Toul-Rosières Air Base

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Toul-Rosières Air Base
Base Aérienne 136 Toul-Rosières

United States Air Forces in Europe.png  French-roundel.svg
Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) A-98

Part of United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE)
Armée de l'Air
Located near: Toul, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France
Jaguar DF-SD-05-05511.JPEG
Armée de l'Air Jaguar A/E Fighter-Bomber
Coordinates 48°46′48″N 005°58′48″E / 48.78000°N 5.98000°E / 48.78000; 5.98000 (Toul-Rosières AB)
Site information
Site history
Built 1951
In use 1953-2004
Airfield information
IATA: noneICAO: LFSL
Summary
Elevation AMSL 936 ft / 285 m
Coordinates 48°46′48″N 005°58′48″E / 48.78000°N 5.98000°E / 48.78000; 5.98000Coordinates: 48°46′48″N 005°58′48″E / 48.78000°N 5.98000°E / 48.78000; 5.98000
Map
LFSL is located in France
LFSL
LFSL
Location of Toul-Rosières Air Base
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4/22 7,874 2,400 Concrete
For the United States Army Air Service World War I airfield, see: Toul-Croix De Metz Airfield

Toul-Rosières Air Base (French: Base aérienne 136 Toul-Rosières) (ICAO: LFSL) is a reserve French Air Force base. It is located in the Meurthe-et-Moselle département of France, 10 miles northeast of the city of Toul, on the west side of the Route nationale 411 (N411) Highway about one mile southeast of Rosières-en-Haye.

Toul Air Base was used by American fighter and bomber aircraft during World War II. During the Cold War, Toul-Rosières Air Base was a front-line NATO base for both the French Air Force and the United States Air Force.

Origins[edit]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, the area around Toul Air Base was cleared of Germans by the United States Third Army in early September 1944. Almost immediately, the United States Army Air Forces IX Engineering Command 850th Engineer Aviation Battalion moved in to construct a fully equipped airfield. A 5000' Pierced Steel Planking runway was laid down, in addition to taxiways, dispersed parking areas, and a support station and maintenance area. "Rosieres En Haye Airfield, or Advanced Landing Ground A-98 was declared operationally ready and turned over to Ninth Air Force on 21 November 1944.

The 354th Fighter Group, flying P-47 Thunderbolts arrived shortly afterwards and remained until April 1945. The Luftwaffe bombed the airfield several times during the winter nights of 1944/45.[1][2]

During construction of ALG A-98, the 850th EAB encountered a difficult problem that has plagued this site to the present day. Winter rains aggravated the severe drainage problem in the region and the entire base became a quagmire of slippery clay. Six inches of stone were laid to support the pierced steel plank runway, but this proved insufficient to prevent mud rising through the PSP. Finally the PSP had to be taken up and six additional inches of slag laid to keep the runway operational for the P-47s. The problem was so extreme that men from the 354th Fighter Group had to assist the aviation engineers to maintain an operational runway and taxiways during the Ardennes offensive[3]

The Americans turned the airfield back over to French authorities on 22 May 1945. In French control after the war, the base sat abandoned for several years. There was much unexploded ordnance at the site which needed to be removed, as well as the wreckage of German and American aircraft and the French Air Force had no interest in the airfield. As a result, the Air Ministry leased the land out to farmers for agricultural use, sending in unexploded ordnance teams to remove the dangerous munitions.

United States Air Force use[edit]

In 1951 as a result of the Cold War threat of the Soviet Union, Rosieres En Haye Airfield was provided to the United States Air Force by the French as part of their NATO commitment. Toul was chosen because the site was immediately available for construction, and because there was a long American history associated with the area going back to World War I.

The new NATO airfield was planned to be developed in two steps. The first being a temporary bare base facility built in minimum time to support flying missions. The second stage being the completion of support facilities while the wing operated at the operational facilities.

Initial surveys of the area showed that the World War II runway laid down in 1944 at Rosieres En Haye Airfield had seriously deteriorated and no remaining structures of the airfield remained. Construction of the base to bring it up to NATO standards started in February 1951 with the building of a railroad spur and access roads. In November 1951, the old Pierced Steel Planking runway was torn up and a permanent base of aggregate for a jet runway was laid down.

The design of the new airfield was to space parked aircraft as far apart as possible by the construction of a circular marguerite system of hardstands that could be revetted later with earth for added protection. Typically the marguerite consisted of fifteen to eighteen hardstands around a large central hangar. Each hardstand held one or two aircraft, and allowed the planes to be spaced approximately 150 feet (46 m) apart. Each squadron was assigned to a separate hangar/hardstand complex.

In December 1951, the 7412th Support Squadron was established by the USAF at "Toul-Rosières Air Base" to coordinate the construction issues and development of the new NATO facility.

117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing[edit]

Lockheed RF-80C-11-LO Shooting Star Serial 45-8391 in the foreground, along with other RF-80s of the 160th Tactical Recon Squadron, 1952. (Photo taken at Neubiberg AB, West Germany)
Douglas A/RB-26C-40-DT Invader serial 44-35599 of the 117th TRW in a temporary wooden nose "hangar", January 1953. Notice the temporary Pierced Steel Planking used for the parking apron with the snow and ice. This aircraft was sold to France in September 1956. It was eventually withdrawn from use in May 1967 and scrapped.

The 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing arrived at Toul on 27 January 1952, deploying to France from Lawson AFB, Georgia. The 117 TRW was composed of three activated Air National Guard squadrons from Alabama, South Carolina and Ohio, the 112th, 157th and the 160th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons (Photo Jet) along with support personnel.

The Wing's complement of aircraft was 15 RB-26Cs assigned to the 112 TRS, and 38 RF-80As, assigned to the 157 and 160 TRS's. The RB-26's were tail coded with yellow stripes, the 157th's RF-80's with red stripes, and the 160th's RF-80's with green stripes. In addition, each squadron had a T-33A trainer assigned to it.

The mission of the 117 TRW was to provide tactical, visual, photographic and electronic reconnaissance by both day and night, as was required by the military forces within the European command. The RF-80's were responsible for the daylight operations.

Toul AB in 1952 was not ready for the Wing's arrival. At the time of the 117th's arrival, the base consisted of a sea of mud, and the new jet runway was breaking up and could not support safe flying. The Wing commander of the 117th deemed it uninhabitable and the wing's flying squadrons were dispersed to West Germany. The 112 TRS was transferred its B-26's to Wiesbaden AB, the 157 TRS deployed RF-80's and T-33A's to Furstenfeldbruck AB, and the 160th deployed the balance of the RF-80's to Neubiberg AB. The non-flying Headquarters and Support organizations remained at Toul.

In June 1952, the 117th was involved in Exercise 'June Primer'. This exercise took place in an area bordered by a line drawn from Cherbourg to Geneva in the east and in the west by this Swiss, Austrian and Russian occupation zone borders.

The two RF-80 squadrons of the 117th had to complete a number of varying missions, including vertical photography of prospective paratroop air drop zones, oblique photos of the Rhine and Danube river bridges, vertical photography of the airfields of Jever, Fassburg, Celle, Sundorf and Gütersloh and various visual missions on behalf of the seventh army, including artillery adjustment for the 816th field artillery. The 157 TRS had had wire recorders fitted to five of its RF-80's prior to June Primer and these greatly facilitated the latter missions.

By July 1952 the facilities at Wiesbaden were becoming very crowded, and it was felt that the B-26's could fly from the primitive conditions at Toul. The 112 TRS returned to Toul, however the jet-engined RF-80's remained in Germany until a new runway was constructed.

On 9 July 1952 the activated Air National Guard 117 TRW was released from active duty. All of the aircraft and support equipment remained at Toul. The 117 TRW was inactivated and its mission was taken over by the newly activated 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing.

10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing[edit]

On 10 July 1952, the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was activated in place at Toul AB, absorbing the personnel and equipment of the inactivated 117 TRW. The 112 TRS was redesignated the 1 TRS, the 157 TRS became the 32 TRS, and the 160 TRS became the 38 TRS. The 32 and 38 TRS remained with their RF-80's at Furstenfeldbruck and Neubiberg respectively.

The 10 TRW absorbed the 117th's aircraft, however the tail coding was changed. The RB-26's were repainted with black and white stipes, the 32d' with red and yellow stripes, and the 38th's had green and yellow stripes. The squadrons also retained their T-33A trainers assigned to them.

The mission of the 10 TRW was also inherited from the 117th, however weather conditions in Germany severely restricted the operations of the RF-80. The aircraft in Germany were frequently deployed to Morocco during the winter of 1952-53 where the photo conditions were excellent.

On 9 May 1953 the 10 TRW was moved to Spangdahlem AB in Germany as part of a USAFE reorganization. After the Wing's departure, the 7412th Support Squadron was established by the Air Force as a host unit. In addition, the U.S. Army Aviation Engineers were moved into Toul to address the runway and support structure issues which were unresolved during the tenure of the 117 and 10 TRW. For over 20 months construction proceeded by the Army along with French contractors with new Headquarters, barracks, hangars and support buildings.

465th Troop Carrier Wing[edit]

Fairchild C-119C-26-FA Flying Boxcar Serial 51-2640 781st Troop Carrier Squadron, 1954

In November 1953, 465th Troop Carrier Wing arrived at Toul AB. The 465th was activated at Donaldson AFB South Carolina in February 1953 from former Air Force Reserve aircraft and equipment. The 465th consisted three flying squadrons, the 780th, 781st and 782d Troop Carrier Squadrons. The 465th was assigned to the Twelfth Air Force and attached to the 322d Air Division (Combat Cargo).

Aircraft operated by the 465th were 56 C-119C "Flying Boxcar"s, along with several C-47 and L-20A support aircraft. Squadron markings of the C-119's were red for the 780 TCS, green for the 781 TCS and yellow for the 782 TCS.

During April and May 1954 enough construction was completed at Toul AB to allow the deployed aircraft squadrons to use the rebuilt facilities. At the time of the units assignment to Toul, construction was still underway of the main runway and support facilities, so the flying units were temporarily deployed to Germany. The 780th was assigned to Rhein-Main AB, the 781st to Wiesbaden AB and the 782d to Neubiberg.

The mission of the 465th was to provide tactical airlift to USAFE. This included deploying airborne forces and equipment by parachute, however because of the few number of airborne units in Europe, its mission became airlift support of supplies and equipment throughout Europe and North Africa. Many missions were flown to Wheelus Air Base in Libya to support the weapons ranges established there.

On 23 May 1955 the 465 TCW was relocated to Évreux-Fauville AB.

With the departure of the C-119s, the 7430th Air Base Squadron was activated to maintain Toul in a standby status. Budget cuts however, prevented any new USAF units from the United States to move to France. Minimal flight operations by the 7430th were flown by a C-47 and an L-20 for support missions.

CONUS/USAFE Dual Basing[edit]

Beginning in 1954 the 366th Fighter-Bomber Wing from Alexandria AFB Louisiana and the 312th Fighter-Bomber Wing from Clovis AFB New Mexico were deployed to Toul AB to test the idea of Dual Basing. Dual Basing was a concept where CONUS units were committed to NATO, but based in the United States to reduce costs. These units flew F-86H "Sabres", and rotated between Toul and the US until 1955.

A historical note is that Lt. Col. John B. England, who was commander of the 389th Fighter-Bomber Squadron from Alexandria AFB was killed when his F-86 crashed into the woods near Toul. He was returning from gunnery practice near Tripoli, Libya. The fog was very thick and visibility was near zero. After several attempts to locate the runway his plane suffered fuel starvation. At this moment he sighted a portion of the runway and was in a glide with a high probability of a successful landing. But his glide path took him over the barracks where his men were housed. He calmly stated on the radio that this was not an acceptable risk. He turned an crashed into a wooded area outside the base perimeter. In his honor, Alexandria AFB was renamed England AFB, and retained that name until its closure in 1993.

50th Fighter-Bomber/Tactical Fighter Wing[edit]

Airmen of the 50th Field Maintenance Squadron pose in front of one of their aircraft, North American F-86H-10-NH Sabre serial 53-1451 of the 417th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, Summer 1956

On 17 July 1956, the 50th Fighter-Bomber Wing from Hahn AB Germany, arrived at Toul AB. The 50 FBW was the first unit to be able to utilize the completed facilities at Toul, and be able to fully deploy its flight squadrons on the base. Flying units of the 50th FBW were the 10th, 81st and 417th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons, flying a total of 74 F-86H "Sabres".

In addition to the F-86's, several C-47 and L-20A support aircraft were operated, along with T-33A trainers. Squadron markings of the F-86's were blue for the 10th, yellow for the 81st and red for the 417th.

The primary mission of the 50th Fighter-Bomber Wing was the delivery of tactical nuclear weapons against Warsaw Pact forces in the event of an invasion of Western Europe. Its secondary missions were tactical air defense and support for NATO ground forces.

During May 1957 the 50th saw the arrival of the first F-100D/F "Super Sabre". A total of 75 F-100's were received in both single (D), and two seat (F) models, 25 per squadron.

A change in residence, however, loomed on the horizon for the 50 TFW. In 1959 disagreements arose concerning atomic storage and custody issues within NATO, resulted in a decision to remove United States Air Force atomic-capable units from French soil. On 10 December 59, the 50 TFW redeployed back to Hahn AB Germany, where it remained until Hahn's closure in 1991. The 50th TFW moved from TRAB to Hahn on 10 December 1959(see page 82 of AIR FORCE COMBAT WINGS 1947-1977)

With the 50 TFW's departure, Seventeenth Air Force activated the 7514th Support Group to maintain Toul in a standby mode. Besides Toul, the 7514th performed this activity at Chambley, Chaumont, Etain and Phalsbourg Air Bases with minimal support facilities.

On 1 January 1960 the 7514th Support Group was renamed the 7544th Support Group, being manned by about 1,000 Airmen and 350 French nationals.

7544th Support Group[edit]

With the departure of the 50 TFW, the 7544th Support Group became the host unit at Toul.

Det #1, 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing[edit]

Douglas RB-66B-DL Destroyer Serial 54-0419, converted to EB-66E, at Det. 1, 10th TRW. This aircraft was retired to MASDC in October 1972

In 1959 the 10th TRW at RAF Alconbury, established Detachment #1, 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at TRAB to support alert aircraft and the ECM reconnaissance mission as, due to its proximity to the Iron Curtain, time to target and time on station were greatly reduced by flying from TRAB instead of from the UK.

The 10th TRW flew variants of the Douglas B-66 "Destroyer" in photo recon and ECM versions. The aircraft were deployed from RAF Alconbury, RAF Bruntingthorpe and RAF Chelveston in the United Kingdom. The B-66's would stay at Toul between two and four weeks then rotate back to England. During that time the 42nd TRS, based at RAF Chelveston, also staged ECM reconnaissance missions from TRAB, typically flying a mission from RAF Chelveston and landing at TRAB, then one or two missions from TRAB, then a mission to return to RAF Chelveston.

In the summer of 1962 the 42nd TRS with 12 B-66B "Brown Cradle" offensive ECM aircraft, and 11 RB-66C ECM Reconnaissance aircraft, transferred from RAF Chelveston to Toul-Rosieres. At the same time, the 19th TRS, flying RB-66B photo reconnaissance aircraft, also relocated from RAF Bruntingthorpe.

On 10 March 1964, a 19th TRS RB-66C was shot down over East Germany after it crossed over the border due to a compass malfunction. The crew ejected and were taken prisoner briefly before being released.

In October 1965 the 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was activated at Chambley AB and the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was activated at Toul. The 42nd TRS and the 19th TRS were then assigned to the 25th TRW at Chambley, although many members of the squadron continued to live at TRAB and commute to Chambley.

1961 Berlin Crisis[edit]

Republic F-84F-30-RE Thunderstreak of the 110th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 131st Tactical Fighter Wing at Toul Air Base - 1961/62. Serial 52-6368 is in foreground.

On 1 October 1961, as a result of the Berlin Crisis, the mobilized Missouri Air National Guard (ANG) 131st Tactical Fighter Wing deployed to Toul as the 7131st Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional). When activated, the 131 TFW consisted of the 110, 169 and 170 TFS, from Lambert Field, St. Louis MO, Peoria Municipal Airport, Peoria IL, and Capitol Airport, Springfield IL, respectively.

These activated ANG squadrons flew the F-84F "Thunderstreak". Due to budget restraints, only one squadron of the 131 TFW was deployed, with the other two squadrons being assigned from other ANG wings. A total of 78 aircraft were deployed, 26 per squadron. The final deployed aircraft arrived at Toul on 13 November.

The 7131 TFW assumed regular commitments on a training basis with the U.S. 7th Army as well as maintaining a 24-hour alert status. The wing exchanged both air and ground crews with the Royal Danish Air Force's 730th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Skydstrup Air Station, Denmark, during May 1962.

As the Berlin situation subsided, all activated ANG units were ordered to be returned to the United States and released from active duty. The 7131st departed from Toul on 19 July 1962.

26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing[edit]

McDonnell RF-4C-22-MC Phantom Serial 64-1060 22d TRS. This was the first RF-4C to arrive at Toul, July 1965
North American F-100D-1-NA Super Sabre Serial No. 54-2122 being flown by the French Air Force at Toul AB. This aircraft was returned to USAF control in 1977 and was flown to Great Britain for storage and eventual scrapping.

On 1 July 1965 the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was formed at Toul. The 26th TRW was designated to be equipped with the new RF-4C "Phantom". With the activation of the 26 TRW, the 7544th Support Group was discontinued.

The squadrons initially assigned to the 25th were the 22 TRS, flying RB-66's acquired from the deployed Alconbury squadrons and the 32 TRS, flying RF-101C "Voodos", which were transferred from the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Laon Air Base.

The RF-4C's started arriving on 3 October 1965, phasing out the RB-66's and RF-101s. Then on 1 January 1966, the 38 TRS arrived from the 66 TRW, giving the 25 TRW three squadrons.

On 7 March 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle announced that France would withdraw from NATO's integrated military structure. The United States was informed that it must remove its military forces from France by 1 April 1967.

As a result, the 26 TRW and two of its squadrons, the 38th and 32d, relocated to Ramstein AB, Germany on 5 October 1966. In November, the 22 TRS was reassigned to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. where it became a dual-based squadron, deploying frequently to Ramstein.

The 32 TFS was transferred, without personnel or equipment, to RAF Alconbury. Its B-66 aircraft were sent to Takhli Air Base, Thailand.

In 1973, the 26 TRW would relocate to Zweibrücken AB, Germany where it remained until inactivated with Zweibrücken's closure in April 1991. The RF-4C's were relegated to storage and disposition at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center.

On 5 October 1966 the 26 TRW was inactivated at Toul. In its place, the 7544th Support Group was organized to facilitate the removal of American property and personnel from the base. On 1 April 1967 the American Flag was lowered for the last time at Toul, and the base returned to French control.

Current uses[edit]

After the USAF withdrawal from France, the French Air Force took up residence at Toul with the arrival of the 11th Escadre (wing) from Bremgarten Air Base in Germany.

The base was given designation Le Détachement Air DA 11/136. On 21 June 1967, the French Air Force officially took possession of the base, transferring 15 F-100 aircraft of the 02/11 Escadron (Squadron).

Escadron (EC) of the 11th Escadre at Toul-Rosières were:

  • EC 01/011 "Roussillon"
  • EC 02/011 "Vosges"
  • EC 03/011 "Corse"
  • EC 04/011 "Jura"

The F-100's remained at Toul-Rosières until 3 November 1976 when the last from EC.02/011 were retired and returned to American control. Returned French F-100's were eventually flown to Great Britain for storage and eventual scrapping.

During August 1974, EC.03/011 received the 11th Escadre's first SEPECAT Jaguar, with the other squadrons being equipped through November 1976. The Jaguar-equipped Escadrons were declared operational on 22 December 1977. Aircraft from Toul were deployed to Africa, the Middle East and Yugoslavia in support of French/NATO interests.

On 1 September 1998, Toul-Rosières Air Base was phased down, and was eventually closed on August 31, 2004. A military ceremony marked the closing of BA.136 Toul-Rosieres and the base was placed in reserve status. The site is now attached to DA.90/133 of Nancy-Ochey as Détachement Air DA.90/136 being used as a munitions storage facility.

As of 2012, all of the hangars and buildings on TRAB have been removed and the entire base is a massive solar panel "farm" (named Toul-Rosières Solar Park) with thousands of said panels cutting across runways, taxiways, ramps, roads and streets in nice straight lines.

Its ICAO code LFSL was withdrawn, then re-used for the new Brive–Souillac Airport.

Emblems Of USAFE Units That Served At Toul-Rosières Air Base[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnson, David C. (1988), U.S. Army Air Forces Continental Airfields (ETO), D-Day to V-E Day; Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
  2. ^ IX Engineer Command ETO Airfields, Airfield Layout
  3. ^ McAuliffe, Jerome J: U.S. Air Force in France 1950-1967 (2005), Chapter 16, Toul-Rosieres Air Base.

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • McAuliffe, Jerome J: U.S. Air Force in France 1950-1967 (2005), Chapter 16, Toul-Rosieres Air Base.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977, Office of Air Force History, 1984
  • Endicott, Judy G., USAF Active Flying, Space, and Missile Squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Office of Air Force History
  • Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers—1908 to present
  • Loubette, Fabrice (2008). Les forces aériennes de l'OTAN en Lorraine, 1952-1967. Metz, France: Serpenoise, Part II, Chapter 7, Toul-Rosières Air Base. ISBN 978-2-87692-763-6.

External links[edit]