"Good show, on to the next mission. With these
words, the Netherlands Air Force F-16 pilots ended their first mission over Afghanistan.
Now several years later in the battle against terrorism, the Dutch pilots still fly in
Operation Enduring Freedom. First together with the Norwegian and Danish pilots, operating
from Manas Airbase in the former Soviet republic of Kirgizia, the RNLAF used 6 F-16A MLU
(Mid Life Update) fighters. After being stationed in Manas, the F-16's went to Kabul IAP
and now have their new home base on Kandahar.
Besides their HGU-55/P helmet
and HA/LP or MBU-12/P mask, the pilots wear the CSU-13B/P g-suit and PCU-15/P torso
harness on normal flight. But on these combat missions the pilots are also equiped with a
wide varity of survival equipment. This equipment is packed inside their modified SRU-21/P
survival vest. As the early vests were green, these days the Pilots have tan colored vests
with modified pouches. These vests contain among others, water, GPS, signaling devices,
PRC-90, a glock gun and a piddle pack. Missions take up to 5 or 6 hours due to the size of
the operations area. When you have to urinate, wich is usual on these long flights,
you do not want to trigger your ACES II when you are trying to use the piddle pack
As a RNLAF Captain told us. This is not the area you want to be stuck in.
Specially ordered for these
missions, the pilots started wearing Tan (colorcode 380) CWU-27/P flight suits. The suits
have the penpocket on one sleeve, instead of two on normal Dutch coveralls. These days the
tan suits are also issued in RNLAF pattern, having two penpockets and made by KLM
clothing. during their missions, the pilots take off all their patches. Also different
from the usual flight gear, the pilots are fitted out with desert flight boots.
Operations are conducted night
and day. For night missions the pilots can use the ANVIS 9 goggles on their helmets. Most
flights are Combat Air Patrol and Close Air Support missions. But most of the time, only
the sound and sight of the fighter planes is enough to stop Taliban and Al Quaida groups
from attacking. Air to air refueling is done using the Dutch KDC-10 aerial tanker from 334
Sqn and USAF aircraft. The F-16s are fitted out with the AMRAAM and laser guided
GBUs to answer every possible treath.
Royal Netherlands Air Force operations in the area will probably last for another year.
Unfortunately one F-16 pilot, with tactical calls sign "Sofac", lost his life
while flying in Afghanistan.