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Belgium ends F-16 air operations in Mideast

Four Belgian F-16 combat aircraft returned to Kleine–Brogel airbase in Belgium on 1 October from a 12-month Operation ‘Desert Falcon' (ODF) deployment to al-Azraq, Jordan, to support Operation ‘Inherent Resolve' as part of the coalition against the so-called Islamic State (IS), the Ministry of Defence announced on its website later the same day.

Colonel Bert Thurman of the ministry's operations division told the press at the airbase that the Belgian F-16s provided close air support of ground troops, flew reconnaissance missions, and conducted air strikes on key IS targets. A fact sheet posted on the Belgian air force's Twitter feed showed a battle rhythm of two sorties a day, flying six days a week and clocking up 250 hours a month. A total of 302 missions were flown, clocking up 3,047 flying hours and launching 29 weapons, with the generation of 1,613 intelligence products.

The number of flying hours was similar to the nine-month ODF 2014–15 and half that of the 18-month ODF 2016–17. The number of weapon launches was far below the 324 for ODF 2014–15 and the 675 for ODF 2016–17.

The Belgian contingent comprised 92 personnel with 34 Dutch protection troops.

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