Koksijde : January2021 started very good at Koksijde. In the first week of January there were 3 extra panther crash tenders at Koksijde so the fire and rescue category could be raised to CAT8! This means that each aircraft type in the Belgian Air Force can land. The extra fire capacity was needed for an exercise from 4 till 7 January to qualify some C-130 crews to fly NVG approaches. Due to the extra fire category the sole A400M from the Luxemburg Armed Forces made some touch and goes on the 6th, which was the first A400M to touch the ground at Koksijde. The start of the new year traditionally brings a lot of F-16's for IFR approaches, and this year was no exception. In the first week we got no less than 23 approaches of the Fighting Falcon which was a lot more than previous years! The rest of the month was a lot calmer with the usual Marchetti's and Agusta's. On the 25th Agusta H-27 arrived late afternoon and did a local night flight out of Koksijde, to depart back to Beauvechain after taking some fuel. On the 26th the commander of the Belgian Air Force, Thierry Dupont, visited Koksijde with Marchetti ST47. On the 27th C-130 CH13 made one low approach and continued its training mission to Ostend.
Koksijde : FebruaryFebruary was a short and calm month again. In the beginning of the month there was some snow which prevented flying activities, but in the second half of the month we got nice weather. On the 9th C-130H CH-11 made four low approaches in superb evening light which resulted in very nice pictures. On the 10th NH-90MTH RN-07 made an IFR approach. On the 22nd Irish Air Corps AW139 278 made a fuelstop on its way to the Agusta Westland facilities in Liege for maintenance.
Koksijde : MarchThe first visitors of the month were two QRA F-16s from Florennes which made each one low approach on RWY11 at the end of their training mission. On the 5th a Piper Super Cub from the Luchtkadetten made a low pass, an aircraft not often seen in our region. Later that day an Irish Air Corps AW139 flew over from Liege back home after maintenance in the Agusta Westland maintenance center. On the 8th an NH-90 from the Netherlands Air Force made a quick fuel stop on its way from Culdrose (UK) to De Kooy (NL). Later that week the same NH-90 made a fuel stop again back to Culdrose. From the 19th till the 26th Arizona Dream exercise was held at Koksijde which resulted in a lot of A400M activities. On the 25th the commander of the air component visited the exercise and came with Marchetti ST46. On the last day F-16 FA-129 made no less then 7 low approaches which is really unusual for Koksijde. They started with two PAR approaches followed by 5 visual closed patterns.
C-130 Night Vision Goggle trainingFrom the 4th till the 7th of January, three C-130H Hercules of the 20th Sqn/15th Wing in Melsbroek did night vision goggle (NVG) training at Koksijde. To fly tactical missions pilots are using night vision goggles to see in complete darkness. These goggles amplify the light so unlighted objects become visible. So all lights at the aircraft and airfield must be turned off to prevent being blinded by the excessive light. They did this training in Koksijde as most of the training in foreign countries are cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus. On Monday and Tuesday two C-130's did numerous touch and goes in complete darkness. On Wednesday and Thursday only one Hercules came to Koksijde to qualify the pilots after their training on Monday and Tuesday. We would like to thank the personnel and crews of the 20th Sqn for their excellent support so we could make superb pictures!
NH-90 Winching exercise @ OostduinkerkeOn Saturday afternoon February 27, the crew of NH-90NFH RN-01 did a winching exercise with the Belgian SAR vessel Brandaris in front of the beach of Oostduinkerke. This spectacular exercise at very low level and high speed (33 kts / 60km/h) attracted many people on the beach and was a great show of force of the crew of the 40th Sqn. This shows again how professional and well trained they do their daily job. Afterwards the crew made some great passes to greet the many spectators at the beach. Thanks a lot to the whole crew for this great demonstration.
Arizona DreamFrom Friday 19th till Friday 26th of March, exercise Arizona Dream was held at Koksijde airbase in Belgium. The exercise was planned to be held at MCAS Yuma in Arizona/United States of America, but the corona pandemic forced Belgian Defence to look for a -closer from home- alternative, hence the name Arizona Dream. Arizona Dream was the very first exercise with the brand new Airbus A400M, this only 6 months after the arrival of the first aircraft. The aircraft detached for the exercise, CT-03 MSN109, was delivered to the 20th Squadron/15th Wing only on the 3rd of March! For the exercise three panther crash tenders and extra fireman were brought over to Koksijde.
The exercise was to set up a Foreign Operating Base (FOB) to fly operational missions. On Friday the 19th all the necessary cargo to support the missions and maintenance of the aircraft were flown over to Koksijde in only one flight. To inform the surrounding villages of the increased flying activities during the exercise, a small press conference was organized. During the weekend technicians installed all the equipment needed for the operation center. To operate this high-tech aircraft a connection needs to be made to the maintenance data server and strategic data links needed to be set up for the missions. To communicate with the aircraft UHF, VHF and HF radios and antennas needs to be installed. Finally secured mission planning computers were installed and cameras were set up at the operational zone to protect the aircraft from unwanted visitors.
On Monday everything was ready to receive the aircraft and the exercise could start. After a training mission from its home base in Melsbroek, A400M CT-03 arrived around noon and was detached to Koksijde for the rest of the week. The next days they flew training missions (which were normally flown out of Melsbroek) in Belgium and abroad. In between the flights the maintenance teams were busy keeping the aircraft ready for its next mission.
On Wednesday the mayor of Koksijde, the governor of the province of West-Flanders and the military province commander visited the airbase to have a close look at this giant transport aircraft. On the last day of the exercise General Major T. Dupont, commander of the Air Component, and other high ranked military personnel joined the last mission and were given a demonstration of the excellent capabilities of the aircraft. In the evening the aircraft departed back to its home base and this concluded this successful exercise. On Friday 26th all the equipment was flown over to Melsbroek, once again in one single flight.
C-130 exercise with PathfindersFrom 6 till 9 April the Belgian Pathfinders, based at Schaffen, practiced their tactics in West Flanders. Due to the Corona pandemic the Pathfinders were forced to practice their tactics in Belgium. The 15th Wing based at Melsbroek supported them with one C-130 Hercules. Due to technical issues with the 47 years old hercules, flying was limited to only one nightmission on Wednesday and a day mission on Thursday and Friday.
During the nightmission the Pathfinders selected, secured and guided the hercules to the landingzone which was on Koksijde airbase. The students needed to learn the specific procedures to guided the C-130 safely to the landing zone. At the end of the practice runs the C-130 landed and picked up a vehicule at the end of the runway. The -Blue hour- and the close distance to the fence resulted in great photographic conditions and pictures.
On Thursday and Friday the Pathfinders had to select, secure and guide the dropzone at Moorsele airfield to allow paradroppings at low altitude. After the paradroppings, which took one hour and half each day, the C-130 came to Koksijde again for some practice runs for the pathfinders at Koksijde which secured the landing zone again. It was nice to see our Belgian Pathfinders at work as they usually practice these tactics in countries far away from.