Lockheed-Martin (GD) F-16A(M) Fighting Falcon
Single-engine single seat fighter
In 1973 the search began to find a replacement for the Lockheed F104G Starfighter, which resulted on June 9th, 1975 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the purchase of the General Dynamics F16 Fighting Falcon. The initial contract for 116 aircraft (96 F16A single-seaters and 20 F16B dual-seaters was signed on May 5th, 1977. The Belgian aircraft (as where the Danish aircraft) were to be assembled at the SABCA factory at Gosselies, using components produced in the other participating countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway). A second follow-on buy for 44 aircraft (Block 15 OCU) was signed in February 1983, with deliveries taking place between 1987 and 1991 (40 F16As and 4 F16Bs). This second batch was bought to replace some of the Mirage 5Bs. Over the years the F16-fleet has been updated and modernised continuously, the largest update being the Midlife Update that was initiated in 1989. This was a result of a study started in 1987 to find a replacement for the F16, but budgetary constraints for all participating countries resulted in the MLU-project that aimed to bring the F16A/Bs to the latest Block 50 level and an extended life until approximately 2015. The Belgian Air Force decided to bring 90 of its aircraft up to MLU-level.
The F16 initially equipped 2 Fighter Wings, No 1 at Beauvechain (349 & 350 Squadrons) and No 10 at Kleine Brogel (23 & 31 Squadrons). Deliveries of the 44 aircraft from the follow-on contract meant that a third Wing, No 2 at Florennes could be converted to the F16. The end of the cold war however initiated some serious budget cuts, and in march 1996 No 1 Wing at Beauvechain was disbanded and its flying units dispersed over the two remaining wings, 349 Squadron and the Operational Conversion Unit moved to Kleine Brogel and 350 Squadron moved to Florennes. A first batch of older F16s were withdrawn from service and put into storage at Weelde.
Further re-organisations meant the disbandment of 2 Squadron at Florennes (in April 2001) and 23 Squadron at Kleine Brogel (in March 2002). The latest plans call for the reduction of the number of aircraft to about 60 by 2015.