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The 100th Anniversary of the no 1 Squadron; Florennes, June 15, 2017

Tactical Weapons Meet 2017, part 2; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

In the period from June 5 until June 16 2017, the Tactical Weapons Meet 2017 took place at the Belgian air base Florennes. This exercise was organized by the Belgian no 1 Squadron. During the exercise also a spotter day was organized. The spotters were able to photograph the participants of the exercise during this day.

The spotter day was organized around the exercise to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the no 1 Squadron. The spotter day would take place on Thursday June 15, just before the end of the Tactical Weapons Meet 2017 (TWM2017). In total, more than 1000 aircraft spotters appeared very early in front of the gates of Florennes. The plane spotters were placed at Florennes in an area along the runway at the spot next to the taxi track. In addition to the participants of the exercise, also some other foreign aircraft were flown to Florennes. The no 1 Squadron celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The unit is known for its Scottish thistle which is also known as the Blackbird. Especially for this occasion, the no 1 Squadron has completely painted an F-16 into the colors of the unit. The Belgian Air Force has the tradition to paint an aircraft in the colors of the unit to celebrate each lustrum. For this occasion an F-16 was painted in the black and yellow colors of the no 1 Squadron. The designer Didier Wolff was asked to design a special color scheme for an F-16 during the Blackbird project. In the past, Didier Wolff has created some beautifully painted Mirages and Rafales in France. The FA-132 was available for this project. The aircraft went to Charleroi to the painting hall and was eventually presented on May 11, 2017. After its first flight which was performed by the squadron commander, the Blackbird landed for the first time at Florennes. The FA-132 also flew missions during the TWM2017 and flew extensively along the photographers during the spotter day. The aircraft was completely painted in the colors of the no 1 Squadron and on the tail is the Scotch thistle visible.

The spotter day was obviously great for the photographers which were present. However, the Tactical Weapons Meet 2017 is a very serious exercise for the participating pilots. In addition to the Belgians, several other European units would also participate in this exercise. The Belgian participation in the Tactical Weapons Meet 2017 consisted of four F-16s. Of these participants were two aircraft from Florennes of

the 2 Wing and two F-16s were from the 10 Wing from Kleine-Brogel. Great-Brittan took part in the exercise with two pitch black Hawk T1s. These aircraft are from RAF Leeming where they fly at the no 100 Squadron. This British squadron is specialized in fulfilling the aggressor role during different exercises. The Italians sent two EF2000 Eurofighters to Florennes for the TWM2017. The Eurofighters are from the 4° Stormo which is based at Grosseto. The Spaniards also participated in the exercise with Eurofighters. The Spanish Air Force came with three planes from Sevilla/Morón where they are assigned to Ala 11. Poland brought three MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter aircraft from Minsk-Masowiecki to Florennes. The MiGs are assigned to the 1. Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (1.elt). The Greeks would fly with two F-4E Phantom IIs. These special aircraft are from Andravída where they are assigned to 117 PM.

When pilots participate in exercises like the TWM2017, it is important to know how far the participants are with their skill levels. There are a total of five qualification levels for operational pilots which indicate the level of the skills of the pilot. When a pilot is flying on a fighter plane, he starts after his basic training as a Level I pilot. This means that the pilot can only fly the plane and he knows the basic procedures. The pilot has not yet undergone a tactical training. When the pilot is Level II, he is combat ready and he can act as a wingman in a scenario. The Level II pilot has completed its full Mission Qualification Training Syllabus. The pilot which is Level III qualified is going to take leadership in a scenario for the first time. A Level III pilot is able to act as a 2 Ship Flight Lead. The pilot has the knowledge to lead basic actions, because in the Level III training the focus is primarily on leadership. This means that the pilot is mainly involved in briefings and de-briefings. The next step is the Level IV pilot. A Level IV pilot is able to lead a 4 Ship formation in a scenario. Level IV is more extensive than Level III, but the pilot is still not a Mission Commander. An intermediate level is Level IVi. This role is the closest to a flight instructor on an aircraft type. The Level IVi pilot can also train other pilots in addition to leading a 4 Ship. The highest level is Level V. A Level V is a highly experienced pilot who is fully qualified. In the United States, the Level V is at the Navy referred to as a Top Gun pilot. In Europe, a Level V pilot is referred to as a Fighter Weapon Instructor Course qualified pilot.

The Tactical Weapons Meet 2017 which is organized by the 1 Squadron of the 2 Wing is a small-scale exercise. This exercise is mainly aimed at the training of young pilots. For the latest F-16 pilots of the Belgian Air Force and its partners, the TWM2017 is an ideal way to qualify these pilots as a Level III pilot. The training focuses on 2 Ship leadership in which the pilot will act as flight leader of the formation. During the training, the pilots will also learn in an international context what the capabilities and limitations of each other's aircraft are. In addition to the qualifications, many young pilots will also train for the first time in NATO cooperation. For the most pilots, the TWM2017 is the first training where they fly against aircraft which are from another type than their own planes. The aircraft which participate will therefore always leave in pairs during the missions. The different formations of two planes will meet each other in an air to air confrontation. Next to the training of air dominancy, the formations are also used to simulate attacks on ground targets. Showing leadership during the scenario is the main objective here. In the past, this kind of trainings for this young group was mostly completed within the own squadrons. However, training such as the TWM2017 is intended to be continued in the future, because training in this international collaboration is very effective for young pilots. This time, the no 1 Squadron did the organization, but it is the intention that someone else will organize the exercise next year.

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