Photocall 2008

Wittmundhafen, Germany

30 July 2008



On the bright, warm and sunny day of 30 July 2008, Wittmundhafen Air Base, the German miltary airfield close to the city of Wittmund, opened its gates for another Photocall. Although not annually, Wittmundhafen photocalls are a regular occurances as can be seen from this report on the 2004 edition. Centre theme this time was the exposition of a trio of F-4F Phantoms in anniversary colour schemes. However, parts of Germany's military aviation history were on display as well.

Home based at Wittmundhafen is Jagdgeschwader (Fighter Wing) 71 "Richthofen". The wing has been named for the famous German World War I ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen. Oldest of the historic aircraft on display  was the Messerschmidt BF.109 seen to the right. In reality, this is a Spanish built specimen known as Hispano HA.1112M1L. It forms part of a small collection of historic aircraft which is to be found in the hangar behind the aircraft. 



First jet fighter type to be assigned to the JG 71 "Richthofen" at Wittmundhafen was the Canadair CL.13 Sabre Mk.6. This was a Canadian built F-86F Sabre produced under license from North American. It served only briefly from 1959 until 1964, although only from early 1963 operating from Wittmundhafen. Before that, JG 71 flew from Ahlhorn as Wittmundhafen was still undergoing construction. 

Starting in 1963, the Luftwaffe received the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter. JG 71 was to be the first Luftwaffe wing to operate the new type. The type's service carreer at Wittmundhafen would span a mere decade, as attrition with the F-104G proved to be so high that premature introduction of a new fighter type to make up losses was necessary. JG 71 alone lost 14 jets and sadly also eight pilots during the 1964-1974 period.

In 1974, the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-4F Phantom II took over from the Starfighter at Wittmundhafen. For the next 34 years, the sight and sound of the Phantom has become a part of daily life around the base.

 Now that the type has entered the twilight of its carreer in the Luftwaffe, some aircraft have received anniversary or farewell colourschemes, the most recent ones have been assembled on this page. Fortunately, JG 71 managed to collect the farewell painted Phantoms from bases like Rheine-Hopsten as well as from Neuburg-Donau. To the left, and preserved between a hangar and some buildings close to the base's main gate is F-4F 37+11, which has been sprayed in a colour scheme centered around that unit's horse design from JG 72 "Westfalen" which disbanded at Rheine-Hopsten in 2002 and renamed FLZ F-4F (Fluglehrzentrum = Flight Training Centre). Other specially coloured Phatoms included 38+49 from JG 71 (below left) to celebrate 50 years of F-4 Phantoms world wide. Note the flags of those nations still flying the F-4, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, USA and Germany. Below center F-4F 38+37 which was the farewell machine from JG 74 at Neuburg which has now converted to the Eurofighter EF.2000. Below right the bright orange painted 37+16 from Wehrtechnische Dienststelle 61 (Flight Test Unit  61) from Manching. The formulas stencilled all over the jet are equations important in aerodynamics.

Wittmundhafen is home to another classic in military aviation, namely the Douglas A-4N Skyhawk. Although the Skyhawk has never seen service with any NATO nation other than the USA itself, the type can be seen and enjoyed in Germany. Flown by Flight Systems Inc., A-4N's are used for target facilities missions for the German forces. In 2000, four ex Israeli A-4N's took over from ex Danish TF-100F Super Sabres. So popular have been their services that another pair have been ordered more recently. Unlike the original quartet which wear gloss white with a blue trim, they are still in military colour schemes. Both are former Israeli Air Force, however this is most obvious with N262WL below right.


Finally, some views of the action which may be enjoyed from the southern fence surrounding Wittmundhafen. First, an F-4F taking off, afterburners blazing. Secondly another Phantom returning from a mission, note the pilot chute about to pull out the main chute. The C-160D Transall transport arrived to deliver some cargo. 

The days of being able to get so close to the runway have been numbered, however. Due to the arrival of the EF.2000 in just three years time a new fence is being erected which will stand considerably further away from the runway. 


The opportunity to visit Wittmundhafen and view the colourfully sprayed Phantoms and the other aircraft seen here was greatly appreciated. Thanks must therefore go to Wittmundhafen's staff who made all this possible!

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink