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Luftwaffe Tornados moving to Jordan

Photo: Tornado pilots wear NVGs prior to a so-called 'Counter Daesh' mission from Incirlik on April 14, 2016. Bundeswehr/Oliver Pieper


After withdrawing its detachment of Tornado reconnaissance aircraft from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, the Luftwaffe will deploy the jets to an airfield in Jordan by October.

According to an August 8 statement from the Bundeswehr, the aircraft will move to Al-Azraq AB.

German reconnaissance Tornados flew a final mission from Incirlik on July 29 and returned to Büchel air base in Germany on July 31.

The Luftwaffe has provided a detachment of up to six Tornados to provide reconnaissance flights in support of the coalition fighting against so-called Islamic State.

While the jets involved in the latest detachment undergo maintenance and conduct training flights, Al-Azraq is being prepared for the arrival of the Luftwaffe jets. Preparation work includes assembling a source of spares and tooling at the Jordanian base and establishing ground stations for the exploitation and analysis of reconnaissance imagery.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel initially offered support to France in the form of six reconnaissance-configured Tornados as well as an Airbus A310 MRTT tanker available for operations over Syria and northern Iraq. After Germany’s Bundestag approved the deployment of combat aircraft in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the first Luftwaffe aircraft departed for Incirlik on December 10, 2015.

Al-Azraq ops

Al-Azraq AB has also been home to F-16s of Belgium and the Netherlands, which now take turns to provide rotational detachments to support the coalition.

Six Belgian F-16AMs left Florennes on September 26, 2014, for Al-Azraq, flying via Araxos, Greece. The caretaker government approved the deployment of six F-16s on September 24 including a detachment of 120 personnel. First reconnaissance missions were flown by the Belgian detachment on October 3 under Operation Desert Falcon. Their first strike in support of Iraqi forces came on October 5, when a GPS-guided bomb was employed against IS forces during an armed reconnaissance east of Baghdad. During the nine months of ODF, the six Belgian F-16s conducted around 720 missions. Weapons were used 140 times. Belgian F-16s re-deployed to theatre in July 2016 and have since had their mission extended to the end of the year.

A Belgian F-16AM flies a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on June 23, 2017. USAF/Staff Sgt Michael Battles

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) sent an F-16 detachment from Volkel to Al-Azraq, which arrived on October 3, 2014, and conducted a first reconnaissance mission over Iraq on October 5. The full RNLAF detachment of eight F-16AMs, including two reserve aircraft, conducted its first bombing mission on October 7, striking IS vehicles firing on Kurdish troops in northern Iraq.

The base, also known as Muwaffaq Salti AB, is home to all three squadrons of Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s: 1, 2, and 6 Squadrons flying the F-16AM/BM and F-16A/B Block 15 ADF variants.

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