On 30 June, the last two Royal Netherlands Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16AMs completed their final mission for the air task force over Afghanistan.

For the last 12 years the service had maintained a detachment of F-16s to support the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission in the country. Since starting operations in October 2002, the Dutch aircraft amassed over 24,000 flight hours on more than 10,000 missions, mainly flown in support of coalition ground forces.

The F-16s started work from Manas AFB in Kyrgyzstan, because at the time the airfields in Afghanistan were not suited for fighter operations. However, these were restored, and in 2005 the Dutch aircraft were moved to Kabul. After completion of improvements at Kandahar airfield the pair relocated there in 2006, remaining until 2011. When the Netherlands withdrew the majority of its ground forces and only kept a training mission in the north of Afghanistan, the fighters moved again to Mazar-e-Sharif.

Now concluded, the deployment is considered to have been very successful, although one F-16 and its pilot was lost in a 2006 accident. Investigations into the crash led to no clear reason being found.

During the Dutch presence in Afghanistan the air force also deployed in-flight refuelling tankers, transport aircraft and attack and transport helicopters to support ground troops.

Source: Flight International