Belgian F-16s to operate again in Iraq and Syria from Jordan

On June 25, the Belgian government voted the return, for a 12-month period of time, of four F-16s of the Air Component (Air Force) to Iraq. Starting on October 1, they will contribute to protecting the 13-member Allied force deployed in the framework of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) to fight Daesh in Iraq and northeastern Syria.

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Belgian F 16s to operate again in Iraq and Syria from Jordan Starting in October, the four Belgian F-16s will operate primarily over Iraq and for a small portion over northeastern Syria (Picture source: Belgian MoD)

"Belgium is thus responding to a clear request for support from Iraq in the fight against Daesh. Belgium's action is also part of resolution 2249 adopted in 2015 by the United Nations Security Council and which recalls the global threat posed by Daesh for peace and international security”, explained Minister of Defense Philippe Goffin. “As Iraq and Syria are facing renewed attacks by Daesh in the region, Belgium intends to assume its responsibilities in the fight against terrorism", Philippe Goffin added. "In addition to carrying out reconnaissance and security tasks in support of the coalition forces, this also involves conducting targeted ground attacks against enemy targets", said the Belgian Council of Ministers.

The total cost of this mission is estimated at € 24 million net distributed over the 2020 and 2021 operation budgets. This is the third rotation of Belgian F-16s as part of OIR, after those that occurred between September 2014 and June 2015 and between July 2016 and December 2017.

The equipment will leave Belgium in August 2020 for Jordan by sea. Everything must be ready for September so that operational deployment can start in October. The four Belgian F-16s will be supported by a detachment of 95 soldiers. The deployment will also include a 4-person “Red Card Holder” team, responsible for monitoring possible airstrikes and ensuring compliance with the rules of engagement, which will operate from Qatar.

The Belgian F-16s will operate primarily over Iraq and for a small portion over northeastern Syria. Their missions will mostly be protection missions, namely with planes on standby in the air to assist coalition ground troops by quick reactions. For the rest, they will be reconnaissance missions and targeted attacks. For the Defense, this deployment will also be of great added value for the soldiers who will participate in it, with the acquisition of a lot of operational experience.