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Jagdgeschwader 74; Neuburg, June 20, 2007

Die Deutschland-Tour 2007: Teil 4; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

On Wednesday, 20 June, I went to Neuburg. There are still some Phantoms at Neuburg and they are at this moment assigned to Jagdgeschwader 74. Neuburg is the second base which is going to operate with the Eurofighter Typhoon; Laage is the other base. The first Eurofighters have entered service already at Neuburg.

Jagdgeschwader 74 (JG-74) is one of the four German air defense units. The unit is responsible for the air defense of the southern part of Germany. The other three units are; JG-71 at Wittmundhafen, JG-72 at Hopsten (this unit is now disbanded) and JG-73 at Laage. JG-74 consists of two Squadrons, namely; 741 Staffel, "Falken” (falcons) and 742 Staffel, "Viva Zapata". JG-74 was the last activated West German Fighter Wing; it was activated on May 5, 1961. The unit was equipped with the F-86K Sabre interceptor and was based at Leipheim. The unit moved to Neuburg an der Donau when this base opened its doors. JG-74 started to use the F-104G Starfighter in 1964. The Starfighter was a difficult aircraft for the pilots of the Luftwaffe; 292 aircraft crashed out of the 916 and 116 pilots were killed. The F-104G Starfighter was replaced by the F-4F Phantom II in 1974. The F-4F was a downgraded version of the F-4E. The F-4F was unlike the F-4E not equipped with the AIM-7 Sparrow missile. Germany was not in the possession of such weapons because of World War II until the country became a sovereign state in 1990. The F-4F was updated in 1990 to the F-4F ICE. This version of the Phantom was able to carry the modern AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. The German pilots called the Phantom "Diesel Defense" because of the long plumes of black smoke which was exhausted by the J79 engines.

More than 32 years after the crash and death of the German Ace Werner Molders during World War II, JG-74 was nicknamed “Molders” on November 22, 1973. The German Military History Institute examined the behavior of Molders and concluded that he never turned against the Nazi regime. Therefore the name "Molders" was no longer applicable to JG-74 from June 11, 2005. Werner Molders (March 18, 1913 to November 22, 1941) was a pilot during World War II within the German Luftwaffe. He also was an important Ace during the Spanish Civil War. Molders became the first pilot in aviation history who claimed 100 victories during air to air combat. He was a pioneer in the development of new combat tactics which leaded to the finger-four

formation. He died in a plane crash as a passenger. Molders had a job interview at the Luftwaffe in 1934 when he was 21 years old. In 1938, he volunteered to serve in the Condor Legion. This Legion fought on the side of the nationalistic General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. During this period, he shot down 15 enemy planes. In World War II he fought during the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain. He shot down 53 enemy planes during combat. With 68 victories on his name, he was transferred to the Eastern Front with his unit JG-51 in June 1941. At the end of the month he had broken the record of 80 victories of Manfred von Richthofen during World War I. In July, he had over 100 victories on his name. In November 1941 he crashed with a Heinkel He-111 during a thunderstorm. He lost his life.

A visit to Neuburg was on the program in the afternoon after a successful morning at Manching. The last operational Phantoms of JG-74 are currently based at Neuburg. The first Eurofighters had already made their appearance here. Again the weather was great, just like this morning. Visiting Neuburg was a visit with many Phantoms. That was more than welcome. I came to Neuburg to see as many Phantoms as possible. When I arrived, it was still quiet at Neuburg, but that would not last long. The first engines were started in the QRA shelter camp within 30 minutes. Two Phantoms were launched. The afternoon mission consisted of eight Phantoms and two Eurofighters. After a few minutes both Phantoms taxied out of the QRA area. They taxied quickly to the runway and went airborne immediately with full afterburner. It seemed that the two aircraft had a QRA exercise. Both Phantoms were also armed with live weapons; they carried two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles each. The Phantoms made a track behind the aircraft with the characteristic black smoke. It did not take long before more engines were started at Neuburg. This time the sound came from the operational shelter camp of JG-74. Six more Phantoms started their engines for another mission. A few minutes after start-up two Phantoms appeared at the runway. This brought me a few typical Phantom shots. Another four aircraft left after the departure of these two Phantoms. Also these aircraft taxied to me via the taxi track.

The Phantoms were about fifteen minutes away when more engines were started at Neuburg. This time it were two Eurofighters from JG-74. These aircraft were brand new from factory; they were only two months based at Neuburg. The Eurofighters taxied towards me via the same taxi track. The light was just getting worse because the sun was rotating in the wrong direction at this location. The light was already at the border of being good during the departure of the Phantoms. It became silent for a period of approximately thirty minutes after the take-off of these two Eurofighters. The two QRA Phantoms were the first aircraft to return. Both aircraft flew in formation over the field before they both went into the break for landing. The incoming light on the Phantoms was very favorable. A number of Phantoms that came in wore the badge of JG-71 which is identified by a red R on the inlet. I decided to walk a bit further into the meadow to get better photos of the landing of the Phantoms. So I walked away from the field. I was able to photograph the Phantoms when they turned in for landing. The planes were lying on their sides with their gear lowered. This produced some spectacular landing pictures. A number of aircraft made a touch and go; I had the opportunity to take multiple landing shots of the aircraft. This was good for the quality of the photos. The last two aircraft that returned to Neuburg were the two JG-74 Eurofighters. Both aircraft made a few touch and goes as well; I also took decent photos of the Eurofighters. At the end of the afternoon I concluded that I had a successful day at Manching and Neuburg. I had the chance to take pictures of the last Phantoms at Neuburg, and I am very happy with it.

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