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Enduring Freedom 
by: Ron Kraan

Latest update 13 May 2007

"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-16’s are fitted out with the AMRAAM and laser guided GBU’s 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.

"Venz" /  "Hud" / "Bluelight" flightgear on-line 2002/2007