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The F-16s of the 10 Wing; Kleine-Brogel, April 30, 2006

The Belgian Air Component; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

At the Belgian air base Kleine-Brogel are currently three F-16 squadrons stationed. The first two units have an operational role and the third unit has a training mission. The Squadrons at Kleine-Brogel, are; the no 31 Squadron, the no 349 Squadron and the OCU. The no 23 Squadron was disbanded on March 8, 2002.

Kleine-Brogel Air Base was set up by the Allies in 1945. The initial task was to support the Rhine Operations. From 1951, this area was expanded by the Belgian Air Force. The 10 Wing was founded in December 1951, in Chièvres and consisted of three squadrons, namely; the no 23 Squadron, the no 27 Squadron and the no 31 Squadron. The 10 Wing started the conversion to the F-84G Thunderjet in 1952 and moved to Kleine-Brogel in 1953. In 1956, the wing was equipped with the transonic F-84F Thunder Streak. The no 27 Squadron was disbanded in 1962. The F-104G Starfighter was introduced at Kleine-Brogel in 1964. All structures and practices of the Wing were at that moment adapted for this aircraft. The F-104G was gradually replaced by the F-16 Fighting Falcon from 1981 and the installations of the base were changed again. The new squadrons were moved to Kleine-Brogel after the disbandment of the 1 Wing at Beauvechain in 1996. The no 349 Squadron brought the air to air role with them and Kleine-Brogel received the 24 hours QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) task. Besides the QRA role, the no 349 Squadron also has a role in the framework of the NATO Response Force (NRF). The wing must be able to move 12 aircraft in a very short moment to any place in the world. The OCU (Operational Conversion Unit), which was founded in 1987 at Beauvechain, moved at the same time to Kleine-Brogel. This Squadron is responsible for the training of pilots who successfully completed the Initial Operational Training on the Alpha-Jet. The unit also educates pilots from other types to the F-16. The no 23 Squadron, nicknamed Devils, was disbanded on March 8, 2002.

The first squadron of the three units at Kleine-Brogel is the no 31 Squadron. This unit is also known in Belgium as the no 31 Tiger Squadron. The no 31 Squadron was formed on October 1, 1951 at Beauvechain. The squadron moved to Chièvres and in

the same year it became a part of the 10 Wing. The no 31 Squadron flew about 150 missions with the Spitfire XIV. This type was phased out on July 7, 1952. The unit had no planes left at that moment. The pilots were assigned to the no 23 and no 27 Squadron. The no 31 Squadron received a new task on September 1, 1953. The unit was assigned with a training task with the Lockheed T-33. The F-84G Thunderjet was also introduced at that time. The unit stopped using the T-33 in 1955. The Thunderjet was replaced by the F-84F Thunderstreak one year later in 1956. In seven years, the pilots flew over 37,000 hours on the Thunderstreak. The no 31 Squadron participated for the first time at the Tiger Meet on July 19, 1961. This is a meeting of several NATO units with a tiger in the squadron badge. The first Tiger Meet was held at RAF Woodbridge in Great-Britain. This meeting is not a formal exercise, but it had a big value as it was an operational exercise between different NATO units. The emblem of the no 31 Squadron is a tiger and the motto is "In Sanguine Vinum". This motto means “Determination is in our blood”. The unit received its first Lockheed F-104G Starfighter on March 9, 1964. The no 31 Squadron would fly this aircraft until 1983. The first F-16 was delivered to the no 31 Squadron on September 26, 1983.

The second squadron at Kleine-Brogel is the no 349 Squadron. The 349th Squadron was established as part of the Royal Air Force in November 1942, at RAF Padgate in Great-Britain. The unit was composed of Belgian pilots who had fled the German occupation. The no 349 Squadron returned to the UK where it participated in defensive and offensive operations for the liberation of France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In 1945, the no 349 Squadron took part in the campaign over Germany. In October 1946, the no 349 Squadron moved to Beauvechain where it became part of the 1 Wing. In 1949, the no 349 Squadron became the first operational squadron with the Meteor 4. The Meteor 4 was replaced by the Meteor 8 in April 1953 and the Hawker Hunter entered service in 1957. The first pilots left to Nörvenich to undergo their conversion to the F-104G Starfighter in the summer of 1963. On August 1, 1964, the no 349 Squadron became operational on the F-104G. A new era started with the arrival of the F-16 Fighting Falcon on October 1, 1979. The conversion of the F-104G to the F-16 went quickly and the no 349 Squadron was the first operational F-16 unit within the NATO on January 7, 1981. The no 349 Squadron finally left its home Beauvechain when it moved to the 10 Wing at Kleine-Brogel in 1996. The squadron emblem consists of two gooddays with the motto "Strike Hard Strike Home".

The third and final unit at Kleine-Brogel is the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU). The OCU was established on September 1, 1987 at Beauvechain. The unit is also responsible for the education of the future air defense pilots. The entire F-16 conversion for all pilots of the Belgian Air Force was centralized in the OCU since the temporary introduction of the CIP (Conversion Improvement Program) in November 1993. The OCU moved to Kleine-Brogel where it became part of the 10 Wing on March 4, 1996. Beauvechain was closed as an F-16 base at that date. The OCU provides the training according to a standardized cycle. The training consists of; academic training, more than 40 OFT (Operational Flight Trainer) hours and about 100 flights with the F-16. Besides training on the F-16 the OCU provides the conversion of F-16 pilots to other jobs and other staff. The OCU will also train the young pilots who came back after their F-16 training in Tucson Arizona within the European regulations. This so-called "Theatre Conversion" is necessary because the skies above Europe are very busy. The unit flies mostly the F-16B to perform this training. The OCU is composed out of eight instructors and eight support staff instructors. The emblem of the unit is a vulture and was acquired from the former Fighter Training School at Koksijde on September 1, 1987. The vulture represents the inquisitiveness of the students.

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