on patrol over Afghanistan

Belgian Air Component F-16AM(s on patrol over Afghanistan (Vador)

 For Belgium this is the first participation to a peace operation force outside of Europe, which is why the Commander of the Air Component Gen-Maj Vl M. Audrit as well as the Minister of Defence A. Flahaut describe this mission as one of the most important in the history of Belgian Defence.

  

Text and pictures (if different mentioned under the picture):

DIRK A. GEERTS (July 2005)

Last updated 05/08/08 18:11   Daniel Brackx

brackda@gmail.com