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The Tactical Helicopter Group; Gilze-Rijen, June 15-20, 2005

The Luchtmacht Open Dagen 2005, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Tactical Helicopter Group of the Royal Netherlands Air Force is the organization which contains all Dutch helicopter units. The THG-KLu is divided over 2 airfields, namely; Gilze-Rijen Air Base and Soesterberg Air Base. The attack helicopters are based at Gilze-Rijen and the transport helicopters are based at Soesterberg.

The history of the Tactische Helikopter Groep Koninklijke Luchtmacht (THG-KLu) (Tactical Helicopter Group Netherlands Air Force) goes back to the 50s when the Groep Lichte Vliegtuigen (GPLV) (Light Aircraft Group) was founded. The planes which were used were aircraft, such as; the Auster, the Piper Super Cub and the Beaver. All these aircraft were in service of the Royal Army (KL). The GPLV performed air observations as part of the artillery units of the army. The crews of the aircraft consisted of the air force pilots and observers of the army. The first helicopters entered service in the Netherlands in 1955. The first batch of 36 Hiller OH-23B Ravens entered service on June 8, 1955. These helicopters were assigned to the no 298, the no 299 and the no 300 Squadron at Ypenburg Air Base and Deelen Air Base. The Hiller was replaced by the French Sud Aviation SE3160 Allouette III from 1965. A total of 77 Allouette III helicopters were purchased by the Dutch Air Force. Five helicopters from this series were reserved for the SAR Flight. In 1975, the Piper Super Cub was replaced by the MBB Bo-105C Bölkow. There were a total of 30 Bölkows purchased which would act as light reconnaissance helicopters. The GPLV consisted only of helicopters from that moment. The name GPLV was therefore replaced by the name Group Helicopters (GPH) in the 80s. The helicopters in use were the Allouette III and the Bölkow. Also, the GPH became a full worthy department within the Air Force instead of a shared component within the Royal Netherlands Army.

The GPH was composed of 3 operational squadrons and 2 inactive squadrons. The no 298 Squadron was the only operational squadron which was stationed at Soesterberg Air Base. The unit was operational with 24 Allouette III helicopters. The no 299 Squadron was stationed at Deelen Air Base. This unit was only equipped with the Bo-105C Bölkow. The squadron used 24 Bölkow helicopters at that time. The last operational unit is the no 300 Squadron. Also this unit was stationed at Deelen Air

Base. This unit had 18 Allouette III helicopters in service. The no 301 Squadron was a unit which only existed on paper. The unit had no active helicopters in its orbat. The no 302 Squadron was a reserve squadron which only existed in wartime. The no 302 Squadron had 18 Allouette III helicopters which were used by the reserves to practice in peacetime. All the ageing helicopters were replaced from 1995 by a new generation of heavy helicopters. The no 298 Squadron exchanged the Allouette III for the heavy CH-47D Chinook; the unit received 13 Chinooks. Also the no 300 Squadron changed its Allouette III helicopters for a newer type. This unit received the medium weight AS-532U2 Cougar. This unit received a total of 17 Cougars. Four Allouette III helicopters stayed in active service at the no 300 Squadron; the helicopters are still in use for VIP transport and aerial photography. The 2 reserve squadrons were both activated as operational squadrons. The no 301 Squadron received the AH-64A Apache in 1995. The no 302 Squadron was in 1998 the first squadron which received the AH-64D Apache. The Air Force ordered a total of 30 Apache helicopters. The name of the helicopter department of the air force was changed to Group Helicopters. Soon, the new collective name of the helicopter squadrons became the Tactische Helikopter Groep Koninklijke Luchtmacht (THG-KLu). The no 299 Squadron continued flying with the Bo-105 until 2003; the unit was disbanded at that moment.

The Open Dagen of the air force started this year for me on Wednesday, June 15, 2005. Gilze-Rijen was the airbase which organized this year’s airshow. This is always a special event to me, because I consider Gilze-Rijen as my home base. The arrival of the Turkish Phantoms was planned on Wednesday. I remembered that this was 3 years ago a special event. The day started pretty blue and the weather looked good. This lasted unfortunately no longer than the morning hours. The first clouds appeared at the end of the morning. Gilze-Rijen was covered under a layer of clouds within a few hours. There were no arrivals for the airshow planned in the morning hours. The official arrivals’ day was scheduled for tomorrow. There was much activity of PC-7s from Woensdrecht Air Base in the morning hours. Three PC-7s made several touch and go’s at Gilze-Rijen before noon. At noon there was an exercise planned for the Airpower Demo. The traditional exercise began with a base attack by several F-16s. It was unfortunately difficult to catch them on photo. The helicopter demo was easy to catch. It was not difficult to catch a number of banking helicopters on photo.

There was a moment of silence at the airbase after the exercise of the Airpower Demo. The first plane which came in at the airbase entered the circuit at 1.30 pm. The aircraft in question was a British Nimrod. Unfortunately, the runway direction was changed and the aircraft came in via the other side over Molenschot. The Turkish Phantoms reported themselves at the control tower shortly after the landing of the Nimrod. It became a very exciting moment, because they had to taxi out until the far end of the runway. Fortunately, both aircraft taxied all the way through to the end of the runway. It soon became clear that the Phantoms were not ordinary Phantoms, but Recce Phantoms. Both aircraft dropped their parachutes next to the runway at the head of the runway 28. The biggest surprise of the Open Dagen came in at the end of the afternoon. Suddenly, an Egyptian Hercules entered the landing. It was not clear to me why this aircraft came in, because it is a very extraordinary aircraft on a Dutch airshow. I heard that the Hercules brought a Gomhouria for the static display. I was very curious about this plane, because I had never heard of it before. The landing of this Hercules was the last event at the base for today. Tomorrow I will return for the arrivals’ day for the Open Dagen of the Dutch Air Force. I hope the weather will be better during the arrivals of the aircraft.

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