Belgium Air Force

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  1. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #1 gekho, Feb 9, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2011
    The Belgian Air Force was founded in 1909 as a branch of the Belgian Army, carrying the name Compagnie des Ouvries et Aérostiers King Albert's interest in the military use of airplanes was a main impetus for its formation. Coincidently, in the civil aviation sector, Baron Pierre de Caters earned the first civil pilot's brevet that same year. Caters would promptly establish an aviation school. At approximately the same time, the War Ministry decided to follow the French military's example and have pilots earn a civil pilot's brevet before their military one. As a result, in 1910, three Belgian lieutenants earned their Pilot's Brevets at that school, voluntarily paying their own fees. There were two artillery lieutenants; Baudoin de Montens d'Oosterwyck, who earned Brevet No. 19 on 30 September, and Alfred Sarteel, granted No. 23 on 10 November. The third lieutenant, Georges Nelis, was the new force's first aviation candidate, gaining Brevet No. 28 on 21 December. An airplane was personally purchased for him.

    In Spring of 1911, the new air force established its military aviation school with five pilots, two mechanics, and a woodworker. It received its first airplane via a circuitous route; Baron Caters gave an airplane to King Albert, who in turn presented it to the school. On 12 September 1912, pilot Lieutenant Nelis and observer Sous Lieutenant Stellingwerff were the first Europeans to fire a machine gun from an airplane; while Nelis brought the aircraft low, Stellingwerff put some bullets through a sheet staked out on the ground. They were disciplined for their efforts. Nelis then accompanied Capitaine Commandant Émile Mathieu to England during November 1913 to demonstrate aerial use of the Lewis machine gun at Hendon and Aldershot; as a result, the British adopted the Lewis, although the Belgians did not. Belgium entered World War I with planes tasked solely for reconnaissance missions.

    At the start of World War II, the Army Air Force had three active Air Force Regiments. Planes which were used by those regiments were the Renard R-31 and R-32, the Fiat CR.42, the Hawker Hurricane, the Gloster Gladiator, the Fairey Fox, and the Fairey Battle. These were massacred by the much superior German Luftwaffe in the German invasion of May 1940. Before the outbreak of the war Belgium also sought to equip its Aviation Militaire with foreign designs, ordering production licences in Poland and France and aircraft in the USA. However, the acquired licences could not be used until May 1940 and the aircraft produced in the USA were eventually delivered to France and to the United Kingdom. After the surrender of Belgium on 28 May 1940, a very small Belgian Air Force in exile was created in Great Britain. This small force was active within the British Royal Air Force, and its squadrons were equipped with versions of the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Typhoon.
     
  2. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #2 gekho, Feb 9, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2011
    In April 1919 the Aviation Militaire (Belgian Air Force) had eight squadrons, three of them fighter squadrons, including these types of aircraft: Harriot H.D.1s, Sopwith Camels, Nieuport XVIIs, Spad VIIs, and Fokker D. VIIs. In March of 1920 The Aviation Militaire became the Aeronautic Militaire, and the flying school at Etampe moved to Juvisy. After these changes the Aeronautic Militaire started a build up. Between 1922-31 SABCA (Societe Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aeronautique) built an interesting collection of foreign aircraft. The build up included 30 D. H. 9 (1922-23), 87 Nieuport-Delage 29C-1 (1924-26), 45 Ansaldo A.300/4 Reconnaissance Bombers (1923-26), 20 Morane-Saulnier Parasol (1923), 21 Arro 504 K Primary Trainers (1923-27), 15 D.H. 4 (1926), 40 Bristol 17 F2B Mk.IV (1926), 39 Avia B.H. 21 (1927-29), 146 Breguet 19 (1928-31).

    Sometime in the 1924-29 period the Aeronautique Militaire acquired 98 aircraft from foreign sources of similar types. The Aeronautique Militaire eventually got to 8 groups containing 29 squadrons (4 Balloon station, 6 observation, 4 Army cooperation, 5 Fighter, 3 reconnaissance, 4 Technical, and 3 for training). These groups of aircraft were stationed at Zellick, Goetsenhoven, Evere, and the training school squadrons moved from As to Wevelgen. The groups of aircraft turned into 3 regiments in 1926. Because of severe budget restrictions 1 of the regiments was decommissioned, 2 more regiments came at the end of 1929. After that, the Air regiments (still part of the Army) had 1,990 personnel, and 234 first line aircraft (36 of them were trainers). In 1935 Aeronautique Militaire became one of two parts of Commandement de la Defense Aerienne du Territoire' (D.A.T.) (the other the anti-aircraft organization).

    Because of the budget the staff decided to upgrade aircraft, even though 50 Fox IIIC machines were delivered between 1935-37 and 46 Fox IVR reconnaissance planes came in through 1935-36. Licensed builders (Ateliers Renard in Evere) built 10 R31 prasol-type monoplanes, and 26 others were built by SABCA between 1935-37. Also, 22 Gloster Gladiators were bought from Britain in 1938, 2 FOX VII were ordered in September 1938, and in 1938 20 Hawker Hurricane I fighters were delivered. Then in March 1939 80 Hurricanes were license built. The Belgian Hurricanes were armed with 4 .50 caliber machine guns, though original British design had 8 .303 caliber machine guns. Also the Belgians ordered Brewster Buffaloes from the U.S. On the day of the invasion the DAT had 11 groups containing 73 squadrons stationed at Deurne, Goetsenhoven, Bierset, Schaffen, Nivelles, and Evere Air Force Bases.
     
  3. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    During WWII Belgians flew Spitfires with 349 and 350 squadron RAF. From August 1945 they operated under 160 Wing RAF at Fassberg, Germany (BAFO), moving to Beauvechain, Belgium on 24 October 1946 to join "A" Wing of the Belgian Air Force.The new built up Belgian Air Force was eventually to use a total of 203 Spitfires comprising:

    - 26 Mk LF.XVIe on loan from the RAF pending delivery of Mk XIVs, the last departing in 1948.
    - 43 Mk LF.IXc/e mostly with armament removed for fighter pilot training. Remained in service until October 1954.
    - 134 Mk F/FR.XIVc/e (without cameras) as replacements for the fighter squadrons and the EPA. Remained in service until 1954.

    In addition, two Mk XIVs were delivered for ground instructional use and spares in the autumn of 1947.
     

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  4. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    More pics
     

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  5. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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  6. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    Just before the start of World War II, Belgium sought more modern aircraft to expand and modernize its air force. Belgium ordered 40 Brewster B-339 aircraft, a denavalized F2A-2, fitted with the Wright R-1820-G-105 engine approved for export use. The G-105 engine had a power output of 1,000 hp/746 kW (peak) at takeoff, some 200 hp (149 kW) less than the engine fitted to the U.S. Navy F2A-2. The arrester hook and life raft container were removed, and the aircraft was modified with a slightly longer tail.

    Only one aircraft reached France by the time Germany launched its Blitzkrieg in the West on 10 May 1940. The Buffalo was later captured intact by the Germans. Six more Belgian Brewsters were offloaded in the French Caribbean island of Martinique and languished on a coastal hillside, never flown. The rest of the order went to the RAF.
     

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  7. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #7 gekho, Feb 10, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2011
    The Fairy Fox was a light, biplane bomber that was completely outclassed by the time of World War II. Built In the early 1920s out of a British Air Ministry requirement for a light and fast bomber for interdiction operations. The direct result of the solicitation was the Fairey Fox. Centered on the powerful Curtiss D-12 piston engine, which the company manufactured due to a licensing agreement with the American corporation, the Fox was a departure from many of the early airplane designs. An unprecedented streamlining of the fuselage due to the smooth lines of the new engine gave the Fox a very small drag profile and an increase operational speed. The Fox made its maiden flight on the morning of January 3rd, 1925 and performed better than advertise achieving a top speed of just above 80kph. Quite an accomplishment for any first flight. Not only did the Fox were able to out run many of its contemporaries, but its “old fashion” wood and fabric airframe gave it a big edge in most air to air engagement of the day.

    In August 1926, the famous No. 12 Bomber Squadron based at Northholt became the first, and only, Royal Air Force unit fitted with the new Fox bomber. The Fox was removed from RFA front line service in the summer of 1931, but several units remained in tactical reserve for the next decade. The design proved to be so easy to develop and adjust, that the Avions Fairey of Belgium picked up the production once again in 1932. By the time of the German invasion in 1940, the Fox manned nine Belgian Air Force squadrons, numbering 170 aircrafts. They fought valiantly in those early days, but they were completely outclassed by the Luftwaffe. Several RAF’s Foxes were used as target tug and tactical reconnaissance platforms up to 1941.
     

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  8. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #8 gekho, Feb 11, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2011
    Belgium had ordered 22 Gladiator Is during the summer of 1937, and although delivery of these commenced in September that year, final signature of the contract was not effected until May1938. The delay was caused by negotiations (which were abandoned) for the licence production of the Gladiator by the Belgian aircraft industry. The Belgian Gladiators were introduced into service with the 1ère Escardrille de Chasse ("La Comète") in the Ième Group of No.2 (Fighter) Regiment based at Diest, and of these aircraft 15 remained on strength until 10 May 1940.

    On 9 December 1939, Gladiator G.28 of 1/I/2 dived vertically into the ground and was destroyed at Ingelmuster, due to malfunctioning oxygen supply. The pilot Sergent H. Dopagne was killed. On 11 March 1940, Gladiator G.21 of 1/I/2 crashed of unknown cause at Steene-Ostend airfield. The pilot Sergent Pipart was killed. Gladiator G.35 of 1/I/2 crashed of unknown cause into the sea on 19 April. The pilot was saved but the aircraft was lost. In the early morning of 10 May, the alert was sounded just before 03:00 at Shaffen-Diest airfield. Major Hendrickx, commander of the 1st Group, 2nd Regiment, ordered the aircraft to remain lined up along the runway. Besides the Hurricanes of Escadrille 2/I/2 (the most modem aircraft in the Belgian Military Air Arm) and the Gloster Gladiator of Escadrille 1/I/2, the base was host to the Fairey Fox biplanes of Escadrille 5/III/3 and 7/III/3. The Foxes were to take part in live firing exercises at Beverloo. Eleven of the twelve serviceable Hurricanes were facing the hangars, the twelfth, (H.41) was standing some way apart from the rest. The pilots believed that the alert is part of an exercise and got ready to fly to the grass airfield at Beauvechain to carry out a routine patrol over the Ardennes.

    On the other side of the airbase, the pilots of 1/I/2 Aé climbed into the cockpits of their Gladiators and run their engines briefly. The fourteen biplanes were also lined up wingtip-to-wingtip, making a continuous line with the Hurricanes. The order to take off was not issued because of a dense fog that covered the region. At 04:20hrs, the Fairey Foxes of 5/III/2 Aé took off and headed towards Landing Field No. 14 (Jeneffe) to reconnoitre German troop movements east of Liege. They were diverted in mid-flight to Landing Field No. 23 at Vissenacken. A few moments later, around fifty unidentified aircraft flew over Schaffen. Acting on his own initiative Capitaine Max Guisgand, commander of 1/I/2 led his Gladiators into the air despite the contrary order, issued by his group commander, to stay put. While the Hurricanes started up their engines, the two leading sections of Gladiators were airborne at 04:20.

    At 04:32hrs, three hedgehopping Do17s from KG 77 suddenly appeared. Untroubled by the anti-aircraft fire, which was totally ineffective, the Dorniers took all the time they needed to shoot up the airfield while the Gladiators tried to take off surrounded by explosions and fires. In the prevailing panic, after a bullet punctured a main wheel on his Gladiator, Lieutenant M. Wilmots rammed the Hurricane H-20 flown by Capitaine Charlier of 2/I/2. Wilmot suffered shrapnel wound in his leg and the Gladiator was a write-off. Capitaine Charlier was wounded. Within minutes, Bf1l0s and Dornier Dol7s arrived over Schaffen. The first strafed the airfield while the second bombed it. Four Hurricanes were set on fire and six others received varying degrees of damage. The machines under cover were flattened when half of the hangar roof fell in. Wilmots' Gladiator was destroyed on the ground. Sergent Libert was severely burnt when the fuel tank of his Hurricane H-24 exploded. A Second gladiator of 1/I/2 was caught on the ground in the low-level attack of the Dorniers and was destroyed.

    Two Hurricanes, flown by Capitaine Van den Hove d`Ertsenrijck and Caporal Jacobs, managed to escape from Schaffen. As they head for Beauvechain, they encountered a pack of enemy bombers. Van den Hove attacked one - apparently without success - even though a Gladiator pilot, Sergent Van den Broek, helped him. The oil tank of Van Broek's machine was hit in an exchange of fire, forcing him to make a crash landing in open country. A third Hurricane (H-27), waiting for a propeller at Schaffen was made airworthy and evacuated to Beauvechain by Sergent Siroux. On arrival, the main spar of one the wings, was found to be damaged, rendering the aircraft unfit for combat. The third section of Gladiators from 1/I/2 Aé, which took off at 04:32, found themselves almost nose to nose with the three Do17s, which forced two of them to break away to avoid a mid-air collision. The second section (Capitaine Gérard (G.27), 1er Sergent Henry Winand (G.32) and Sergent Henri Clinquart (G.34), en route for Beauvechain, spotted a formation of enemy bombers over Tirlemont and broke it up. In the lull after the bombing, other Gladiators left Schaffen. Hurricane pilots (Siroux, Lelarge and the confusingly named Lieutenant) flew three of them. In all, twelve Gladiators arrived at Beauvechain. As the ultimate reinforcement Gladiator G.l8 - the personal aircraft of Général Hiernaux, C-in-C of l'Aviation Militaire - was placed at the disposition of 1/I/2. Unfortunately, the aircraft was not fitted with guns... Of the proud 1er Groupe de Chasse, the elite Belgian fighter unit, only two Hurricanes and twelve Gladiators were still airworthy and able to fight after the morning attacks.
     

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  9. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #9 gekho, Feb 11, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2011
    Several aerial encounters were reported between Gladiators and German fighters on 10 May. As a matter of record, Belgian Gladiators were never engaged with Bf 109s during this day. The engagements reported by German pilots are probably due to mistaken identification by them, an excusable mistake, given the number of different types of biplanes serving with the different European air forces at this time. Luftwaffe pilots claimed five Gladiators during the day and reported engagements were:
    At 09:55, ten Bf 109s from 3./JG 27 run into Gladiators over Tirlemont. Leutnant Erwin Axthelm and Unteroffizier Heinrich Belcher claimed two. One Belgian pilot baled out and deployed his parachute.
    At 10:33, three more Gladiators were claimed by Oberleunant Georg Schneider (victory no. 3), Leutnant Hans-Ekkehard Bob (victory no. 1 of a total of 60) and Feldwebel Leykauf (victory no. 1 of a total of 33) from 3./JG 21 (as 9./JG 54) over Tongeren when their unit's Bf 109s were escorting a gaggle of Ju87s to the west of Maastricht.

    Shortly before 07.00 on 11 May, nine Belgian Fairey Battles of 5/III/3 Aé were dispatched to bomb the Albert Canal bridges, which had fallen intact into German hands. Six Gladiators of 1/I/2 Aé were to escort them. The Gladiators flew in two sections. The first section was led by the Commandant Capitaine Max Guisgand (Gloster G.27) and included Sergent André Pirlot (Gloster G.19) and Sergent A. Vanden Broeck (Gloster G.31). The second section took off 10 minutes later and was led by 1er Sergent Denys Rolin (Gloster G.22) and included 1er Sergent Henry Winand (Gloster G.32) and Sergent Henri Clinquart (Gloster G.34). When they arrived to their assigned sector, they became involved in a dogfight with eight to twelve German Bf 109s from I/JG1. During this dogfight 1er Sergent Winand claimed a damaged Bf 109 and 1er Sergent Rolin was credited with one Bf 109 probable damaged. He didn't see if his victim dived away or crashed because right after this he was shot down and taken prisoner. The only known losses suffered by I/JG 1 on 11 May was a plane of 3./JG 1, which ran out of fuel and made a forced landing near Achen and was 70% destroyed.

    During the dogfight five German pilots (all from 1./JG 1) claimed seven victories in the Maastricht area:
    - Leutnant Günter-Erwin Mann (06.50 h) (possibly Capitaine Max Guisgand (Gloster G.27))
    - Leutnant Ludwig Franzisket (06.53 h) (victory 1 of totally 43) (possibly Sergent Henri Clinquart (Gloster G.34))
    - Staffelkapitän Hauptmann Wilhelm Balthasar (06.55, 06.58 and one more during the same mission) (victory 1-3 of totally 47) (possibly 1er Sergent Denys Rolin (Gloster G.22) and Sergent André Pirlot (Gloster G.19))
    - Unteroffizier Heinz Gillert (07.01 h) (possibly Sergent A. Vanden Broeck (Gloster G.31)).
    - Unteroffizier Emil Clade (07.01 h) (possibly 1er Sergent Henry Winand (Gloster G.32))
    Only four Gladiators of 1/I/2. Aé were however lost:
    - Sergent André Pirlot (MIA) was shot down in flames in Gloster G.19.
    - 1er Sergent Denys Rolin (POW) was shot down but saved himself in parachute but was taken prisoner. His aircraft (G.22) was abandoned over Heukelom at 05:55).
    - Sergent Henri Clinquart (KIA) was shot down in flames. His aircraft (G.34) crashed between Flexhe and Slins, north of Liege.
    - Capitaine Max Guisgand made a forced landing in a field at Faimes close to Waremme after that his Gloster (G.27) had been damaged by enemy fire and he was wounded in the face. The aircraft was later burned.
    - Sergent A. Vanden Broeck (Gloster G.31) and 1er Sergent Henry Winand (Gloster G.32) returned to Beauvechain with badly damaged aircraft. Both pilots were unhurt and both aircraft were repairable. The attack on the bridges by the Battles was a failure and six of them were lost.

    In the early afternoon between 14:07 and 14:32 Messerschmitts from I./JG 1 destroyed seven Belgian Gladiators and three Belgian Hurricanes on the ground at Beauvechain. A second attack between 16:30 and 17:00 by He111s destroyed one more Gladiator and two Hurricanes. During the attack, an English Lysander flew over the airfield but managed to escape roving German aircraft. A Blenheim wasn't so fortune and it was shot down with the crew parachuting. During the two attacks, the airfield defence was very weak. At least Glosters G.31, G.32 and G.38 was damaged. Totally 11 Gladiators were destroyed or damaged but there were no pilot casualties. All aircraft were write-offs or abandoned on withdrawal to Belsele that night. No more combats with Belgian Gladiators are known even if many Luftwaffe records refer to "enemy biplane fighters" there is nothing to indicate whether they were Belgian or British Gladiators or Belgian Fiat CR.42s.
     

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  10. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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  11. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #11 gekho, Feb 14, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2011
    The Renard R-36 was a Belgian all-metal fighter aircraft designed to replace the Fairey Firefly II within the Belgian Air Force. Designed to improve on the Renard Epervier, which was never adopted by the Belgian government, the prototype R-36 first flew on 5 November 1937. Following testing the R-36 was approved by the Belgian Air Force in late 1938, with 40 aircraft provisionally ordered, to be delivered in two years. However, on 17 January 1939 the prototype, OO-ARW, crashed near Nivelles, killing pilot Lt. Visconte Eric de Spoelberg. The official investigation was inconclusive, no evidence of material failure being discovered, with the most probable causes being radio equipment coming loose during a high-G manoeuver, jamming the controls, or the pilot becoming incapacitated. The airframe had accumulated 75:30 hours flight time. The order was then dropped in favour of licence production of the Hawker Hurricane by SABCA.
     

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  12. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    The Renard R.35 was a prototype pressurised airliner of the 1930s built by the Belgian company Constructions Aéronautiques G. Renard. A three-engined low-winged monoplane with retractable undercarriage, the R.35 was destroyed in a crash on its first flight.In 1935, Alfred Renard, chief designer and co-founder of the Renard company, started design of a pressurised airliner for use by SABENA on its routes to the Belgian Congo. Renard designed a low winged monoplane of all-metal construction, powered by three engines as required by SABENA, and received an order for a single prototype on 3 April 1936. The R.35 had a circular section fuselage, housing a pressurised cabin which accommodated twenty passengers and a flight crew of three. It was intended to be powered by a range of radial engines with the 950 hp (709 kW) Gnome-Rhône 14K preferred by Renard, but the prototype was fitted with 750 hp (560 kW) Gnome-Rhône 9K engines.

    The R.35 was completed early in 1938. On 1 April 1938, it was planned to carry out high-speed taxiing trials at Evere airfield in front of an audience of visiting dignitaries and journalists. After carrying out a single taxi-run, however, the R.35 took off during a second run, and while attempting a circuit to return to the runway, the R.35 dived into the ground and was destroyed, killing the pilot Georges Van Damme. The cause of the crash was unknown. Following this crash, SABENA abandoned its interest in the R.35, and Renard abandoned development.
     

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  13. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #13 gekho, Feb 14, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2011
    In October 1937 Caproni and SABCA reached a collaboration agreement in which SABCA would act as a sales agent for Caproni and subsequently the Caproni Ca.135, Ca.310 and Ca.312 had allotted the SABCA type numbers S.45, S.46 and S.48 respectively. Also in the agreement was the design and development of a two-seat fighter-bomber, attack and reconnaissance aircraft to meet specification drafted by the Belgian Ministry of Defence to replace the Fairey Fox. The new design was to be a competitor to the contemporary Fairey design Battle. To the specifications Caproni’s chief engineer Cesare Pallavicino drafted the Ca.335 "Maestrale" (North-west wind). The airplane was completed at Caproni´s factory in Ponte San Pietro, Italy and dismantled transported by train to Belgium in June 1939.

    After reassembling by SABCA the aircraft was displayed at the Salon International at Brussels in July. Thereafter it received the French 860 hp Hispano-Suiza HS 12Y twelve-cylinder inverted Vee liquid-cooled engine, equipment and its weapons, two wing-mounted 0.3 in (7,62 mm) FN-Browning machine guns and an engine-mounted 0.787 in (20 mm) Hispano cannon. The aircraft was entered in the Belgium Registry as a SABCA-Caproni S.47 with the registration OO-ATH on September 19, 1939, it was flown for the first time by SABCA´s chief test pilot Paul Burniat on the same day. On January 13, 1940, it was demonstrated to the Belgian Air Force, the results were very positive and on option on 24 production aircraft followed. On March 14, 1940, the S.47, accompanied by a SABCA S.40 training aircraft, was flown to the French test center at Orleans-Bricy for evaluation by officers of the French Air Force. On arrival it was damaged in a landing accident and was not repaired before outbreak of the hostilities in France. Although it was still at Bricy by mid-1943, its fate is unknown.
     

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  14. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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  15. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    In late September 1939 a Belgian purchasing mission arrived in Turin. The mission was charged with negotiating the purchase of 34 (alternative 40) fighters to meet the urgent re-equipment needs of its air arm's IIème Group de Chasse (Fighter Group) and comprising the 3ème and 4ème Escadrilles to replace their ageing Fairey Fireflies. The Italians demanded a high price for the CR.42, but offered delivery within three months of placing the contract. The negotiations were completed in early December and resulted in the second foreign contract of the CR.42. The price of the 34 aircraft exceeded FrBel 3m, and the first CR.42s arrived at the Evere Établissements Généraux de l'Aéronautique Militaire for assembly on 6 March 1940 still carrying Italian camouflage. Each Escadrille was to receive 15 CR.42s (which were assigned the serials R-1 to R-30), the remaining four aircraft being intended as attrition replacements, and the first unit to convert was the 3ème Escadrille. Both Escadrilles transitioned to the Italian fighter in April. IIème Group de Chasse (Fighter Group) was based at Nivelles, south of Bruxelles and led by Major Lamarche, who had been a fighter pilot during the First World War. Its two Escadrilles used as insignia Willy Coppens' cocotte, a paper duck, white for 3/II and red for 4/II.

    The first CR.42s to fire their guns in anger were the newly acquired CR.42s of Belgium's Aéronautique Militaire when they were to be involved in a brief but vain attempt to oppose the Luftwaffe. When, on 10 May 1940, the Wermacht launched its assault on the Low Countries, the Aéronautique Militaire had accepted 25 CR.42s, one of which (R-10) had been lost in an accident upon its arrival in March. The 3ème Escadrille of the IIème Group had achieved its full statutory 15-aircraft strength, but only 8 or 9 aircraft had been taken on charge by the other component unit, the 4ème Escadrille, although this was to receive an additional aircraft (R-26) from the Etablissements Généraux on the day of the German attack. One other CR.42 (R-27) was at the Etablissements were technicians were endeavouring to resolve a propeller vibration problem.

    On 10 May Major Jacques Lamarche, commander of the IIème Group, was sensing a German attack and the Air Force personnel were roused at 01:15. The base was evacuated in an orderly fashion to Landing Field No 22 at Brustem, which was nearer the battle line, and close to the German border.
    At 04:l5, the first of twenty-three Fiat CR.42s of the two Escadrilles took to the air led by R-43 flown by Major Lamarche. The first Stukas appeared overhead just as the last seven aircraft were about to take off and two CR.42s were hit (R-2 R-l4). The pilots of the IIème Group had enjoyed only a few weeks in which to familiarise themselves with their new equipment, and as the first group landed at Brustem, R-30 flown by 1er Sergent Marcel Michotte of the 4ème Escadrille ended up on its nose and was written-off. When the last aircraft were preparing to land, the flight led by Capitaine Jean de Callatay spotted a formation of Ju52/3ms over Tongres. The transports were from 17/KGzbV5 tasked with dropping dummy parachutists. The three CR.42s took on the Ju52s and Callatay scored hits on a Ju52 near Alken at 05.30. This aircraft crash-landed at Maastricht. The Belgian pilot were immediately pounced on by escorting Bf109s from I/JG1 and the three Belgian pilots broke off the engagement and headed back to Nivelles thinking that the field at Brustem had been put out of action by German bombers. Callatay was later credited with a destroyed Ju52/3m.

    Five Fiat CR.42s took off from Brustem at 06:05 to provide cover for the airfield. The first patrol (Lieutenant Charles Goffin and Sergent Delannay) tangled with some Bfl09s east of Waremme. Delannay's aircraft was shot down. He baled out and as he descended was mortally wounded by a shot from the ground. Goffin had better luck and damaged a Bf109, which left the fray trailing a long plume of smoke. This plane appears to have been a Bf109E flown by Leutnant Erwin Dutel from 2/JG1, whose aircraft was hit and he was forced to bale out over Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen). Dutel had been a part of nineteen Bfl09s escorting forty Ju52s in the St Trond/Tongres. The German fighter pilots repored that they encountered five "Gladiators" of which one was shot down. The second patrol (Sous-Lieutenant Jean Offenberg, 1er Sergent Jean Maes and 1er Sergent Alexis Jottard) attacked Dornier Do17s and a Bf109. Offenberg claimed one destroyed Do17, and fired on one other aircraft, which dived away. One of the aircraft he shot at was a Dornier Do17 of II/KG77, which was damaged east of Waremme at 06.30 (there are some confusion regarding Offenberg's claims and some sources only credits him with a damaged Do17). Jean Maes damaged a Dornier Do17 of II/KG77, near St Trond at 06.30. This claim is not confirmed.

    Three CR.42s escored a Renard R-19 piloted by Sous-Lieutenant Duchesne from Escadrille 9/V/1 to reconnoitre Maaseik at 09:50. In spite of a barrage of flak, the mission was completed without incident. Lieutenant Prince Werner de Mérode of 3/II/2, took off at 12:50 accompanied by two other pilots to protect a reconnaissance flight over the Albert Canal bridges. At 14:15 a German reconnaissance plane flew directly over Brustem and it was a sign that worse was to come. Straight away, Major Lamarche ordered the aircraft to be dispersed in the adjacent undergrowth but there was not enough time to camouflage all of them. Twenty-five minutes later, at 14:40, two hedgehopping Bf109s strafed the field and scored strikes on two Fiat CR.42s. de Mérode returning from his escort mission, spotted a Do17 (probably the plane that flew over the field) and he claimed it shot down in flames near Waremme at 14.40. This aircraft was a Dol7P flown by Oberleutnant V. Schaezler from 2(F)/l23 that made a belly landing at Mönchengladbach.
     

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  16. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    Just before l5:00, the sky over Brustem was filled with Ju87Bs from I/St.G.2 who proceed to wreak havoc. Fourteen CR.42s out of a total of twenty-two were put out of action. The only survivors were the aircraft that were hidden under cover and the 3ème Escadrille, unable to scramble in time, lost all 14 of its remaining CR.42s on the ground. On the following day, the seven surviving fighters of the 4ème Escadrille were re-deployed to Nieuwkerke-Waas, in the northern Belgium.

    On 14 May, the IIème Group took into action its remaining serviceable aircraft to cover the retreat of the French 7th Armée from Fleurus. The two-hour sortie saw a bitter clash with the 8./JG3 in the Flerus area at 13.55 and one Bf109E was claimed destroyed by Capitaine Jean de Callatay and another was damaged by 1er Sergent Marcel Michotte. Also during this sortie Sergent E. de Moerlose claimed a damaged enemy Do17. 8./JG3 claimed five of the Fiats during this combat. Claiming Luftwaffe pilots were Oberleutnant Wilhelm Gäth (victory no. 1 of 14), Oberfeldwebel Willi Bauer, Unteroffizier Rudolf Saborowski (victory no. 1 of 39), Unteroffizier Karl Flebbe and Unteroffizier Josef Keil (victory no. 1 of 16). It seems that the Belgian unit didn't suffer any losses and it has not been possible to verify if 8./JG3 sustained any losses in this combat.

    On 15 May there was another Fiat/Messerchmitt fight. During this days the IIème Group claimed one more victory (Lieutenant Charles Goffin) while losing one of their Fiats. On 16 May, the decision was taken to evacuate the remnants of the Aéronautique Militaire to France. An attempt was made to fly out the CR.42 that had remained at the Etablissements, but the fighter was intercepted and shot down by the Luftwaffe. More success attended the six surviving IIème Group CR.42s, however, and these succeeded in reaching Chartres. It was supposed that the pilots should wait here for the arrival of some Brewster Buffaloes. Three more Belgian CR.42s (R-28, R-29 and R-30 or R-31, R-32 and R-33 depending on source) that had already been despatched from Turin prior to the Wermacht invasion of Belgium were to reach Bordeaux on 1 June, and, after assembly, were to join their fellows at Chartres. The remaining four aircraft on the Belgian order being absorbed by the Regia Aeronautica.

    On 3 June two enemy bombers (Do17?) were claimed damaged by Lieutenant Charles Goffin and 1er Sergent Alexis Jottard near Chartres. On 28 June Belgium asked Germany for an armistice. By then IIème Group had flown 35 operational missions and claimed 5 aerial victories for the loss of only two Fiats in combat. Except for five aircraft sabotaged by Belgian personnel after the armistice the ultimate fate of the remaining Belgian CR.42s at Chartres is uncertain, but it is likely that it was these aircraft that were subsequently employed as fighter-trainers by Jagdgeschwader 107 at Toul. The Luftwaffe trainee pilots nicknamed the CR.42 as "Die Pressluftorgel" (the Pneumatic Organ), presumably on account of its profusion of pneumatic systems. It is also possible that the Germans destroyed the remaining aircraft on the ground. Overall, despite technical problems with the synchronising gear and ammunition, the Italian biplane had not fared too badly under Belgium's black-yellow-red flag.
     
  17. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #17 gekho, Feb 15, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2011
    The Anglo-Belgian agreement of November 18th, 1946 regarding the delivery of aircraft and equipment by the United Kingdom to Belgium also included the formation of one nightfighter squadron equipped with 22 Mosquito NF30 fighters. The aircraft were delivered from november 1947 onwards with an additional two aircraft for use as instructional airframes. The nightfighter Mosquitos saw service with Nrs 10 and 11 Squadron and operated from Beauvechain. In 1953 two additional Mosquito NF30 were delivered. Build mainly out of balsa wood the service life of a Mosquito was limited and all operational aircraft were struck of charge by 1956 and scrapped.
     

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  18. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    Immediately after the second Wold War the Belgian Air Force introduced several two-engined aircraft, that necessitated multi-engined training aircraft. For this role a number of Mosquito T.III were bought that saw initial service with the Advanced Flying School at Brustem;
    Quickly this training role was taken over by amongst other the Airspeed Oxford and the Mosquito were modified for the target-towing role.
    In this task the aircraft were operated by the 'Flight 600' at Koksijde, where they replaced the Miles Martinet. By 1955 all target-towing Mosquito T.IIIs were taken out of service and scrapped.
     

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  19. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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  20. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #20 gekho, Feb 16, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2011
    The F.K.56 was a low-wing monoplane powered by a 450hp (336kW) Wright Whirlind R-975-E3 radial piston engine. Designed to be a basic trainer the F.K.56 had two seats in tandem for the instructor and pupil under fully enclosed canopy. The first prototype flew on 30 June 1938 and had a fixed conventional landing gear and a inverted gull wing. The second prototype had a retractable landing gear and a third prototype was fitted with a straight wing and dual controls. Ten aircraft were ordered by the Netherlands Army based on the design of the third prototype. The ten, including the re-worked first and third prototypes, were all delivered before the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940. Earlier in February 1940 the Belgians had ordered twenty F.K.56 basic trainers and seven had been delivered before the rest were destroyed in an air raid on the Waalhaven factory.
     

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