The BELGIAN AIR COMPONENT (Dutch : Luchtcomponent, French :
Composante air) is the air arm of the
Belgian Armed Forces
The commander is
* 1 History
* 1.1 Foundation and early years
* 1.2 World War I
* 1.2.1 Aircraft procurement difficulties * 1.2.2 Operational summary
* 1.3 Between the world wars * 1.4 World War II * 1.5 The Cold War * 1.6 Post-Cold War reforms – COMOPSAIR * 1.7 Retired aircraft * 1.8 1990s * 1.9 2000s
* 1.10 2010s
* 1.10.1 Joint air policing
* 2 Current Structure
* 3 Aircraft
* 3.1 Current inventory
* 4 Future * 5 See also * 6 Notes * 7 Bibliography * 8 External links
FOUNDATION AND EARLY YEARS
The Belgian military aviation was founded in 1909 as a branch of the
Belgian Army, carrying the name Compagnie des Ouvriers et Aérostiers.
King Albert 's interest in the military use of aircraft was the main
impetus for its formation. Coincidentally, in the civil aviation
In 1910, three Belgian lieutenants earned their pilot's brevets at the school, paying their own fees. Two of the artillery lieutenants were Baudouin Montens d\'Oosterwyck , who earned Brevet No. 19 on 30 September, and Alfred Sarteel , granted No. 23 on 10 November. The third lieutenant, Georges Nelis , was the new force's first aviation candidate, gaining Brevet No. 28 on 21 December. An aircraft was personally purchased for him.
In spring of 1911, the new air force established its military
aviation school with five pilots, two mechanics, and a woodworker. It
received its first aircraft via
On 12 September 1912, pilot Lieutenant Nelis and observer Sous
Lieutenant Stellingwerff were the first Europeans to fire a machine
gun from an aircraft; while Nelis brought the aircraft low,
Stellingwerff put some bullets through a sheet staked out on the
ground. They were disciplined for their efforts. Nelis then
accompanied Capitaine Commandant Émile Mathieu to
WORLD WAR I
The first Belgian airship Belgique
By the time of Belgium's entry into the First World War on 4 August 1914, the military aviation branch, now called the Aviation Militaire Belge, consisted of four squadrons, each consisting of four 80-horsepower Henri Farman aircraft, although Escadrilles III and IV were still forming. A truck was assigned to each squadron, along with a fifth truck serving as a mobile workshop. Each squadron had a commander, five pilots, and six observers, with all officers seconded from parent units. As a result, most of the new aviators were from the Engineers and Artillery components of the Belgian armed forces. As the war began, a fifth squadron was created, staffed with civilian pilots called to the colors and equipped with Bleriots .
Sous Lieutenant Henri Crombez flew one of the first war patrols, in a Deperdussin racer on 4 August 1914 above Liège. Adjutant Behaeghe was the first to engage an enemy, a few days later. On 26 September, the Belgian air crew of Sous Lieutenant de Petrowski and Sergeant Benselin mortally wounded a German pilot with a rifle bullet and forced his Taube to land at Sint-Agatha-Berchem ; if they had submitted a claim for this victory, its approval would have marked history's first air-to-air combat victory.
On 3 January 1915, two machine guns supplied by British were fitted to two Belgian aircraft, making a dual effort against the foe possible; these were Belgium's first dedicated fighter planes. In February, thirteen of the Belgian airmen flew 28 offensive patrols; their first dogfight was fought on the 26th, with ten Albatroses against three Belgian Farmans. On 26 March, Sous Lieutenant Boschmans sent a German two-seater into a steep dive when he seemed to hit the pilot; the German was not seen to either crash or land. This was the Belgian aviators' first victory claim.
In April, Lieutenant Fernand Jacquet mounted a machine gun on his pusher aircraft and sought out the enemy. On the 17th, he and his observer (Lieutenant Henri Vindevoghel) scored Belgium's first confirmed aerial victory, sending an Albatros reconnaissance aircraft down in flames over Roeselare . Apparently at about the same time, Adjutant José Orta and Sous Lieutenant Louis de Burlet were the first to attack an enemy observation balloon when they dropped three small bombs on a gasbag over Houthulst . Luckily for them, they missed; success would probably have blown them out of the sky. Sopwith Camel in the colours of the Belgian 1st Squadron
On 18 January 1916, the decision was made to form a dedicated fighter squadron. On 22 February 1916, Escadrille I became the 1ère Escadrille de Chasse . It consisted of newly supplied Nieuport 10s and one obsolete Farman two-seater. In August, the new squadron would upgrade to Nieuport 11s , and Escadrille V was turned into the 5ème Escadrille de Chasse . The new unit was the first to mount an offensive formation for the new air force; on 15 February 1917, they flew an offensive patrol of seven. By this time, the AMB had grown to 44 aircraft, including 21 fighters. At this point, individual aircraft bore personal markings affixed by their pilots, but no unit designations.
In the summer of 1917, the AMB was allotted an active role in Allied aviation operations at the beginning of the Third Battle of Ypres . In March 1918, the AMB matured into a Groupe de Chasse . At this time, the role of the Escadrilles de Chasse was finally focused on their operation strictly as fighter units. There was a sorting out of pilots into fighter or reconnaissance roles. Not all fighter pilots went into the new fighter units; as of 1 May, 22 remained with reconnaissance units to fly escort missions. The King insisted that Jacquet be given the command of the Group. The newly organized fighter wing contained the two fighter escadrilles; however, 1ère Escadrille de Chasse became 9ème Escadrille de Chasse , and 5ème Escadrille de Chasse became 10ème Escadrille de Chasse . The 11ème Escadrille de Chasse was founded on 28 May to join them. By the start of the Allies final offensive in September 1918, the AMB was incorporated in the Allied aviation effort, and could send 40-plus aircraft into the air at one time. In its short span of service, the Groupe fought over 700 aerial combats and was credited with 71 confirmed and 50 probable victories.
Aircraft Procurement Difficulties
In June 1916 the nascent air force had received newer aircraft from
the French in both single and double-seat versions of the Nieuport 10
. The Belgians would continue to upgrade their aircraft throughout the
war, though through their dependence on French manufacturers they
became the stepchildren of the Allied effort from 1916 onwards. The
introduction dates of various types, compared to the date of their
acquisition by the Belgians, tells the tale. The Franco-American
Lafayette Escadrille had Nieuport 16s as early as May 1916; the
Belgians got them at the end of the year. The
Nieuport 17 came into
service with the French as early as June 1916, but the Belgians
received so few that in June 1917 they were still operating all their
earlier Nieuports. They then contracted for newer Nieuport 23s , which
were basically up-engined Nieuport 17s. Spad VIIs had entered French
service on 2 September 1916; the Belgians first received them almost
an entire year later, with the first one on board on 22 August 1917.
In September 1917,
The AMB did make one attempt to design and build its own aircraft. However the Ponnier M1 was not good enough for production, and the ten or so manufactured ended up with clipped wings as powered "Penguin" rollers for training rookie pilots.
One of its flying ace pilots, Willy Coppens , became the top ranking balloon buster of World War I, as well as one of the war's top aces. Four other pilots from the tiny force also became aces with it: Andre de Meulemeester , Edmond Thieffry , Jan Olieslagers , and Fernand Jacquet . A sixth Belgian, Adolphe DuBois d\'Aische , became the war's oldest ace while in French service.
The fledgling air force was entrusted with flying both King Albert and Queen Elizabeth over the battle front at times.
BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS
During the interwar period , the
Belgian Air Force
WORLD WAR II
Belgian Fairey Firefly II , 1931
At the start of World War II, the Army Air Force had three active Air
Force Regiments. Aircraft which were used by those regiments were the
Renard R-31 and R-32 , the
Fiat CR.42 , the
After the surrender of
THE COLD WAR
See also: Structure of the
Belgian Armed Forces
On 15 October 1946, the Belgian military aviation was turned into an
autonomous force, independent of the Belgian Army. From September 1953
to 1960, the Ecole de Pilotage Avancé ("Advanced Pilots' School")
operated Harvards from the
POST-COLD WAR REFORMS – COMOPSAIR
At the beginning of the 1990s, the end of the Cold War caused the
Belgian government to restructure the
Belgian Armed Forces
In 2002, the Belgian government decided to emulate
In 2004, as part of the unified structure, the Army Aviation units of
Wing Heli were transferred to the COMOPSAIR. These contain the
T6 Harvard Mk 4 on display at Ursel Air Base A Belgian S-58 on lift off A F-104G Starfighter on the taxi way A Belgian Fouga Magister
AIRCRAFT ORIGIN TYPE VARIANT IN SERVICE NOTES
the NF.11 served as a night fighter
22 in service from 1947 to 1955
11 replaced with the Westland Sea King
In January 1991, 18
Mirage 5 aircraft of the 3rd Tactical Wing were
deployed to Turkey\'s
On 15 July 1996, a C-130 with serial CH-06 carrying 37 members of the Dutch Army Fanfare Band and four Belgian crew members crashed at Eindhoven after a bird strike while executing a go-around, resulting in the loss of power to two engines. 34 passengers were killed, and only 7 survived. The accident is known in the Netherlands as the Herculesramp .
From October 1996, the
Belgian Air Force
On 29 March 2004, four F-16s from Kleine Brogel were transferred
Baltic Air Policing mission to the Šiauliai Air Base in
In 2005, the Helicopter Wing (WHeli – HeliW) deployed four A-109
(including one Medevac) in
In 2006, Belgian Hunter unmanned air vehicles deployed to the
Democratic Republic of the Congo
On 1 December 2006 the
Belgian Air Component
From August 2008, four F-16s were deployed to Kandahar in Afghanistan in support of the Dutch land forces.
In March 2011,
On 12 September 2011 a Wikileaks document showed a diplomatic cable
from the American ambassador and the Minister of Defence Pieter De
In 2013 the
Belgian Air Force
On 2 September 2013, four
Between October 2014 and July 2015 six Lockheed Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcons were deployed under Operation Desert Falcon to Muwaffaq Salti Air Base as part of military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant .
Joint Air Policing
On 4 March 2015, the Belgian and Dutch ministers of defence, along
with the ambassador of Luxembourg to the Netherlands, signed an
agreement on joint air policing. Starting mid-2017, the Belgian Air
Component and the
Royal Netherlands Air Force will take turns keeping
two F-16s on quick reaction alert (QRA) defending the airspace of all
Structure of the
Belgian Air Component
* COMOPSAIR HEADQUARTER in
* 1ST WING at Beauvechain Air Base
* 15th Squadron (Operational Conversion and Training Unit) (AW109BA Hirundo ) * 17th Squadron (AW109BA Hirundo) * 18th Squadron (NH90 TTH ) * Force Protection Squadron
* 2ND TACTICAL WING at Florennes Air Base
* 1st Squadron (F-16AM Falcon ) * 350th Squadron (F16AM Falcon) * Maintenance Group * Defense and Support Group
* 10TH TACTICAL WING at Kleine Brogel Air Base
* 31st Squadron (F16AM Falcon) * 349th Squadron (F16AM Falcon) * Operational Conversion Unit (F-16BM Falcon) * Maintenance Group * Defense and Support Group
* 15TH AIR TRANSPORT WING at Melsbroek Air Base
* 20th Squadron (C-130H Hercules , to be replaced with Airbus A400M
* 21st Squadron (
* METEO WING at Beauvechain Air Base
* Military Meteorological Forecasting Center * Meteorological School * Maintenance Workshop * Meteorological Telecommunications Unit
* 11th Squadron at
Cazaux Air Base in
* Air Component Competence Center at Beauvechain Air Base
* Basic Flying Training School at Beauvechain Air Base
* 5th Squadron (SF.260D/M+ trainers) * 9th Squadron (SF.260D/M+ trainers) * Military Glider Center at Goetsenhoven Airfield (L21B Super Cub , K8B gliders)
* K-9 Unit in Oud-Heverlee
* Aviation Safety Directorate at Beauvechain Air Base
AIRCRAFT ORIGIN TYPE VARIANT IN SERVICE NOTES
7 on order
In the strategical defence vision report of the Belgian government it was stated that by 2030 the Belgian air component will invest in 34 new fighter aircraft and 1 aerial refueling aircraft to be able to deploy the new fighter aircraft in a more independent fashion.
The Belgian government is also planning to purchase 2 large reconnaissance UAV's with the option to buy 4 more afterwards which will be able to fly at great height. Their primary goal will be reconnaissance assignments but the option also exists to arm them.
Regarding the replacement of the aging F-16's there is some controversy within the Belgian government. The Flemish socialist party claimed that the government has already chosen for the F-35 because it intends to purchase fighters of a "new generation". Minister of Defence, Steven Vandeput contradicts this and stated that no official choice has been made yet until 2018 and that all options are still on the table.
* ^ "La Défense" (in French). Retrieved 2016-03-25.
* ^ "Defensie" (in Dutch). Retrieved 2016-03-25.
* ^ Schoofs, Jos (July 2009). "A New Commander For The Air
Component". Belgian Wings. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
* ^ Van Humbeek, Frans & Van Caesbroeck, Paul (2015). "Licht
Vliegwezenlaan (Brasschaat)". Hangar Flying: Online Database of the
Belgian Aviation Heritage (in Dutch). Retrieved 21 August 2015.
* ^ A B C Pieters (1998), p.9
* ^ Pieters (1998), p.11
* ^ Pieters (1998), pp.10–11
* ^ Deneckere, Bernard (2010). Luchtoorlog boven België 1914 (in
Roeselare : Roularta. ISBN 9789086793013 .
* ^ Pieters (1998), pp.11–13, 21
* ^ A B Pieters (1998), p.12
* ^ Pieters (1998), p.14
* ^ Pieters (1998), pp.17-18
* ^ Pieters (1998), pp.12, 17
* ^ "Escadrille 124". The Aerodrome. 2015. Retrieved 21 August
* ^ Pieters (1998), pp.15–16
* ^ Pieters (1998), p.16
* ^ Pieters (1998), pp.46–47
* ^ Pieters (1998), pp.78–79
* ^ Pieters (1998), pp.72–73
* ^ Pieters (1998), pp.62–63
* ^ "Adolphe Aloys Marie Hubert duBois d\'Aische". The Aerodrome.
2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
* ^ Pieters (1998), pp.21–22
* ^ Pécriaux, V. (2015). "EPA à Kamina". Les Ailes Militaires
Belges (in French). Retrieved 21 August 2015.
* ^ "
* ^ Hoyle, Craig (16 November 2013). "