THE BELGIAN air force has completed pre-production testing of the Dassault-built Carapace threat-warning system. Delivery of the first sets for installation on Lockheed F-16A/Bs, starting with No 2 Wing at Florennes, will start by the second quarter of the year.

In all, 100 aircraft are to be equipped by the end of 1996. The Bfr7.5 billion ($225 million) programme will be completed at a rate of one aircraft a week. Belgian F-16s have been flown for 14 years without electronic-counter-measures (ECM) protection.

Air force Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Guido Van Hecke, says: "It took us some time and it may look a temporary solution. But, at last, we have something."

Originally, 135 systems were ordered in 1988. Since then, the air force has suffered cutbacks and the Belgian Government is now talking to Dassault to find a way out of the order for the remaining 35 units.

While passive Carapace ECM is being installed, an active system, still under development, may be added later. As a temporary measure, active ECM capability will be provided through a Bfr250 million scheme to acquire 25 ex-US Air Force ALQ 131 pods. The Belgian aircraft already have the Tracor ALE-40 chaff dispenser.

Funds to acquire ALQ 131s have not yet been freed, although static tests with the Carapace/ALQ 131 combination have shown them to be able to work without mutual interference.

Around 80% of the work on Carapace work, worth Bfr4.5 billion, will be undertaken locally as part of an offset agreement between Belgium and France.

Source: Flight International