Operation Eastern Eagle
Text and photos : Serge Van Heertum - S.B.A.P.©
Since 2002, through the National Defence, Belgium is participating in the operations ISAF (Internation Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan with the aim of stabilising this country and participate at the rebuild of this state.
This July 06, 2005 at 7h30 GMT, two batches of 3 F-16 each departed the airbase of Florennes to be stationed at the Kaboul international airport.
It is a deployment of 4 aircraft plus 2 spare, with these last ones only making the trip to Turkey acting as replacement aircraft should one of the 4 other encounter some problems. The convoy of these fighters was done in 2 stages, the first one bringing the 6 aircraft to Akinci in Turkey after a flight over Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgary.
The second stage involved 4 aircaft that departed Turkey on July 07, 2005 and, after an in-flight refueling over Georgia involving a KC10A extender of the KLU, they arrived at Kaboul, more exactly at the international airbase Kaia, having flown over Azerbeidjan and Turkmenistan.
This missions is the first of his kind for Belgian fighters to participate in such a deployment with the prinicpal aim to ensure the safety of the international forces and bring back peace at the eve of elections in a still very hostile country.
Preparation of the mission
Operation Eastern Eagle – ISAF VIII has in a way begun on March 25, 2005 following a request of the Security Council of the United Nations. On April 22, 2005, André Flahaut, Minister of Defence gave his first statement as such in an extended participation of Belgium.
Following the orders of the Ministry of Defence, the designated persons to bring to good end this operation, started the preparation of the file for the Minsitry, emphasizing the practical aspects of this mission.
Running parallel to these preparations, meetings were held between the Dutch and Belgian authorities being a mixed operations between these countries with a total of 8 F-16 fighter aircraft engaged.
It is a large-scale operation wich not only required on-site recce, but also required to point out the apllicable limitations, such as that an armed intervention could take place solely to ensure the safety of the present international forces.
This uncommon mission for our pilots will last for 6 months during wich they will be relieved every 4 to 5 weeks. New pilots will each spend about one week with their previous colleagues as to benefit from their acquired experience.
Operation Eastern Eagle will last untill January 15, 2006.
ISAF or International Security Assistance Force is an international force aimed at bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan. This operation is mandated by the UNO. ISAF was placed under the command of the NATO of wich the 'nerve centre' is situated at Brunsum in Germany. The operation ISAF's goal is to ensure stability and security in a disturbed region. It also has the mission to put back in place the Afghan authorities, support and enlarge the police as well as the local armed forces and at last to see to the normal operation of the airport at Kaboul.
Belgium participates since 2002 particularly with C-130H of the 15 Wing firstly based at Karachi in Pakistan and subsequently based at the airport of the Afghan capital. This C-130's missions was to ensure transportation of the necessary means to the different forces in place.
In this manner ISAF VIII sees for the first time the deployment of our fighters, as well as a number of our military personnel in Afghanistan.
This part of the ISAF totalise a detachment of 165 personnel, of which 65 Belgians. The others being Dutch.
Close collaboration was set up to ensure the maximum operational level as well as for the maintenance aspect.
The essential missions for our pilots will be to protect the ground forces and the "Reconstruction Teams" with close air support in case of potential danger, carry out reconnaissance missions and show as much as possible their presence in the region to stabilize the counrty at the eve of the elections in autumn.
In conclusion : Good luck boys
Corrected information : our aircraft arrived on July 12, 2005 involving an in-flight refueling with a French tanker. The KC10A extender of the KLU having had a technical problem.