Belgium’s entire fleet of F-16 fighter jets, the backbone of its combat air force, has been grounded since yesterday after one of the Vipers experienced problems with its Pratt & Whitney F100 engine. As of today, the air defense of the European country has now been taken over by the neighboring Netherlands.
“While technicians work hard to get our Vipers airborne asap and the Belgium Control and Reporting Center monitors the airspace above Belgium 24/7, the Koninklijke Luchtmacht [Royal Netherlands Air Force] will temporarily take over the Quick Reaction Alert from the Belgian Air Force to safeguard the BENELUX skies as from 12 o’clock,” the Belgian Air Force tweeted today.
Belgium’s F-16 grounding order follows a February 11 incident at Florennes Air Base, in which one of the jets had engine problems on takeoff and immediately made a precautionary landing, leaving some debris within the confines of the base and on the end of the runway.
The F-16 in question had a “nozzle burn through,” in which the engine’s “turkey feather” exhaust petals begin to disintegrate due to excessive temperatures. The engine of the affected aircraft was dismantled and sent to the Patria Belgium Engine Center, the contractor that handles maintenance of the powerplants.