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Tactical Training With the Alpha-Jet; Cazaux, May 31, 2010

Le Tour de France 2010 Part 3; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

After a successful day at Dax, today on May 31, a visit to Cazaux was on the program. Cazaux is the home base of the French and Belgian Alpha-Jet fleet for the final phase of the pilots training. The pilots are in Phase IV of their pilot training and they learn how to handle weapon systems at this location.

Cazaux air base, which is denoted as Base Arien 120 (BA120) in France, has the honor name Commandant Marzac. The base is located in La Teste-de-Buch in Gironde which is located fifty miles west of Bordeaux. The base is mainly used for: the training of French and Belgian fighter pilots, the training of firefighters and the testing of ammunition. Cazaux is equipped with a NATO standard runway with a length of 2400 meters together with the associated facilities. The main unit at the base is the French-Belgian fighter pilot training wing which is equipped with the Alpha-Jet. Belgium and France both decided in 2000 to start cooperation when it comes to the training of fighter pilots. For this, the 28 Belgian Alpha-Jets were moved to France in November 2003. They formed together with the French the AJeTS (Advanced Jet Training School). The AJeTS is the international collaboration between Belgium and France and is based at Cazaux and Tours in France. The fire fighter training center was founded in 2005 and it is one of the most modern in Europe. It is therefore a primary school for fire fighters and it is used by several French military departments, but also by several other nations. Daily there are about 2600 military and civilian employees at work at this base.

There are a few units based at Cazaux with very different tasks. The largest unit is ETO00.008. This unit is divided into two units; both of them fly the Alpha-Jet. The first unit is ETO01.008, nicknamed "Saintonge". This unit is flying the Alpha Jet E and is based at Cazaux since 1964. This unit is used for training the future French fighter pilots. The second unit at Cazaux is ETO02.008, nicknamed "Nice". This unit also flies the Alpha-Jet and it has also been since 1964 at Cazaux. The Belgian Alpha-Jets of the Beauvechain training Wing are part of this unit since 2003. This unit provides the final stage of the Belgian fighter pilot training. The third unit at Cazaux is EH01.067, nicknamed "Pyrenees". This SAR unit is equipped with the AS330 Puma and EC725

Carancal. The unit is based at Cazaux since 1972. The fourth unit at Cazaux is no 150 Squadron of the Singaporean Air Force. This unit is based at Cazaux since 1998 and they fly with the A-4 Skyhawk. This unit provides training for the Singaporean pilots who will fly the F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon in the future. The F-15E is recently purchased by the Singaporeans and the first pilots are already in training to fly this type. The fifth and last flying unit at Cazaux is the CEV. This unit has different types in service which are used for experimental test flights. The CEV is responsible for testing new weapon systems and for studying new tactics for the French Air Force. Besides all the flying units, Cazaux also contains the experimental aerial photo service of the French artillery, an aircraft maintenance school and a part of the Aviation department of the Gendarmerie.

At 8 AM I had to report myself at the main gate of the French Cazaux. The guidance for today consisted of a Belgian and a French Alpha-Jet pilot and a member of the public relations agency. We entered the base after a brief introduction and we went to the squadron building of the Belgian unit. Once we arrived here, we got a short presentation about Cazaux and its functions. After the presentation we were brought to the Belgian flightline. There were eight Belgian Alpha-Jets in line on the platform. We were allowed to take pictures of these small aircraft. Also in the hangars were some Alpha-Jets. Also these Alpha-jets were captured on photo and therefore the number of noted Belgian Alpha-Jets increased rapidly. The first Alpha-Jets started up and I was able to catch them on photo under good conditions. After the departure of the first series of Alpha-Jets, we were positioned on top of the blast walls behind the flightline. There was a taxi track behind the blast wall which was used by the traffic which had just landed. Unfortunately, today we would not see any Singaporean Skyhawk, because they had decided to cancel their flights because of the gray weather. This was a very big disappointment, because I came to Cazaux for these planes. As compensation we got a large number of Super Etendards of the French Navy which came in at Cazaux for a shooting course.

The Belgians were flying very well with the Alpha-Jet in the meanwhile. The French started to fly with this device after a few hours. Cazaux is the only base in France where you can see armed Alpha-Jets; this was a very nice item during this visit. The first two Etendards arrived halfway the morning for the shooting course. Both aircraft were heavily loaded with tanks and weapons for the shooting course. It was quite extraordinary to see that much armed Etendards at the same time. Also a Falcon 20 of the French Navy landed right behind the pair of Etendards. This aircraft was the support for the Navy delegation. The Alpha-Jet flew many sorties in the meanwhile and I was never bored because of this. The most extraordinary Alpha-Jet was the one of the CEV which came in for landing. This test unit at Cazaux has just a few planes and the Alpha-Jet of the unit flew without markings. It was the first time for me that I saw an Alpha-Jet from this unit. The French usually don’t say anything about the CEV, like e.g. flight times and destinations of the aircraft from this unit. This Alpha-Jet was therefore a nice bonus on photo. There was a little bit of sunshine at the end of the afternoon. I was at that moment at the Belgian flightline, and I was able to shoot some beautiful photos of these Alpha-Jets. The remaining four Etendards appeared at the horizon just before we wanted to leave. This was a great end for this visit. These Etendards were equipped with various weapon systems and electronics. This brought me the best photos of the day. Our visit to Cazaux was over when the four aircraft had landed. It was a nice visit at Cazaux with a wide variety of aircraft. The only blemish at this day was the canceled flight of the Singaporeans.

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