Belgians taking full advantage of Maple Flag training opportunities

MF 51- BAF day 1 - 11/06/18

A member of the Belgian Air Component removes the intake cover of an F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Photo: OS Erica Seymour, Wing Imaging

Jeff Gaye

The distinctive roar of the Belgian Air Force’s F-16 fighters has been heard around Cold Lake since their arrival on May 29, ten days before Exercise Maple Flag began.

Detachment Commander Maj Sébastien Mesmaeker said the 10 aircraft and 114 personnel are on block training in North America. They had been at Mountain Home Air Force Base in the United States before coming to Cold Lake.

The detachment is one of two F-16 squadrons in Belgium. It is based in the southern city of Florennes.

Maj Mesmaeker says Maple Flag and the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range offer great training opportunities.

“For us it’s really a big advantage to deploy here, because in Belgium the training areas are really congested,” he said. “Many small areas with a lot of restrictions.

“Here, it’s huge. To give a scale to compare both areas: here, the area given by Maple Flag is more than ten times bigger than we have in Belgium. And we can fly supersonic, which we cannot do in Belgium. We can use chaff and flares which you cannot do, as well as the low level limitations.”

In Belgium, he said, aircraft cannot fly below 1000 feet except certain times of year, over a very small range.

Maj Mesmaeker said Maple Flag offers pilots, ground crew and support personnel an opportunity to work together and learn from each other in a Large Force Employment training situation.

“It’s really an eye-opener for the operational support to see what works in an international setting,” he said.