Special Report : Kleine Brogel Spotters Day 2007
Last July, the Belgian Air Component's 10th Tactical Wing at Kleine Brogel air base organized another edition of its spotters day. Giampaolo Tonello came from Italy to see why this particular spottersday is so popular.
Kleine Brogel is perhaps one of the most well known military bases for military aviation enthusiasts in Europe. Every year it hosts the International Spotters Day. This time the Belgian Staff of the 10th Tactical Wing did a wonderful job organizing it during the OIE (Operational Integration Exercise) and the celebration of the 20 year anniversary of the Belgian OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) on July 17th, 2007.
Operational Integration Exercise
The OIE ran from July 16th until 18th with the 17th as the main exercise day and provided for differents scenarios such as COMAO (Composite Air Operation), DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat Training) and CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue). The COMAO was the main scenario, Two COMAO missions were flown in reserved airspace over south Belgium and Germany, a Low and High COMAO. The purpose of the exercise was to improve and train tactical co-operation and skills in a multinational environment. Together with the Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany, a complex scenario was set up, including all the elements of modern air operations. These included attacks on ground targets from low and medium altitudes, and aerial refueling provided by a marvellous Royal Air Force VC-10 from Brize Norton with had a anniversary marked tail. The DACT scenarios included mock fights of Portuguese F-16s versus RAF Typhoons and Czech Gripens versus Belgian F-16s and also an one on one fight between two Czech Gripens. The CSAR demonstration was held by three Czech L-159 ALCAs, two Belgian A-109 and one RAF Puma HC.1 helicopter.
20 Years OCU
The Belgian Operational Conversion Unit was established in 1987 at the Bevekom air base. Since 1996 Kleine Brogel hosts this unit, which provides the conversion training of the Belgian fighter pilots on the air force's single and main jet fighter - the F-16 Fighting Falcon. One of the unit's F-16BM two-seaters was provided with a specially marked tail for the 20 year anniversary of the OCU.
In addition to the aircraft participating in the OIE and the F-16s of Kleine Brogel's squadrons, several others visited the event. The table below displays most if not all aircraft which could be spotted at the base on the 17th. Additionally, it should be noted that on Monday 16th An-26 and Gripen aircraft returning from RIAT transitioned through Kleine Brogel and a Czech An-26 supporting the Czech contigent.
The Kleine Brogel's spotters day was for sure one of the main events in Europe this year (second only to the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford perhaps), but the “operational” feeling of the spotterday was very exciting and something different from other events. It was certainly interesting to see some older aircraft like the Greek F-4E Phantoms and A-7 Corsairs, waiting for clearance to take off together with the most modern fighters of the latest generation like the Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafales as well as some mixed formations approaching the base. Moreover for the occasion of the Spotterday some aircraft were also present that did not take part in the OIE but filled up the beyond-interesting static show. In addition to the exercise sorties, the Belgian F-16 Demo also did a short demonstration as did the classic Fouga CM-170R Magister. The two joined up for a memorable formation flight as they did on several 2007 air shows. Also the Belgian Air Component's Sea King helicopter gave a SAR demonstration. The spotters and photographers present at the event certainly had their hands full with the on-going activity during the entire day. Hats off to the organisation for hosting such an excellent event for the military enthusiast.
So now we are eagerly awaiting the next spotterday at Kleine Brogel, can the Belgian Staff do any better than this?