Here is a list of countries Belgium has bombed since the end of the Cold War:

  1. Norway, 2002

Why would Belgium, the land of the best chocolate in the world, bomb a country like Norway - a NATO ally?

In the vast and utterly deserted central mountain regions of Norway lies a remote valley, Hjerkinn. In this remote valley the Norwegian military has set up a playground for themselves. Here, a wide array of weaponry, ammunition, tactics and the art of hitting things with other things that explode is refined. It is for all means and purposes a shooting range for artillery, missiles and aircraft bombs.

From time to time, air forces from all over NATO come together in Norway, take off from the air bases scattered around the fjordful country and bomb the living daylights out of this remote valley. Well, that's not entirely true. For the purpose of aerial bombardment practice, a designated field was constructed smack in the middle of the valley. It was dutifully fenced in and prepared in all sorts of ways, so that the pilots could let go of their ammunition without being concerned about duds. Its unofficial name is HFK-sletta ("The HFK field"). This field is big. Very big.

Enter the Belgian Air Force (or Belgische Luchtmacht / Force Aerienne Belge as their dual language proper name is). In October 2002, a Belgian F-16AM Fighting Falcon came buzzing along the snowy peaks along the outskirts of the aforementioned remote valley. From its belly hung a bomb. A CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition (CEM) to military people, a cluster bomb to the rest of us. It is yet another fine product from Minnesota, a US state with a large population of 3rd and 4th generation Scandinavian immigrants. The irony in that will probably be overlooked by most media.

The Belgian F-16AM's target was HFK-sletta.

So what is the big deal with Belgium dropping a cluster bomb on a Norwegian shooting range designed for that specific purpose?

Here is the big deal: the Norwegian legislature Stortinget has explicitly forbidden the use of cluster bombs both by Norwegian aircraft abroad and at home as well as by foreign aircraft training in Norway. The reason of course being the uncanny large number of cluster bomblet duds left in Kosovo after the 1999 Operation Allied Force. A cluster bomblet dud is effectively a landmine, and Norway have ratified an international agreement on banning landmines.

Belgium on the other hand, have done neither of these things.

The pilot broke off at his designated ingress point and started the attack run. A few seconds later he probably radioed "Weapons Gone!" to anyone who cared to listen, and the cluster bomb descended from the F-16AM.

He missed.

That's right. The cluster bomb missed its target, landing in a nearby mire instead. As a result of the rather soft nature of this mire, a large number of the 202 bomblets inside failed to explode on impact. I guess there is a shortage of ammunition-testing mires in Minnesota.

The Royal Norwegian Armed Forces joint headquarters sent out a press release, explaining somewhat tersely that a minor cleanup operation had been started to clear the area of cluster bomblet duds. Word of the mishap naturally seeped through to Stortinget and all hell broke loose. The Norwegian Minister of Defence, was uninformed of the matter at hand.

Poor sod, the pilot. After witnessing a Belgian captain doing a boner-inducing F-16 aerial display at Waddington International Airshow 2002, as well as knowing that the Luchtmacht flyers are rumoured to be among the hottest in NATO, I find the bombing incident rather strange. One would think they knew all the buttons upfront by now (and indeed by heart).

There are several morals to this story:

  • If you need to practice anything, make sure you don't need it by practicing a lot in advance
  • If you want to be naughty, make sure nobody finds out
  • Getting forgiveness afterwards is slightly easier than getting approval beforehand

Peace and quiet is again restored in the Kingdom of Norway. Peasants are stockpiling supplies for the dark months ahead, children are laughing and playing in the streets, the upcoming cup finals is the talk of the town and the King is again waving from his balcony in Oslo.

Meanwhile, sinister plans are being laid in the highly secret Belgian air base at Kleine Brogel...

read about it here: