Operation Inherent Resolve: Belgian Defence once again
sends F-16s to the Middle East
Press Conference Debriefing
29 September 2020, the press was invited for the F16s departure to Middle East. The Press Conference took place at Florennes Air Force Base, held by Colonel Goffin, Florennes AFB Base Commander, along with the visit of Major General Aviator Thierry Dupont, (newly appointed) Commander of the Air Component and Staff Members.
Context of this engagement
With Resolution UN2249 adopted in November 2015, the United Nations Security Council concluded that the Islamic state is a threat to global security. It also condemned a series of attacks perpetrated by the terrorist group. The Operation is named “Inherent Resolve”.
“On 17 October 2014, the Department of Defense formally established Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) in order to formalize ongoing military actions against the rising threat posed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. One Mission, Many Nations : In conjunction with partner forces Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) defeats ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and sets conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability.” (Source Inherent Resolve).
On the proposal of Defence Minister Philippe Goffin, the Council of Ministers agreed on 26 June the deployment of four F-16s over Iraq and north-eastern Syria, from 1 October 2020 for a period of one year. This Belgian operation will be called “Operation Desert Falcon” (ODF).
A total of 125 people will be deployed with the four F-16s on a base in Jordan. In addition to the pilots, mechanics, operational and intel personnel, a protection force will be part of the contingent.
In addition, four people will be deployed to Qatar to play the role of Red Card Holder (RCH). This “safeguard” job is orchestrated by a planning officer, an intel officer, a lawyer and the RCH, which is a senior officer.
On 29 September, at around 11 am, the five F-16s took off from the Florennes base for a flight of around 4 hours 45 minutes. In the South of France after a first refuelling, the fifth (reserve) aircraft will turn back to return to Belgium, leaving the four others to continue their routes to the Middle East. They will be accompanied to Greece by the French tanker aircraft.
Weapons planned for this mission
The four F-16s will be equipped with a “Sniper” designation and reconnaissance pod. With its day and night camera systems, it is an essential instrument for these missions. It can also remain fixed on a specific point and can be easily operated by the pilot using a joystick. This equipment can also bring back a large number of images, which are always very valuable for this type of military campaign. For the first time, the majority of these images will be directly analysed in Belgium via a cell specially activated for this mission.
This “Processing Exploitation Dissemination” (PED) cell will exploit, from Florennes AFB, the images generated by the Sniper pods of the F-16s above the areas overflown. In the past, image analysis specialists were deployed there. This system prefigures the arrival of the MQ-9 Bs and this remote work.
The armament consists of AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile) missiles and AIM-9X SIDEWINDER short-range infrared-guided missiles. The 20 mm M61 Vulcan M61 gun for ground or air targets will be loaded with 510 low Drag Bullets that can be fired at long range. This type of shell, with its profiled shape, allows a more straight trajectory with a lower drop and without slowing down.
For air-to-ground operations, depending on the mission, the F-16s will carry a variety of GPS and/or laser-guided bombs of different sizes. These include the GBU-31 (1 tonne) GPS-guided bomb, the GBU-12 (250 kg) laser-guided, the GBU-38 (250 kg) GPS-guided, the GBU-54 (250 kg) laser- and GPS-guided and the small GBU-39 (125 kg) GPS-guided.
The latter have just arrived in the BAF arsenal and can fly long distances with their wings. Moreover, their low payload enables them to hit a target precisely with minimum potential collateral damage. These bombs, named SDB for Small Diameter Bomb, are very useful for operating in urban environments, as is the case in some Iraqi and Syrian cities. They can be mounted in groups of eight on a single aircraft if necessary.
The press conference kicked off with the foreword of Major General Aviator Thierry Dupont, Commander of the Air Component introducing himself and the Mission “Operation Desert Falcon” (ODF) before handing over the stage to Colonel Goffin, Florennes AFB Base Commander.
Colonel Goffin reminded the context of the Belgian participation. Belgium is part of a group of 77 States and 5 international organisations which are handling 5 areas of action: 4 Civilian and 1 Military.
The objectives are as follow :
- Stabilisation of liberated territories
- Counter-propaganda of DAESH
- Limitation of the freedom of movement of “Foreign Terrorist Fighters”
- Drainage of funding for DAESH
- Military pressure (Operation Inherent Resolve OIR)
As of early October 2020, Belgium will take an active part in the Operation Inherent Resolve, for one year, by providing Air Support (4 F-16’s) and Personnel. Rotation will occur every two months (less for pilots). Belgium had been already involved with F-16s in time frame September 2014 – June 2015 & July 2016 – December 2017.
Colonel Goffin then introduced us to the local Detachment Commander (DetCo) via a remote session who confirmed that our troops were ready to take active duty. (Belgian troops are located within the German Camp). DetCo confirmed that all precautions are taken for Personnel. For example in the case of an ejection, Belgium can count on allies to support rescue. DetCo also confirmed that all safety precautions are taken in regards to COVID. All incoming Personnel has already gone under quarantine before departure and a COVID Test 3 days before leaving.
The Press conference concluded with the visit to the Line and the departure of the 5 F-16’s.
Crews and Aircraft arrived safely onsite after an uneventful 5 hours ferry flight.