Small nations like Belgium are earning praise for their participation in NATO's Operation Unified Protector, which officially ends just before the witching hour on Halloween today at 23:59 CET. Since the operation began exactly seven months ago, NATO aircraft flew over 26,000 sorties, more than 9,600 of which were strike sorties.
The last four of six Belgian air force F-16s which participated in the operation returned to their home base of Florennes today. They clocked up 2,560 hours during 614 sorties, dropping 472 laser-guided bombs which hit 96-97 percent of their targets, according to Belgian Defense Minister Pieter De Crem, reportedly without causing any collateral damage.
According to Belgian media reports, Belgian F-16s came close to attacking Muammar Gaddafi's convoy on 20 October as they were patrolling the area half an hour before it was attacked by a French air force Mirage 2000D and a US Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.
A Financial Times blog posted on De Crem's website includes praise for Belgium for taking on dangerous missions (although it starts with a quote about the battle of Waterloo rather than the World War I quote about "plucky little Belgium), pointing out that 40 percent of missions over Libya were conducted by smaller NATO members and Gulf state air forces.