A Minot-marked 5th BW B-52H and vintage Belgian Air Force F-16As last Friday, as part of the Buff’s 30-nations-in-one-day tour.
Even while about half of the USAF’s meager Stratofortress pool was greatly disrupted by the temporary relocation of B-52s from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana to escape Hurricane Laura, a flight of six B-52Hs– forward-deployed 5th Bomb Wing Bomber Task Force (BTF) ships operating from RAF Fairford after flying cross-continental from Minot on 22 August — overflew every single one of the 30 NATO member states last Friday while being escorted in turn by a rotating force of 80 fighters belonging to 19 European air forces and Canada.
Most importantly, they did it all in a single day.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said:
“Today’s training event demonstrates the United States’ powerful commitment to NATO, and Allied solidarity in action. As US bombers overfly all 30 NATO Allies in a single day, they are being accompanied by fighter jets from across the Alliance, boosting our ability to respond together to any challenge. Training events like this help ensure that we fulfill our core mission: to deter aggression, prevent conflict, and preserve peace.”
Of course, the Russians also buzzed the B-52s as they operated over the Black Sea, popping by with Su-27s. The below Russian Ministry of Defense video shows that briefly, ending with a clip of a different series of intercepts buzzing a Danish Challenger, a Swedish Gulf Stream, and an RC-135 over international air space in the Baltic.
Here is the B-52 intercept from the view of the U.S. side of things, showing the Russian antics.
The current 349th Squadron and 350th Squadron of the Belgian Air Force started out in 1942 as Nos. 349 and 350 RAF with exiled Free Belgian members in British livery. After cutting their teeth on Lend-Lease Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks, they transitioned to Supermarine Spitfire Mark IXCs and later Mark Vs and flew close-in beachhead patrols over Normandy on D-Day, moving inland very soon after. The Belgians were pretty good too, fielding no less than 14 aces during the war including Col. Remy Van Lierde who chalked up six enemy aircraft and an impressive 44 V-1 flying bombs, ending the war as Squadron Leader of No. 350.
A No. 64 Spitfire with invasion stripes,
Today they fly F-16s but one Viper of each squadron has been given 1944 throwback Invasion Stripes for the upcoming 75th Anniversary of D-Day events next month.
I must say, they look great.
Note the tail flashes with the Spitfires and Squadron markings.
On 26 January 1979, the Belgische Luchtmacht (Belgian Air Force) received their first F-16A, FB-01, to replace their F-104 Starfighters which had been around for two decades. As such, the service just celebrated their 40th birthday with the type.
A Belgian Air Force F-16BM two-seater model, photo via BAF
The BAF currently has some 54 early models F-16A/Bs (designated F-16AM and F-16BMs respectively) in inventory remaining from a batch of 160 purchased in the 1980s. These include 43 PAA aircraft assigned to four squadrons: the 1re Escadrille de Chasse (which dates back to 1913), 31st, 350th, and 351st. In recent years they have conducted deployments to Libya and Afghanistan as well as other NATO and EU missions. They also take turns keeping two F-16s on alert to defend the airspace of all three BE-NE-LUX Lowland countries.
They are set to be replaced in 34 F-35As in coming years.
Here is a video of Belgian F-16s, flown by pilots from the 2nd Tactical Wing at Florennes while on a NATO mission safeguarding the airspace over Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia.