Friday, March 12, 2010

Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 over Afghanistan

Photo: This Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter plane was conducting a mission over Afghanistan on May 28, 2008 after receiving fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft. The KC-135R is assigned to the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing deployed from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, USA. Author: Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway.

The rough mountainous terrain of Afghanistan can be seen in the background, well below the fighter plane, as you see in a relief map.

Fighter planes of the class F-16s have been used by the United States in Afghanistan since 2001. In 2002, a tri-national detachment, the European Participating Air Forces, consisting of Denmark, The Netherlands and Norway forces, of 18 F-16 fighter planes in the ground attack role deployed to Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Here is a bit of history of involvement of F-16s in Afghanistan. Since April 2005, eight Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s, joined by four Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s in February 2006, have been supporting International Security Assistance Force ground troops in the southern provinces of Afghanistan. On 31 August 2006 a Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM crashed in Ghazni province and the pilot, Capt. Michael Donkervoort, was killed, but the cause of the crash could not be determined. However, the investigation report referenced the fact that a camel spider and other creatures had been found recently in the cockpits of Dutch aircraft in Afghanistan. Could it be that the spiders and other creatures in the cockpit had bitten the pilot of the crashed aircraft?

Camel spider is also known as wind scorpion, jerrymuglum, sun scorpion, red Romans, haarskeerders, baardskeerders and sun spider. Scientifically, they are Solifugae, an order of Arachnida with over 1,000 species in about 140 genera.

Camel spiders have appeared in many urban legends. In the Middle East and to some extent in Afghanistan, it is rumored among American and coalition military forces stationed there that camel spiders will feed on living human flesh. The foreign forces there believe that the creature will inject an anesthetic or venom into the skin of its sleeping victim, and then feed voraciously, leaving the victim to awaken with a gaping wound. However, they do not have such an anaesthetic or poison, excepting some species found in India. And they do not attack humans unless threatened.

Other stories about camel spiders say they leap into the air, disembowel camels, scream, and run alongside moving humvees. The greatest threat they pose to humans is their bite in self-defense. There is no chance of death directly caused by the bite, but, due to the strong muscles of their chelicerae, they can produce a proportionately large, ragged wound that is prone to infection.

Click HERE to view Camel Spider.

No comments: