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Author Topic: Koen in the Belgian Air Force ('88-'95)  (Read 4399 times)
Koen
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« on: 16 October 2010, 13:14:48 »
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Some of you already know that I served as a Flightmechanic in the Belgian Air Force.

In this topic I'll try to write some interesting stuff about and it will also serve as a help for me to start writing down my history.... lots has happened and lately I seem to start realizing that some things are '20 years ago'...

In 1988 I entered the BAF and started a 2 year education at the BAF school at Sint-Truiden (LINK)


Saffraanberg school at Sint-Truiden

1: my sleeping quarters in the 2nd year
2: sleeping quarters in the 1st year
3: classroom building

First year, 88-89, I followed the general course of Flight engineering/hydraulics combined with light military education (too light for me).
Second year, 89-90, they tried to tell me everything they could about the F-16 engine.


this was and still is the cap the students wear, depending on the level of education you follow the colour of the small piece changes, here it's white, mine was yellow as in the next picture



Following video is about the annual parade where parents are invited to see their sons and daughters perform, the place has modernized alot!
When I was there we didn't wear camo, we had plain green working clothes. Parade was done in airforce blue costumes.
In our days the school was limited to technical education for Airforce personnel, due to the closing of other schools more forces are represented now and the lessons are both techical and theoretical.



After school I was sent to BAF base at 10 Tac W Kleine Brogel (only Dutch speaking) for almost a year to learn how to handle the F-16 with my hands (operational language was/is ofcourse English).

And finally I was stationed with the 1st Wing at Beauvechain (Dutch/French) with the 349 sqd.

more will follow soon
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FACman
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« Reply #1 on: 16 October 2010, 17:57:01 »
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What, all that schooling and not a single tale of debauchery?
Damn saints are so hard to live with.

 whistle
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"You can call me by my first name...Sarge."
Koen
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« Reply #2 on: 16 October 2010, 18:17:48 »
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What, all that schooling and not a single tale of debauchery?
Damn saints are so hard to live with.

 whistle


you can't expect me to tell when and how it all went wrong in the 1st post, not?
I want it mainly to be about my professional 'career' but won't leave out the 'personal' view AFTER the professional details  whistle
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Koen
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« Reply #3 on: 16 October 2010, 18:20:13 »
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349 sqd is a historical sqd in the BAF with alot of interesting stuff to read about:

Quote
World War II
On May 28th, 1940 Belgium was overwhelmed by the German army and is forced to surrender. However, many pilots manage to escape the occupation and join allied air forces (Canadian, Amarican, South-African and most numerous, the Royal Air Force) to continue the fight. The experience and training of these pilots is invaluable to the RAF (where shortage of pilots will indeed rapidly become the major problem), and 15 of the newly arrived Belgians are immediately assigned to the RAF’s fighter squadrons and take part in the Battle of Britain.

The creation
In 1941, Belgian pilots are for the first time grouped in the ‘Belgian Flight’ of 609 squadron and in November of 1941 the first all-Belgian squadron is a fact: 350 squadron. Due to lack of experienced technicians, the activation of the second squadron, 349 squadron, has to wait until June of 1942. The actual formation of 349 ‘Belgian Squadron’ with Tomahawk aircraft takes place in November of 1942. Its intended task being the aerial defence of Belgian Congo. On January 9th, 1943 - after shipment to Africa - the squadron regroups and 2 days later, January 11th, sees the official creation of the squadron. During its stay in Africa, the pilots only occasional take part in operational missions.

The Spitfire
In June of that year, the squadron returns to Wittering-Collyweston air base (UK) receiving the Spitfire VA and later the VB. 1944 sees the arrival of the more powerful and more performant Spitfire IX. With D-Day approaching, the speed of operations increases and more and more missions have to be flown. In the first days of June, the aircraft of 349 squadron (then part of the 135th Wing, 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force) receive the white ‘invasion’ stripes, marking the invasion is imminent.

D-Day
On June 5th, 1944, at 2315h, the 349th assists to the briefing of Operation Neptune – the long awaited landing in Normandy. The 6th, two missions are flown at 0530h and 1030h without encountering any opposition. The afternoon mission - at 1450h -  however opposes 349’s pilots to a couple of Ju88s – 2 of which are seriously damaged. From June 10th onwards, 349 continues its missions from the mainland flying from Sainte-Croix-sur-Mer (France). Its Spits mainly fly escort and ground attack missions.

Intermezzo: The badge
In August of 1944, King George of England approves the squadrons badge with the motto: ‘Strike Hard - Strike Home’. Designed by the ‘Chester Herald of the Royal College of Heralds’ it depicts a traditional medieval weapon. (The idea of the bludgeons came from CO du Monceau de Bergendal because this was one of the most feared Belgian weapons in the dark ages). The crown on top of the badge is the imperial crown of George VI, the former emperor and king. In the blue circle (typical for all RAF-units) the following words are mentioned : “349 (Belgian) Squadron, Royal Air Force”. The motto “Strike Hard, Strike Home” is integrated in a golden banner underneath the blue circle. The fact of hitting hard and precise has been proved during World War II; the current pilots do everything they can do to honor the existing and known traditions.

Peace
After returning to the UK, the last days of the war introduce the Belgian pilots to a new kind of airplane: the first operational jet fighter, the Me262 'Schwalbe’ (Swallow). After deploying respectively to Carpiquet (France), UK, Gilze-Rijen (NL), the squadron returns to the UK where it is (for a short time) equipped with Typhoons and Tempests, only to return to the Spitfire IX. On May 3rd and 4th, the squadron flies its last three missions of the war, destroying over 100 enemy vehicles.

The Cold War
Contrary to the hopes and expectations of 349’s pilots, the end of WWII doesn’t bring the squadron to Belgium. In June of 1945, 349 squadron joins its sister squadron 350 at Wunsdorf AB (former BRD), as part of the 123rd Wing. A month later - on July 20th - 349 squadron has the honor to participate in the victory flypast over Brussels. During the winter, the two squadrons are relocated to Fassberg AB (BRD) as part of the 135th Wing. The continuous relocations - and the protracted stay abroad - starts to affect the morale. Things start to get better when on September 7th, 1947 the city of Gent accepts the patronage of the squadron and the recreation of the Belgian Air Force on October 1st of that year is envisioned.

The return to Belgium
October 24th, 1947 marks the long-awaited day of the return to Belgium: 349 and 350 squadron move in at Beauvechain/Bevekom AB and trade in their (RAF-owned) Spitfire XVI for the Spitfire XIV. This being the last prop-driven fighter to enter the Belgian Air Force.

The Jet Age
thumb_Meteor-2In April of 1949, 349 squadron receives its first jet: a monoseat Meteor F.4. Being the BAF’s first operational squadron on the type, 349 squadron takes its Meteors to an international exercise (exercise ‘Bulldog’ in the UK) as soon as September of 1949. Four years later - in 1953 - the Meteor F.4 is replaced by the Meteor F.8, introducing the ejection seat (Martin-Baker MK2-E) in the Belgian Air Force.

The Sound Barrier
1957 not only sees the limitation of the number of flights per pilot per month to 5 (budgetary restrictions imposed by the government), and half of the disbanded 4th squadron’s pilots joining 349 squadron, but also warps the Belgian Air Force and Bevekom AB in particular into the supersonic era. Transition to the Hunter is achieved during April of that year. The high number of accidents quickly puts an end to the Hunters service life and in March 1958 the CF-100 Canuck succeeds the Hawker aircraft. With the CF-100 comes the navigator/pilot crew combination and more operational commitments. The 1958 Lebanon crisis is followed by a reinforcement of the QRA (2 fighters on 15 minutes and 2 on 30 minutes standby). The turmoil in Belgian Congo is met by the deployment of 11, 349 and 350 squadron to Africa as a deterrent.

F-104 Starfighter
During the summer of 1963, the first 349 pilots leave for Norvenich AB (BRD) for conversion to the F-104G and on September 20th, Bevekom becomes the Belgian Air Force F-104 Training base, temporarily suspending the QRA. In June of 1964, 349’s 18 F-104Gs are assigned to NATO and the squadron (resorting under 1 W Ch TT or the 1st All-Weather Fighter Wing) is integrated in NATO’s 2 ATAF (Allied Tactical Air Force) on August 1st. Furthermore the QRA duty is assumed again. The acquisition of stratospheric suits permits flights at altitudes over 62,000 feet. The economic situation improves and the increased number of flying hours per pilot is reflected in 349 squadron receiving ‘Rate One’ in the TACEVAL – the best possible result. (Taceval is a NATO procedure, which tests a unit under operational circumstances).

A new era
The first pilots of 349 squadron begin their conversion to the F-16 in 1979. Fifteen months later, on January 2nd, 1981, 349 became NATO’s first operational squadron on F-16. In 1996, 349 squadron leaves its homebase Beauvechain and was based at Kleine Brogel next to 23 and 31 fighter-bomber squadrons within the 10 W Tac (10th Tactical Wing). After flying with the legacy version of the F-16 for 19 years, the squadron was also the first to make the transition to the upgrade F-16MLU in 1998.


about the F-16 in 349 Sqd:
Quote
The F-16 entered service with 349 squadron on January 26th, 1979. At this date the first F-16 (78-0162/FB-01) landed at Beauvechain/Bevekom AB. Later the same year pilots started converting on the aircraft and subsequently 349 squadron became fully operational on the type on January 1st, 1980. The squadron being the first F-16 unit within NATO te reach this status.

During the eighties and early nineties, the task performed by 349 squadron was mainly interception. The squadron - together with its sister squadron (350 sqn) - provided aerial interception and also provided a 24-hour Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) meaning two F-16s were armed and ready in their shelters to take-off within 15 minutes after receiving an alert from mission control.

In the early nineties the squadron's aircraft were upgraded from the older block 1/5/10 models to block 15(OCU) models which gave them an opportunity to also conduct day-time attack missions. A multi-role concept was later installed for all F-16 squadrons within the Belgian Air Force. This came in full effect after the introduction of the F-16MLU from 1998 onwards. This upgraded F-16 makes it possible to conduct all kinds of missions and has no more limitations over the past models.

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