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The fleet of Belgian F-16s almost at a standstill. Engine problem

(B2) Belgian defense announced this Tuesday (March 9) the decision to temporarily immobilize part of its fleet of F-16 combat aircraft

F-16 (© NGV / B2 Archives)

The decision was just announced today. But the incident dates back more than a month ago, on February 11, when an F-16 from the Florennes base experienced engine problems during takeoff. The pilot must then make a controlled, precautionary landing.

Caused a nozzle burn

An investigation is then carried out by the Defense Aviation Safety Directorate (ASD). And the cause determined: “ a nozzle burn (nozzle burn through)”. Material breakage causes, “ due to the high temperature, the melting of a number of parts that may come off » explains the Belgian defense. The engine of the aircraft concerned is then dismantled and sent to the maintenance company Patria BEC.

A series of aircraft affected

During the investigation, investigators notice a problem with the hinge pin. A pin that “ is part of a movable collar on the exhaust which is controlled according to engine speed ". After thorough verification of the entire fleet, we discover " that a significant number of engines exhibit similar phenomena ". Repair time is estimated at 5 working days per engine. And this is likely to last. Because there is " a shortage of spare parts on the market ».

Informed industrialists

All F-16 club partners and manufacturers have been notified. Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force indicated, based on this information, that " corrective action should be taken immediately on affected engines ". The question of whether other countries have the same problem "makes currently under investigation ».

Sky surveillance assured

The “Quick reaction Alert” system above Belgian and Dutch airspace remains “operational” ensuring Belgian defence. The " necessary measures "are taken to provide the F-16 in operation" replacement motors needed ».


NB: by chance of the calendar, the House defense committee will debate, this Wednesday (March 9), the setbacks of the expected successor to the F-16, the F-35. Several MPs are asking to examine what the cost of withdrawing from the program would be. Rather hypothetical withdrawal, and requested especially by opposition deputies (French-speaking Christian Democrats of the CDH, Greens, and left of the PTB). In any case, this incident slows down a little the desires of the supporters (if there were still any left) of the extension of the F-16s.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).