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Base Aérienne 133 Nancy-Ochey; Nancy-Ochey, June 23, 2002

The French Mirage 2000D Airfield; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Today, Nancy-Ochey is a modern air base of the French Air Force. Nancy was during the Second World War an important airfield for the Americans for the attacks on German territory. Nowadays Nancy is home to the Escadron the Chasse 3 which operates with the Dassault Mirage 2000D in the ground attack role.

The French air base Nancy-Ochey is in France also designated as Base Aérienne 133 Nancy-Ochey. The airfield has ICAO code LFSO and is a front-line air base of the French Air Force which is also known as the Armée de l'Air (AdlA). The airbase is located about 11 kilometers southwest of Neuves-Maisons in the Department of Meurthe-et-Moselle in France. Nancy Air Base is an airfield which was already been built before the Second World War and was in the possession of the French Air Force. In May 1940, the airfield was the area headquarters for the Zone d'Opérations Aériennes Est (Area of Air Operations East, ZOAE). At that time there were different types of aircraft stationed at Nancy like the Curtiss H-75 Hawk. This aircraft was a single-engine fighter. Besides this plane, there were another ten Potez 6311 aircraft based at Nancy. These aircraft were twin-engine heavy fighters. In addition to the French Air Force, also the British Royal Air Force made use of Nancy. The RAF had at Nancy the no 3 Royal Naval Air Service Wing stationed during the Battle of France. The airbase was occupied during the Battle of France by the Germans in June 1940. The Luftwaffe, however, placed no flying units at the airfield until April 1943. In that year the airborne squadron Luftlandegeschwader 2 (LLG-2) was stationed at Nancy. This unit was equipped with the medium range Heinkel He-111 bombers which were used for pulling the Gotha Go-242 transport gliders. LLG-2 was replaced by Luftlandegeschwader 1 (LLG-1) in September 1943. This unit was equipped with the Dornier Do-17 and DFS-230 gliders. These units remained at Nancy until August 1944.

In the spring of 1944 as a result of the German reduction Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG-26) was moved to Nancy. The Luftwaffe continued as a defensive base because the defensive units were pushed back by the allied advance. JG-26 was equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf-109G which flew in the role of day interceptor and fighter. The aircraft attacked from Nancy the US Eighth Air Force heavy bombers. These bombers

were used against targets in occupied Europe and Germany. The interceptors stayed here until June 1944. After the departure the unit was replaced by Kampfgeschwader 53 (KG-53). This bomber unit came from the Eastern Front and flew with the Heinkel He-111. The unit used the bombers to launch the V-1 flying bomb from the air. The Heinkels took off with the V-1 in the bomb bay and launched the bombs from high altitude. KG-53 remained based at Nancy until September 1944 when the Luftwaffe was defeated at the airbase by the advancing Third Army of the United States. The Germans were pushed back to the east in the direction of Saarland. Nancy Air Base was liberated by Allied ground forces on August 20, 1944. The USAAF IX Engineering Command and the 826th Engineer Aviation Battalions immediately began clearing aircraft which were destroyed and removed several landmines which were placed on and around the airbase. Nancy was immediately ready for use by the Americans. Under American control, Nancy-Ochey was transferred to the Ninth Air Force and the 50th Fighter Group which was moved to the repaired airbase on November 3, 1945. Three squadrons of P-47 Thunderbolts flew missions from this airport until April 1945.

At the end of the war in Europe in May 1945 the airfield became a central collection point for captured German aircraft as part of Operation Lusty. Several Luftwaffe aircraft with both propeller and jet engines were flown to Nancy-Ochey. After storage at Nancy aircraft were flown to airfields near Cherbourg where they were loaded on ships and sent to the United States. After Operation Lusty in the fall of 1945, the Americans began to withdraw their aircraft and personnel. Control of the airbase was transferred to the French authorities on November 5, 1945. During the first years of the Cold War, Nancy-Ochey was assigned by the French government to the United States Air Force. The airfield would serve as NATO Dispersed Operating Base and warplanes were stationed in France in the 50s and 60s. Under French control after the war, Nancy-Ochey Air Base was completely rebuilt. The wartime concrete east-west (25/07) runway was severely damaged by the war and was removed. As a replacement a modern north-south runway (19-01) was built for modern combat aircraft. There were three circular taxiway systems been built and next to them where shelters placed. There were two areas been built on the north side of the airbase and one on the south side. Each shelter camp consisted of 15 to 18 shelters and a large hangar per camp.

From 1966 Nancy was again a French airbase and the Escadron Chasse 3 was stationed at the airbase. The unit came from BA139 Lahr Air Base and flew at the moment that the unit came to Nancy with the F-100 Super Sabre. The unit will be in addition to the conventional tasks also be assigned to the nuclear mission. The Dassault Mirage IIIE entered service at the unit in order to perform these tasks at the end of 1966. Escadron de Chasse 3 consists of three units, namely; EC 1/3 "Navarre", EC 2/3 "Champagne" and EC 3/3 "Ardennes". EC 1/3 and EC 2/3 were equipped with Mirage IIIE. EC 3/3 was later established on June 1, 1974. The unit was equipped with 16 Mirage 5J aircraft which could not be delivered to Israel due to an embargo. Since 1976, the unit was equipped with the Jaguar. On October 25, the first aircraft arrived. The unit would be mainly concerned with flying anti-radar missions. The Jaguars were equipped with the Anglo-French AS-37 Martel missile for this task. From 1987, EC 3/3 would fly the Mirage IIIE like the other two units of the wing. EC 1/3 made its last flight with the Mirage IIIE in March 1993. The aircraft was replaced by the modern Mirage 2000D. This variant of the Mirage is the offensive variant of the type. The Mirages would be used for various conventional offensive tasks. Eventually, all three units at Nancy were equipped with the Mirage 2000. Today, the unit still flies with these Mirages. Nancy is the only airbase in France flying with the Mirage 2000D.

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