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The Storage of Châteaudun; Châteaudun, May 11, 2003

Visiting a Meeting National; Text and Photogaph's by Alex van Noye

Châteaudun is the largest aircraft storage of the French Air Force in France. A large part of the French aircraft is in storage until they are used for a different purpose. The logistics center is supported by the Air Force Escadron de Convoyage 00.070 which is equipped with the TBM-700 for several light transport duties.

The French airbase Châteaudun is located in the center of France about 30 kilometers northwest of the city of Orleans. Châteaudun is referred to as the French Air Force Base Arienne 279 (BA279). The base is at this moment used for the storage of aircraft of the French Air Force. In addition to the storage also several aircraft are redistributed over France via Châteaudun to the operational units in the country. Châteaudun is therefore the distribution center of operational aircraft in the French Air Force. The unit EAA.601 has the task to perform these logistical operations. Most aircraft which are stored at this base are aircraft which has been withdrawn from service. These planes are waiting for a potential buyer and in the worst case they will be scrapped. There are also a lot of planes which are going into the temporary storage. Due to budget cuts there are still a lot of planes in France which are in this storage. Many aircraft are still in a good condition and they are switched in a rotation system. After a while in storage, the aircraft are sent to the operational units again and are exchanged with aircraft of the same type; the returning aircraft will enter the storage. The aircraft which are for sale or which will return to operational units will be stored in special cocoons to protect the aircraft against the elements. These aircraft are often stored inside the buildings at Châteaudun. The aircraft which are written off and wait for the scrap machine are often parked outside on the wide open fields of the airbase.

The French airbase Châteaudun was founded by the French government in 1934. The airbase was founded to place aircraft of the French Air Force in storage. The airfield is therefore designed as a huge storage facility. At the beginning of the Second World War there were 634 aircraft in storage at this airbase. Châteaudun was therefore an important base for the German troops. The complex of Châteaudun became soon a high priority target for the German Luftwaffe. During the Battle of France, the Germans had bombed the complex heavily and they destroyed many stored aircraft. On June

14, 1940, the Germans took over the airport and found a deserted airbase. The runway of the airbase was improved for the German planes which were going to operate from this base. Châteaudun would be an important airbase for the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. The first units which arrived, were; Jagdgeschwader 21 (JG-21) and Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG-54) on June 20, 1940; both units were equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf-109E. The following units were stationed Châteaudun; Lehrge- schwader 1 (LG-1) from June 25, 1940, with the Junkers Ju-88A, Kampfgeschwader 76 (KG-76) from February 6, 1941, with the Junkers Ju-88A, Kampfgeschwader 40 (KG-40) from December 19, 1943, with the Heinkel He-177, Kampfgeschwader 100 (KG-100) from January 21, 1944, with the Heinkel He-177A-7, Nachtjagdgeschwader 2 (NJG-2) from July 2, 1944, with Junkers Ju-88C/G and Kampfgeschwader 51 (KG-51) from July 20, 1944, with the Messerschmitt Me-262A2A.

JG-21 and JG-54 flew escort missions during the Battle of Britain. The Junkers 88 and Heinkel 111 units were the German bomber units which performed bombings over England. The Ju-88 night fighters were deployed to attack RAF bombers during the night hours. The Messerschmitt Me-262 arrived later in the war and was widely used during the day missions to take down U.S. bombers. Châteaudun airbase became a primary target for the U.S. 9th Air Force by the presence of the Me-262. The American B-26 Maurader bombers and P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bombers often attacked the airbase with 500 pound bombs and rocket pods. It was known the Me-262 could not make it because jet fighters were at that time a new concept. Many attacks on Châteaudun were done at the moments on which the Me-262 could not fly. Château- dun was heavily bombed during the period between 1943 and 1944. Eventually, the airport was taken by the Americans on August 20, 1944, during the northern French campaign. The American 9th Air Force was going to use the airport right away. The 422nd Night Fighter Squadron was flown in and was equipped with the P-61 Black Widow; the unit flew many missions from Châteaudun. Also, several B-26 Maurader units used the airbase. The last American unit which used the airfield was the 10th Reconnaissance Group. After the departure of the unit there was much American activity at Châteaudun.

The Americans gave the control over Châteaudun back to the French government in September 1945. Craters of the heavy bombing are today still visible on the airfield as a memento of the fierce battle that raged here. The old runway 05/23 is still present on the base, but is no longer in use. From 1946, the repair work was started at Châteaudun. LR.601 was stationed at the airbase and the storage of the French aircraft would be resumed again. Châteaudun became immediately the storage facility like in the previous days of the French Air Force. In 1951, the repairs were complete and the airfield was again fully operational. The name Base Arienne 279 was linked to the airbase in 1954. On June 3, 1967, there were 50 Mirage 5J aircraft stored at Châteaudun as a result of an arms embargo against Israel. This action was the result of tensions before the Six Day War. The ordered aircraft were ultimately never delivered to Israel. The aircraft were eventually bought by the French Air Force in 1971 and entered service at the AdlA. Today there are hundreds of planes in storage at Châteaudun. The French Jaguars from Saint-Dizier airbase are arriving at Châteaudun at this moment. The Jaguars will be replaced by the Dassault Rafale in the coming years. The only operational unit which is stationed at Châteaudun at this moment is Escadron the Convoyage 00.070 (EAA00.070). This unit is equipped with the TBM-700 which is used to fly the pilots who deliver the storage aircraft back to their own airfields. Châteaudun is the largest distribution center of aircraft in France.

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