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The Year 2004

The year 2004 was rather a good year with a few excellent visits. Ramstein Air Base in the south- western part of Germany was visited in May. It is very easy to see many movements in a day at this base. After several days at Ramstein Air Base, I drove to Lechfeld to witness the annual ELITE exercise. This excursive would be my last opportunity to see the Swedish Saab Viggen in opera- tional service. The RIAT at RAF Fairford was this year a fantastic airshow with many extraordinary visitors. The F-117 Stealth Fighter of the USAF was the highlight during this event. The last trip of the year was a visit to the Swiss Air Force at Payerne. The year 2004 was another successful year.


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Gilze-Rijen, Runway 28

Gilze-Rijen Air Base in 2004; Gilze-Rijen, 2004

In 2004, I went only 1 time to Gilze-Rijen Air Base. An Antonov 124 should arrive at the airbase on April 29. This Antonov arrived to exchange some Apaches for the detachment in Afghanistan. This very large aircraft came in via the Runway 10. The aircraft taxied completely to the end of the runway. Two A-10 Thunderbolts appeared over the base shortly after the landing of the Antonov. These aircraft performed several practice attacks on the airbase. This is very special, because it was the first time I saw the A-10 Thunderbolt at Gilze-Rijen Air Base.

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The Lockheed C-130 Hercules

The Workhorse of the USAF; Ramstein AB, May 1 – 5, 2004

The C-130 Hercules is the workhorse of the United States Air Force in airlift operations. The C-130 Hercules plays an important role in Europe at the 37th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The Hercules has been in active duty for more than 50 years already within the USAF. The aircraft stay in service for the next decades. The Lock- heed C-130 Hercules is a 4 engine turboprop which was designed and built by Lockheed for use as a military transport aircraft. The aircraft is able to take off from short runways and unprepared strips.

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The Lockheed C-141 Starlifter

The End of the Starlifter Era; Ramstein AB, May 1 – 5, 2004

Next to the C-130, also the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter is an aircraft which is often seen at Ramstein Air Base. The Starlifter was designed from the beginning of the 60s. The aircraft is now operational in the last days of its career. Eventually all Starlifters will be replaced by the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. The Lockheed C-141 Starlifter is a mili- tary strategic cargo aircraft in service with the Air Mobility Command (AMC) of the United States Air Force (USAF). In total, the USAF recei- ved 285 Lockheed C-141 Starlifters from 1965 until 1968.

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Electronic Warfare Live Training Exercise

International Exercise ELITE 2004; Lechfeld, May 3, 2004

The exercise ELITE 2004 took place in the southern region of Germa- ny from Monday, May 3, 2004, until Thursday, May 13, 2004. The Live Fly- ing exercise took place in the region of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg. The fighters from the NATO members who participated in the exercise flew from Lechfeld, near Augsburg. The exercise ELITE is a complex Electronic Warfare training. The abbreviation ELITE stands for Electronic Warfare Live Training Exercise. Various weapons of the NATO partners are frequently used during the exercise.

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Luchtmacht Open Dagen 2004

25 Years F-16 RNLAF, Part I; Volkel, June 19, 2004

The Open House of the Royal Netherlands Air Force was on the pro- gram again on Friday, June 18, 2004 and Saturday, June 19, 2004. The theme this year is 25 years F-16 in service of the Royal Nether- lands Air Force. The F-16 was purchased as a replacement for the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter at the end of the 70s. The development of the F-16 began in 1965 with the Advanced Day Fighter (ADF) project. The F-16 was seen as the replacement of the F104 Starfighter. The F-16 was seen as the ideal aircraft for fighting near the Iron Curtain.

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The F-16 Mid-Life Update Program

25 Years F-16 RNLAF, Part II; Leeuwarden, June 30, 2004

The FWIT exercise is the training for the Dutch F-16 pilots when it comes to F-16 MLU training. This course is held at Leeuwarden Air Base every year. The Mid-Life Update program was a drastic moder- nization of the Dutch F-16 fleet. Now, several years after the update, all operational Dutch F-16s are on this standard. Several countries parti- cipated in the Mid-Life Update program. The Netherlands selected 136 F-16s for the update. The F-16s were updated at Fokker Services at Woensdrecht. The MLU program would take 4.5 years to complete.

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The F-117A Nighthawk at the RIAT 2004

The Secret of Stealth, part 1; RAF Fairford, July 17, 2004

The RIAT at RAF Fairford is one of the rare places in the world where Stealth aircraft can be seen. The F-117A Nighthawk and the B-2A Spirit were both present at the airshow during the RIAT in 2004. The story of this remarkable aircraft started in the 70s at the Lockheed Skunk Works in Burbank, California. Stealth is a group name for a series of measures which can be taken to prevent the detection of an aircraft. Being hidden for the enemy has been a doctrine in times of warfare. The developments of these techniques to be invisible are quite young.

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The B-2A Spirit at the RIAT 2004

The Secret of Stealth, part 2; RAF Fairford, July 17, 2004

Besides the Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk, also the Northrop B-2A Spirit was present at the RIAT 2004. The aircraft made a fly-by only. The story of this extraordinary plane, which is not seen every day, star- ted in the early 70s. This massive aircraft is known as the Northrop flying wing with a lifting body. The Northrop B-2A Spirit stealth is an American intercontinental bomber for long distances. The B-2 Spirit can carry conventional and nuclear weapons. The aircraft has a uni- que shape making the aircraft virtually invisible to radar.

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25 Year F-16 in the Belgian Air Force

Photocall Kleine-Brogel 2004; Kleine-Brogel, July 20, 2004

On Tuesday, July 20, another spotter’s day was on the agenda at the Belgian airbase Kleine-Brogel. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the F-16 which is celebrated by the Belgian Air Force. The F-16 entered service in the Belgian Air Force for the first time in 1979. The aircraft replaced the F-104G Starfighter. The Belgian Air Force started the MLU (Midlife Update) program together with the 3 other partners Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway in the mid 90s. An agreement was signed for upgrading the current F-16 fleet on January 26, 1993.

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A Compact and Flexible Air Force

The Swiss Air Force, Part 1; Payerne, September 4, 2004

The Swiss Air Force has a compact and flexible air force due to the lack of budgets and a limited air space in the relatively small country. The air force has modern aircraft and the country does not have an offensive policy. The main tasks of the Swiss Air Force is defending the national air space and to deliver airlift capacity. The Swiss Air Force is an air force of compromises due to this alternative approach. The Swiss Air Force is able to perform its tasks properly in this versatile country. The country is also involved in NATO exercises.

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Units of the Swiss Air Force

The Swiss Air Force, Part II; Payerne, September 4, 2004

The Swiss Air Force has currently 8 airports in operational use. The headquarters of the Swiss Air Force is located in Dübendorf. The units of the Swiss Air Force are next to the operational airfields also able to operate from quickly improvised airstrips on motorways. There are several prepared airstrips present in the country. The Swiss Air Force is a relatively large air force for such a small country. The tasks of the units consist mainly of national tasks only. The Swiss Air Force is with its equipment a modern air force which operates very efficient.

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