349th Squadron (Belgium)

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No. 349 (Belgian) Squadron RAF
349th Squadron
Royal Air Force- 2nd Tactical Air Force, 1943-1945. CH12434.jpg
Spitfire Mark IXCs of No. 349 (Belgian) Squadron, 1943-4.
Active 10 November 1942 - May 1943
5 June 1943 - 24 October 1946
1946 – present
Country  Belgium
Branch RAF 1942 -1946
Air Component
Part of 10th Tactical Wing
Motto(s) Strike Hard, Strike Home
Fighter F-16 Fighting Falcon
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Raymond Lallemant
Frank De Winne
Insignia
Squadron Badge Two morning stars in saltire[1]
Squadron Codes GE (Jan 1943 - Oct 1946)

349th Squadron (French: 349e escadrille, Dutch: 349ste Smaldeel) is a fighter squadron in the Air Component of the Belgian Armed Forces. The unit, which originated as No. 349 (Belgian) Squadron in the Royal Air Force, was founded in 1942. It was transferred to the Belgian Air Force, together with 350th Squadron, in 1946. Considered a "honorary" squadron, it retained its original name and numbering and has been flying under the Belgian flag ever since. Today it is part of the 10th Tactical Wing, operating the F-16 Fighting Falcon from Kleine Brogel airbase.

History[edit]

With the Royal Air Force[edit]

No 349 (Belgian) Squadron was formed as a Royal Air Force squadron by Belgian personnel at RAF Ikeja (near Lagos), Nigeria on 10 November 1942.[1] The squadron was equipped with the Curtiss Tomahawk for local defence duties but the squadron did not become operational as such. The pilots were used for ferrying aircraft to the Middle East instead. The squadron was disbanded in May 1943 and the personnel transferred to the UK. On 5 June 1943, the Squadron was reformed at RAF Station Wittering, operating the Supermarine Spitfire V and became operational at RAF Digby in August 1943. The squadron moved to southern England to operate over France as bomber escorts and low-level sweeps. In early 1944, it began training as a fighter-bomber unit and then operated as such in occupied Europe. During the invasion of Normandy, it carried out beachhead patrols and were used as bomber escorts. In August 1944 the squadron moved to France, in the fighter-bomber role, and carried out armed reconnaissance behind enemy positions, attacking targets of opportunity (mainly vehicles). In February 1945, the squadron returned to England to convert to the Hawker Tempest. This did not go well: conversion ended in April, and the squadron reacquired Spitfire IXs, operating from the Netherlands. It moved to Belgium and was disbanded as an RAF-squadron on 24 October 1946 on transfer to the Belgian Air Force, keeping the number.

Aircraft operated during RAF service[edit]

Spitfire Mk IX in the markings of No. 349 Squadron at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces in Brussels.
Aircraft operated by No. 349 Squadron[1][2]
From To Aircraft Variant Notes
Jan 1943 Apr 1943 Curtiss Tomahawk Mk.I
Jun 1943 Feb 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.V
Feb 1944 Feb 1945 Supermarine Spitfire LF.IXe
Feb 1945 Apr 1945 Hawker Tempest Mk.V
Apr 1945 May 1945 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXb
May 1945 Oct 1946 Supermarine Spitfire LF.XVIe

Commanding officers[edit]

Commanding officers No. 349 Squadron[3]
From To Name
Jan 1943 Jul 1944 Sqn Ldr Ivan du Monceau de Bergendael, DFC & Bar, CdG
Jul 1944 Mar 1945 Sqn Ldr Albert Van de Velde
Mar 1945 Dec 1945 Sqn Ldr Raymond "Cheval" Lallemant, DFC & Bar
Dec 1945 Oct 1946 Sqn Ldr Albert Van de Velde, DFC

Under Belgian command[edit]

Belgian F-16 Fighting Falcon of 349th Squadron over Afghanistan, 2008.

In 1946, the unit was integrated in the Belgian Air Force. From 1998, the unit was commanded by future Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne.

From 1957 to 1964, the squadron operated the Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck.

In 1999, the squadron participated in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. In 2005 and 2008 it was deployed to Kabul as part of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. In 2011, it was part of Operation Unified Protector during the Libyan civil war.

349th Sqn was the first operational F-16 squadron in NATO.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Halley 1988, p. 381.
  2. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 90.
  3. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 416.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Donnet, Mike and Leon Branders. Ils en Etaient !. Brussels, Belgium: Pierre De Meyere, Editeur, 1979.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE,BA,RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Lallemant, Lt. Colonel R.A. Rendez-vous avec la chance (in French). Paris: Robert Laffont, 1962.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (new revised edition 1976, reprinted 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.

External links[edit]