29 June 2004

25 Years of Belgian Alpha Jets, 

European Trainer Meet, Beauvechain


Time flies, not just aeroplanes do. In 1979, the then Belgian Air Force, now Belgian Armed Forces Air Component introduced into service the first of 33 Dassault-Breguet-Dornier Alpha Jets as replacements for Lockheed T-33A's. Now, in 2004, the type celebrates it's 25th service anniversary in Belgium.The fleet nowadays flies with 1 Wing. Custom has it that in such an anniversary year an example of the aircraft in question be sprayed in a commerative colour scheme. In the case of AT18 it looks more like an experiment into a new camouflage scheme. 

 Belgian Alpha Jets are to be moved to the French training base of Cazaux which also houses the same type of aircraft.


Co-located so far at Beauvechain are the SIAI SF.260 primary trainers flying with 5 sq. These little Italian built trainers provide novice Belgian pilots their first taste of what is to come. The SIAI fleet had something to celebrate as well, namely 250.000 hours of flight, as ST20 shows here. Unlike the Alpha Jets, the SF.260 fleet is to remain at Beauvechain.

Foreign participants in the European Trainer Meet included many dedicated instruction aircraft, along with some really heavy metal. Part of the lighter catagory was this French Air Force TB.30 Epsilon. Meaning "Little E" loosely translated, the Epsilon is the French Air Forces primary trainer. 102/315-XS is part of EPAA 315 (Ecole de Pilotage de l'Armée de l'Air) based at Cognac. Note the curious presentation of serial number and code on this aeroplane.
One of the French Alpha Jets to visit Beauvechain this day was this Alpha Jet E serialled E105/8-NU. This example belongs to ET 2/8 "Nice" from Cazaux, which is one of the units with which the Belgian Alpha Jets may be expected to closely cooperate after their move to France. 
The Swiss designed Pilatus PC.9M is somewhat of a halfway house between the likes of Epsilon and SF.260 on the one hand and the Alpha Jet on the other. The relatively high performance PC.9M was recently ordered for the Irish Air Corps and the first examples of a total of eight have now been delivered. 267 is one of them and will along with the other seven be part of No. 1 Operations Wing at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell.
More or less on a whim the Czech Air Force procured 72 Aero L.159 ALCA (Advanced Light Combat Aircraft) as supplements for ageing Russian MiG.21's. It wasn't long before it was realized that performance-wise these L.39 Albatross derivatives could not replace the MiG's and most were subsequently put into storage.  The remainder is now concentrated with 212.slt at Caslav. Note the empty rear cockpit of 6037.
Italy's Aermacchi MB.339 serves the Aeronautica Militare in two distinct versions. MM54492/61-36 is an original MB.339A as in service with 213 Gruppo, part of the advanced flying school of 61 Brigata Aerea SVBIA at Lecce-Galatina.
The BAE Systems Hawk T.1 is one of the most popular machines of its catagory. Of course, the RAF was the first customer of this type, the prototype flying in 1974. This fact is celebrated 30 years later with a commemorative paint scheme on XX159.
Yes, it is a trainer! This German F-4F Phantom is part of the FLZ F-4F (Fluglehrzentrum = Flight Training Centre) at Rheine Hopsten. This unit is a Theater Conversion Unit for F-4 aircrew returning from training in the United States. It's immaculate paint scheme belies it's true age.
Spain's F-5 fleet is not used anymore for combat duties. Instead, the remaining aicraft are now exclusively SF-5B two seaters. All the single seaters have been retired. The other jets like this SF-5B serialled AE.9-018/23-26 are  to be modified to F-5M with new avionics. It will remain Spain's lead in fighter trainer for some years to come. Operating unit is Ala 23 at Talavera la Real near Badajoz.
Resplendent in a paint scheme commemorating the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944 is French Air Force Mirage F.1B 520/33-FD of EC 3/33 "Lorraine", the Mirage F.1 OCU at Reims-Champagne. Note the invasion stripes running along fuselage and wings.

It must be said that Beauvechain proved to be a very good day out, well worth the 20 Euro entrance fee. The Belgian Air Component is to be commended for initiatives like this, providing enthousiasts with a fine opportunity to photograph interesting subjects like the ones displayed on this page. The event was blessed with fine weather during most of the day. Add to this that nobody needs to starve or die of thirst during such an event in Belgium. 

So, a big Thank You to the organizing committee is certainly due!





All pictures (c) Hans Rolink