Belgian Air Component

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Air Component of the Belgian Army
Aile COA-3-coul-20x7-300dpi.jpg
Belgian Air Component wings
Active 1909–1915: Company of Aviators
1915–1940: Military Aviation
1940–1946: Belgian Section, RAF
1946–1949: Military Aviation
1949–2002: Belgian Air Force
2002–present: Air Component
Country Belgium Belgium
Branch Air Force
Size 5.739 personnel
Commander Major General aviator Frederik Vansina
Roundel Roundel of the Belgian Air Force.svg
Air Force Ensign Ensign of Belgian Air Force.svg

The Belgian Air Component (Dutch: Luchtcomponent, French: Composante air) is the air arm of the Belgian Armed Forces. The Belgian Air Force was founded in 1909 and is one of the world's first air forces.

The commander is Major General aviator Frederik Vansina, appointed on 23 July 2009.[1]


Foundation and early years[edit]

The Belgian Air Force was founded in 1909 as a branch of the Belgian Army, carrying the name Compagnie des Ouvriers et Aérostiers.[2] King Albert's interest in the military use of aircraft was the main impetus for its formation. Coincidentally, in the civil aviation sector, Baron Pierre de Caters earned the first civil pilot's brevet that same year. Caters would promptly establish an aviation school. At approximately the same time, the War Ministry followed the French military's example and had pilots earn a civil pilot's brevet before their military one.[3]

In 1910, three Belgian lieutenants earned their pilot's brevets at the school, paying their own fees. Two of the artillery lieutenants were Baudoin de 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.[3]

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 Baron Caters, who gave the aircraft to King Albert, who in turn presented it to the school.[3]

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 England during November 1913 to demonstrate aerial use of the Lewis machine gun at Hendon and Aldershot; as a result, the British adopted the Lewis, although the Belgians did not. Belgium entered World War I with aircraft tasked solely for reconnaissance missions.[4]

World War I[edit]

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.[5]

Sous Lieutenant Henri Crombez flew one of the first war patrols, in a Deperdussin racer on 4 August 1914 above Liège.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

In April, Lieutenant Fernand Jacquet mounted a machine gun on his pusher aircraft and sought out the enemy. On the 17th, he 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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

Aircraft procurement difficulties[edit]

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.[11] 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;[12] 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, Belgium had the Hanriot HD.1 supplied to it the year after it was introduced. Spad XIIIs also came on line that month, but would not show up in Belgian inventory until the next year. Sopwith Camels first went into service in May 1917 and the AMB received its first one on 29 November 1917.[13]

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.[14]

Operational summary[edit]

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,[15] Edmond Thieffry,[16] Jan Olieslagers,[17] and Fernand Jacquet.[18] A sixth Belgian, Adolphe DuBois d'Aische, became the war's oldest ace while in French service.[19]

The fledgling air force was entrusted with flying both King Albert and Queen Elizabeth over the battle front at times.[20]

Between the world wars[edit]

During the interwar period, the Belgian Air Force flew the Breguet 19. Some efforts were made to acquire aircraft from local production, such as those by Stampe et Vertongen and Renard. They also evaluated native designs like the ACAZ C.2 and LACAB GR.8, none of which entered mass production however.

World War II[edit]

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 Hawker Hurricane, the Gloster Gladiator, the Fairey Fox, and the Fairey Battle. These were massacred by the much superior German Luftwaffe in the German invasion of May 1940.

The following (possibly incomplete) table lists the inventory of the Belgian Air Force as in May 1940.[21]

Aircraft Photo Origin Type Year acquired In service
Fairey Battle Fairey Battles in formation.jpg  United Kingdom Light bomber 1938 16
Fairey Fox Fairey Fox.jpg  United Kingdom Light bomber and observation 1933–1938 154
Fiat CR.42 Fiat CR.42.jpg  Italy Fighter 1940 27
Fokker F.VII Fokker C-2 090713-F-1234K-067.jpg  Netherlands Transport 1935 9
Gloster Gladiator ZZZ 003915 E Gladiator.jpg  United Kingdom Fighter 1937 22
Hawker Hurricane Hurricane.jpg  United Kingdom Fighter 1939 20
Koolhoven FK.56  Netherlands Advanced trainer 1940 12
LACAB GR.8  Belgium Bomber prototype 1936 1
Morane-Saulnier MS.230 Morane-Saulnier MS.230 La Ferte.jpg  France Observation 1932 23
Potez 33  France Light bomber and reconnaissance 1930 10
Renard R.31  Belgium Observation 1935 33
Renard R.38  Belgium Fighter prototype 1940 1
Caproni Ca.335/SABCA S.47 / Caproni Ca.335.jpg  Belgium /  Italy Light bomber prototype for local production 1940 1
Savoia-Marchetti SM.73 Sm 73.jpg  Italy Transport 1940 8
Savoia-Marchetti SM.83 Savoia-Marchetti S.83.jpg  Italy Transport 1940 3
Stampe et Vertongen SV.5 Tornado  Belgium Training 1936 21
Stampe et Vertongen RSV.22  Belgium Training 1933 10
Stampe et Vertongen RSV.26  Belgium Training 1933 10

Before the outbreak of the war Belgium also sought to equip the Aviation Militaire with foreign designs, ordering production licences in Poland and France and aircraft in the USA. However, the acquired licences could not be used until May 1940 and the aircraft produced in the USA were eventually delivered to France and to the United Kingdom. The following table summarizes Belgium's foreign orders:

Aircraft Photo Origin Type Year acquired Number
Breguet 693  France Light bomber and assault aircraft 1940 Licence to build 32
Brewster B-339 Brewster F2A-3 g16055.jpg  United States Fighter 1939 40 ordered, 1 delivered to Bordeaux, 6 to Martinique, rest to RAF[22]
Douglas DB-7 Douglas A-20G Havoc.jpg  United States Medium bomber 1939 16 ordered, transferred to RAF after surrender
PZL.37 Łoś PZL-37 Los.jpg  Poland Medium bomber 1938 Licence to build acquired, none built
Grumman Martlet MarletMk2 888Sqn HMSFormidable Oran Dec1942.jpg  United States Fighter 1940 An order for at least 10 aircraft was placed, but never delivered and they were transferred to Royal Navy after the Belgian surrender, aircraft was proposed with fixed wings for land-based operations
Caproni Ca.313 Caproni Ca.313.jpg  Italy Light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft (designated Ca.312) 1940 24 ordered, none delivered

After the surrender of Belgium on 28 May 1940, a very small Belgian Air Force in exile was created in Great Britain as the Belgian section of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. This small force was active within the British Royal Air Force, and its squadrons were equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Typhoon.

The Cold War[edit]

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 Kamina military base in the Belgian Congo.[23] Seemingly about 60 Harvards were at the base.

During the Cold War, the Belgian Air Force operated the following aircraft:

Aircraft Image Origin Description Variants Operated Notes
Aero Commander 560F AeroCommander560AtCentennial.JPG  United States Twin-engined light transport 560F 1 1961 to 1973 as royal transport
Airspeed Consul Airspeed AS.65 Consul EI-ADC Rianta LPL 26.03.49 edited-2.jpg  United Kingdom Twin-engined light transport 4 Used from 1948 in Belgian Congo.
Airspeed Oxford Airspeed AS.10 Oxford 4.jpg  United Kingdom Twin-engined light transport 20 Operated between 1947 and 1954.
Auster AOP6 Auster AOP.6 TW539 663 Sqn 1954.jpg  United Kingdom Single-engine light observation aircraft, 22 Operated between 1947 and 1955.
Avro Anson Avro 652A Anson I G-ALIH, Ekco (E K Cole), Southend, UK, 28 Oct 1965 (8748454616) (2).jpg  United Kingdom Twin-engined light transport 15 Operated between 1946 and 1954.
Avro CF-100 Canuck CF-100s 423 Sqn.jpg  Canada Twin-jet interceptor Mk 5 53 Operated from 1957 into the mid-1960s.
Boeing 727-200 Air Algerie Boeing 727-200 Rees-1.jpg  United States Three-engined jet airliner 727-29C 2 Operated from 1975.
Dassault Mirage 5 DF-ST-84-06980.JPEG  France  Belgium Jet fighter-bomber (BA), Training (BD) and reconnaissance (BR) 5BA
Operated from 1970 until 1993. 3 were built in France
Dassault Falcon 20 Dassault Falcon (Mystere) 20F-5 (PH-BPS).jpg  France Twin-engined light jet transport 20E 2 Operated from 1973.
de Havilland Tiger Moth RMM Brussel Tiger Moth.JPG  United Kingdom Biplane trainer 15 Operated from 1946.
de Havilland Dominie Dragon rapide g-aeml flying arp.jpg  United Kingdom Biplane transport 7 Operated from 1946.
de Havilland Mosquito DH.98 Mosquito FB.6 (TT) MC-2 Belgian AF RWY 01.10.53 edited-3.jpg  United Kingdom Twin-engined piston light fighter-bomber TT3
Operated from 1947 as target tugs and night fighters.
de Havilland Canada Chipmunk Chipmunk 1 (9015801584).jpg  Canada Single-engined piston trainer 2 For evaluation from 1948.
Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet Dassault alphajet Solo.jpg  Germany/ France Ground attack Alpha Jet B 33 co designed and build by SABCA
Douglas C-47 Dakota C-47A Skytrain.jpg  United States Passenger/troop transport 41 Operated in various roles between 1946 and 1976.
Douglas DC-4 Pacific Western Airlines DC-4.jpg  United States Four-engined piston airliner 2 Operated from 1950 to 1969.
Douglas DC-6 Douglas DC-6B N6531C PAA Heathrow 09.54.jpg  United States Four-engined piston airliner 4 Operated from 1954 to 1971.
Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar Fairchild C-119G CP-17 RBAF Coltishall 18.09.65 edited-3.jpg  United States Twin-engined troop or cargo transport C-119F
46 Operated from 1952 to 1973.
Fouga Magister Fouga CM170 N385F BFI 16.09.98R edited-3.jpg  France Germany Jet trainer CM.170R 50 Operated from 1960 to 2007
SABCA F-16 F-16 MLU of Belgian Air Force's Solo Display Team (reg. FA-133), taxiing, Radom AirShow 2005, Poland.jpg  Belgium United States Fighter F-16A
Built under licence in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Gloster Meteor Gloster Meteor F.8 EG-121 Belgian A.F. BLA 06.09.55 edited-2.jpg  United Kingdom Jet fighter F4
Operated from 1949 some built in Belgium and the Netherlands
Hawker Hurricane Hurricane.jpg  United Kingdom Piston fighter II 3 Operated from 1946
SABCA Hunter Hunter t7a (g-ffox wv318) kemble arp.jpg  Belgium United Kingdom Jet fighter F4
Operated from 1956. Hawker Hunter built in Belgium under licence
Hawker Siddeley 748 Hawker Siddeley HS-748 Srs2A-288LFD, Belgium - Air Force AN1188407.jpg  United Kingdom Twin-engined transport 2A 3 Operated from 1976
Lockheed T-33 T 33 Shooting Star-IIAF.jpg  United States Single engine jet T-33A
Operated from 1952
SABCA F-104 Starfighter Lockheed F-104A-15-LO 060928-F-1234S-008.jpg  Belgium United States Multi-role jet F-104G
Operated from 1963, Belgian-built. A total of 112 Starfighters were procured by the Belgian Air Force, this being split between 100 F-104G (serial FX-01 to FX-100) and 12 TF-104G trainers (serial FC-01 to FC-12). Of these, 40 F-104G's were MDAP-funded, the remainder being paid for by the Belgian government. With the exception of the very first ones, shipped as CKD kits to Belgium, all Belgian F-104G were built and assembled at SABCA Gosselies plant, alongside 88 other airframes for the Bundesluftwaffe' ("Federal German Air Force") use. The initial three TF-104G were built at Lockheed Palmdale plant, the remaining nine two-seaters being assembled by SABCA from Lockheed CKD kits. The aircraft crashed before being taken on charge by the Belgian Air Force, being later replaced by another similarly numbered machine. This was the aircraft serialled FX-47.[24]
Miles Magister Miles Magister.jpg  United Kingdom Single-engines trainer 1 Operated from 1946 to 1948
Miles Martinet Miles M.25 Martinet TT MkI in flight.jpg  United Kingdom Single-engined target tug 11 Operated from 1947 to 1953
North American T-6 Texan North American T-6G Texan 5.JPG  United States Basic trainer Various 173 Operated in Belgian Congo
Percival Proctor Percival proctor.jpg  United Kingdom Single-engined liaison IV 6 Operated from 1947
Percival Pembroke Hunting percival p-66 pembroke c1 takeoff arp.jpg  United Kingdom Twin-engined light transport C51 12 Operated from 1954.
Republic F-84 Thunderjet F-84F of Belgian Air Force.JPG  United States Single-engined fighter-bomber F-84E
213 Operated from 1951
Republic F-84F Thunderstreak F-84F Thunderstreak.jpg  United States Single-engined fighter-bomber F-84F 197 Operated from 1955
Republic RF-84F Thunderflash 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron Republic RF-84F-30-RE Thunderflash 52-7412.jpg  United States Single-engined reconnaissance RF-84F 34 Operated from 1955
SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 BelgianSF260-ST-15-694.jpg  Italy Single-engined trainer SF.260MB 36 Operated from 1969
Stampe SV.4 Stampe en Vertongen SV4.jpg  Belgium
Biplane trainer SV-4B
Operated from 1948
Supermarine Spitfire Ray Flying Legends 2005-1.jpg  United Kingdom Piston-engined fighter IX, XIV and XVI 181 Operated from 1945
Swearingen Merlin Fairchild Swearingen Merlin.jpg  United States Twin-engined light transport Merlin 3A 6 Operated from 1976
Westland Sea King Sea King Mk48 Tours.JPG  United Kingdom Rescue helicopter Mk 48 5 Operated from 1976, 1 in museum, 4 replaced in 2015 by NH90 and to be phased out
Aérospatiale SA 316 Alouette III Alouette 3 2.jpg  France Light utility helicopter SA 316B 3 Delivered in 1971, used by Belgian Navy, replaced by NH90 and phased out in 2015.

Post-Cold War reforms – COMOPSAIR[edit]

At the beginning of the 1990s, the end of the Cold War caused the Belgian government to restructure the Belgian Armed Forces in order to cope with the changed threats. The Belgian Air Force was hit hard and saw its strength more than halved with the disbanding of the 3rd Tactical Wing in Bierset (1994); the disbanding of the 1st Fighter Wing in Beauvechain; the 9th Training Wing in Sint-Truiden Air Base; and the Elementary Flying School in Goetsenhoven (1996).

In 2002, the Belgian government decided to emulate Canada and impose a "single structure" on its armed forces in which the independent Belgian Air Force ceased to exist. The Belgian Air Component (COMOPSAIR being the HQ) consists of the 2nd Tactical Wing in Florennes Air Base and the 10th Tactical Wing in Kleine Brogel Air Base, both flying F-16s in four squadrons. Out of the 160 F-16s originally bought by Belgium, only 105 were upgraded; with further reductions to 72 aircraft in 2005; and planned to 60 by 2012. The 1st Wing (Belgium) at Beauvechain Air Base is assigned for the training of pilots, using the piston-powered Aermacchi SF.260 for elementary training, and the Alpha Jet for advanced training. Advanced combat training is done on F-16's at Kleine Brogel.[25]

Agusta A109 of the Air Component

COMOPSAIR still operates the Lockheed C-130 Hercules in the 15th Air Transport Wing based at Melsbroek Air Base, planning to replace them by seven Airbus A400M transport aircraft. VIPs are transported with Embraer 135/145 jets,[26] Dassault 20/900, and the Airbus A321. The Sea King SAR helicopters and the Alouette III helicopters will be active for years. They will be replaced by NH-90s (4 NFH + 6 TTH).

In 2004, as part of the unified structure, the Army Aviation units of the Wing Heli were transferred to the COMOPSAIR. These contain the Agusta A109 attack helicopter, and the Alouette II training and recce helicopter.

In 2005, the Belgian Alpha Jets moved to Cazaux in France to continue the Initial Operational Training, while the Advanced Jet Training was done on French Alpha Jets at Tours. As from 2013 both Advanced Jet Training as well as Initial Operational Training are completed in Cazaux in France.

Within the framework of its commitments within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, Belgium has assigned its 72 F-16s to NATO purposes. Two squadrons with a total of 16 aircraft have been designated for use by the Rapid Reaction Forces.

In February 2008, Defense Minister Pieter De Crem announced that due to increasing problems and poor serviceability, the two A310s were to be replaced as soon as possible by two aircraft in the same class. An Airbus A330 was dry-leased to take their place till March 2014 where it was replaced by an Airbus A321.

On September 1, 2010, the Wing Heli in Bierset was disbanded and the Agusta A109 helicopters moved to Beauvechain Air Base to become 1st Wing. The SF260 squadrons became part of the Basic Flying Training School.

On May 24, 2011, it was reported that the two retired Airbus A310 aircraft have been sold to the Brussels-based company MAD Africa for the amount of 700,000 euros. The company then sold them on to the Dutch Van Vliet transport company, who in their turn will transfer the aircraft to an as yet unspecified Abu Dhabi-based operator.[citation needed]

Recent operations[edit]

Belgian Air Component F-16 in Brno


In January 1991, 18 Mirage 5 aircraft of the 3rd Tactical Wing were deployed to Turkey's Diyarbakır air base. During this operation, Belgian aircraft carried out several flights along the Iraqi border. After this operation the obsolete Mirage 5s were phased out.

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 cooperated with the Dutch Royal Air Force in the "Deployable Air Task Force" in patrolling former Yugoslavian airspace. F-16s of the 2nd and 10th Tactical Wings, operating from the Italian bases of Villafranca and Amendola, were assigned to missions insuring the control of a No-Fly Zone over Yugoslavia, and providing the air support necessary for UN and NATO troops. Between March 24 and June 10, 1999, twelve Belgian F-16s carried out 679 combat sorties – the first time since the second World War that Belgian aircraft took part in active war operations in enemy territory – against Serbia during the Kosovo crisis. The last Belgian F-16 detachment left Italy in August 2001.


On 29 March 2004, four F-16s from Kleine Brogel were transferred under NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission to the Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania for three months, where they were employed in monitoring the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian skies.

In 2005, the Helicopter Wing (WHeli – HeliW) deployed four A-109 (including one Medevac) in Tuzla, Bosnia. In July, four F-16s deployed to Afghanistan to support the NATO International Security Assistance Force.[27] From June to October 2005, the 80th UAV Squadron deployed its B-Hunter in Tuzla.[28][29]

In 2006, Belgian Hunter unmanned air vehicles deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of the EU EUFOR peacekeeping mission. At the same time, the Helicopter Wing (WHeli – HeliW) deployed three A-109 (including 1 Medevac) in Mostar, Bosnia, in Operation Blue Bee.[30]

On 1 December 2006 the Belgian Air Component deployed again under Baltic Air Policing mission four F-16 MLU aircraft to Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania, to defend the airspace of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.[31]

From August 2008, four F-16s were deployed to Kandahar in Afghanistan in support of the Dutch land forces.[32]

In March 2011, Belgium deployed six F-16 fighters to Araxos in Greece, in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn, to support the NATO operations over Libya.[33] The aircraft were already at the base as part of a joint exercise and were transferred to NATO command. Up to June 2011, the aircraft had flown over 1,000 hours over Libya and attacked various military installations and targets.


On 12 September 2011 a Wikileaks document showed a diplomatic cable from the American ambassador and the Minister of Defence Pieter De Crem that Belgium is interested in buying off-the-shelf Lockheed F-35 Lightnings by 2020.[34][35][36]

In 2013 the Belgian Air Force supported French operations in Mali providing Medevac helicopter support with two A-109 helicopters and two C-130 Hercules in a tactical air transport role.

On 2 September 2013, four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter-jets of the Royal Belgian Air Force landed at the Šiauliai Air Base to take charge of NATO's Air Policing mission over the Baltic states.[37][38]

Between October 2014 and July 2015 six Lockheed Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon's 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.[39]

Joint air policing[edit]

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 three Benelux countries. The agreement could allow the Belgian minister of defence to order a Dutch aircraft to use lethal force over Belgian airspace, and vice-versa. Luxembourg, while currently covered by Belgian QRA, does not allow the use of lethal force over its territory.[40]

Aircraft inventory[edit]

Aircraft Origin Type Service entry No. used Notes
Aermacchi SF.260D & M+ Italy trainer 32[41][41] Based at Beauvechain AB.
Agusta A109BA & LUH Italy utility helicopter 1992 8 46 delivered (28 Anti-Tank and 18 LUH), 8 are modernised for LUH role as of 2015
Airbus A321-231 EU transport 1[41] Leased from Hi Fly with civilian registration CS-TRJ.[42][43]
Airbus A400M Atlas EU transport n/a 0 7 ordered, deliveries 2018-2020[44]to replace C-130.[45]
SABCA Alpha Jet 1B+ Belgium trainer 29[46] Based at Cazaux AB, France for training with French Air Force.
Dassault Falcon 20 France VIP transport 1973 1[41] Will be retired (1 in 2015, 1 in 2016).
Dassault Falcon 900 France transport 1[41]
Embraer ERJ 135LR Brazil transport 2[41]
Embraer ERJ 145LR Brazil transport 2[41]
General Dynamics F-16AM & BM Fighting Falcon US fighter 54 6 stored. May be replaced by up to 40 F-35.
IAI MQ-5B Hunter Israel Reconnaissance UAV 13[47] Observation and intelligence be replaced by the end of 2018
Lockheed C-130H Hercules US transport 10 12 delivered, 2 lost. Based at Melsbroek AB.[48]
NHI NH90NFH & TTH EU Maritime/SAR/
Transport helicopter
2013 4/4 + 2 options for TTH[49][50][51]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schoofs, Jos (July 2009). "A New Commander For The Air Component". Belgian Wings. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ a b c Pieters (1998), p.9
  4. ^ Pieters (1998), p.11
  5. ^ Pieters (1998), pp.10–11
  6. ^ Deneckere, Bernard (2010). Luchtoorlog boven België 1914 [Air War over Belgium in 1914] (in Dutch). Roeselare: Roularta. ISBN 9789086793013. 
  7. ^ Pieters (1998), pp.11–13, 21
  8. ^ a b Pieters (1998), p.12
  9. ^ Pieters (1998), p.14
  10. ^ Pieters (1998), pp.17-18
  11. ^ Pieters (1998), pp.12, 17
  12. ^ "Escadrille 124". The Aerodrome. 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  13. ^ Pieters (1998), pp.15–16
  14. ^ Pieters (1998), p.16
  15. ^ Pieters (1998), pp.46–47
  16. ^ Pieters (1998), pp.78–79
  17. ^ Pieters (1998), pp.72–73
  18. ^ Pieters (1998), pp.62–63
  19. ^ "Adolphe Aloys Marie Hubert duBois d'Aische". The Aerodrome. 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  20. ^ Pieters (1998), pp.21–22
  21. ^ Leulliot, N. (2001). "Aéronautique Militaire Belge: Order of Battle, 10 May 1940". France 1940. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  22. ^ Pacco (2003), p.71.
  23. ^ Pécriaux, V. (2015). "EPA à Kamina". Les Ailes Militaires Belges (in French). Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
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  • Pacco, John (2003). Belgisch Leger/Armee Belge: Het Militair Vliegwezen/l'Aeronautique Militaire 1930–1940. Belgium: Aartselaar. ISBN 90-801136-6-2. 
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