NATO: A detachment of four Belgian F-16 fighter aircraft is set to wrap up eight months of activities at the end of July

NATO: A detachment of four Belgian F-16 fighter aircraft is set to wrap up eight months of activities at the end of July

The end of July will mark the conclusion of eight months of operations for a detachment of four Belgian F-16 fighter jets, whose air policing mission to Estonia was extended in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Belgian unit transitioned to enhanced vigilance missions, performing scheduled patrols in crucial areas of Baltic airspace, when French Mirage 2000-5 planes took over the role of enhanced air policing in April. Through exercises like Ramstein Alloy and BALTOPS, they also acquired experience working with various Allies and partners.
A detachment of Belgian F-16s was operating expanded Air Policing in Estonia during the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. (eAP). NATO expanded and adjusted its mission as a result of the altered security environment.
Since France’s Mirage 2000-5 fighters arrived in Estonia in April to assume the eAP duty, the Belgian unit has been carrying out the job of enhanced Vigilance Activities (eVA). Belgian F-16s have been conducting routine patrols in strategic Baltic airspace at NATO’s request; this mission expires on August 1.

“We look back on a very successful time safeguarding the skies in the Baltic Region,” said Major (aviator) Nicolas Maes, Commander of the Belgian F-16 detachment at Ämari. “Success in two ways: for our pilots and support staff this has been a terrific experience in Allied interoperability, and the Belgian Air Force team has demonstrated their flexibility and professionalism in support of the Alliance,” he added.

The 72 people of the Belgian eVA detachment fill 24 different positions. On-site expertise from 45 technicians is required to operate four F-16s. In less than four months since the eVA mission began, Belgian F-16s have conducted more than 340 sorties, totaling nearly 850 flying hours.

Belgian squad utilised their deployment to take part in international exercises like “Ramstein Alloy” and “BALTOPS” when they were in the Baltic States. These drills were designed to improve Alliance nation collaboration and integration in order to ensure NATO airspace integrity and an unified response.

More than 13 nations participated in these international drills, including Sweden and Finland. Belgian fighter pilots who were part of international patrols showed their interoperability in difficult situations that required the Allies’ pilots to fly in airspace that was unfamiliar to them.

These interactions help to guarantee ongoing improvements in both capabilities and standard strategies, techniques, and procedures.

Belgium has participated in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission since 2004, helping to secure NATO airspace. This ongoing peacetime operation, which is overseen by the Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, aims to protect the territorial integrity of the Baltic States and deter airspace infractions.

Following Russia’s illegitimate takeover of Crimea in 2014, NATO Allies decided to launch the eAP operation to ward off aggression and reassure eastern Allies. NATO aircraft were sent out to offer QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) from the air bases at Malbork, Poland, Iauliai, Lithuania, and Mari, Estonia.

A QRA mission entails having aircraft prepared to take off in a matter of minutes to intercept aircraft that could endanger or violate NATO airspace integrity. This kind of mission is also carried out domestically by Belgian fighter planes in cooperation with Dutch jets to defend the BENELUX airspace.

»NATO: A detachment of four Belgian F-16 fighter aircraft is set to wrap up eight months of activities at the end of July«

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