Belgium, NATO founding member, conducting air policing since 1961

In 1983, Belgium introduced the F-16, like many other Allies, to ensure NATO Air Policing. Until today, the F-16 has been the mainstay of Belgian contributions to national, regional and NATO Air Policing. Photo by Serge Nemry.

Belgium is a founding member of NATO and its air force was among the first Allies to start collective Air Policing efforts in Europe 60 years ago.

Starting in 1961, Belgium flew the CF-100 Canuck in the air defense role out of Beauvechain Air Base, Belgium, with the 349 and 350 squadrons. The F-104G Starfighter replaced the CF-100 in 1964 beginning the 24/7 Quick Reaction Alert duties defending airspace under NATO’s Integrated Air Defence System. In 1983, the more modern and more lethal F-16 fighter aircraft replaced the F-104G .

With the accession of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 2004, NATO expanded the Air Policing architecture to the region, and Allies have since deployed fighter jets to protect the skies in the region. A key component to Air Policing is continued support from all nations. Belgium has actively participated in this deterrence mission since the beginning.

“In 2004, merely hours after the Washington Treaty came into effect and the Baltic States became full-fledged members of NATO, Belgian Air Force F-16s were the first NATO aircraft to deploy at Šiauliai Air Base to safeguard the Baltic skies,” stated Major General Thierry Dupont, Commander Belgian Air Component. “Throughout the years, the Belgian Air Force has proven to be a reliable partner in close cooperation with other allied air forces for guarding and securing the Baltic airspace 24/7. In autumn, our country will take on these airspace policing duties for the 12th time, in support of our Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian allies,” he added.

Under BENELUX Air Policing, Belgium and the Netherlands have taken turns providing Quick Reaction Alert coverage for Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg since January 1, 2017 and the first intercept occurred on March 17 that year. Until the end of May, Belgian F-16 fighters are safeguarding the BENELUX airspace.

Looking to the future, Belgium will continue to support the alliance with AP. In fall this year, Belgian forces will deploy to Siauliai, Lithuania for the 12th time.