Belgium's selection of
the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter was quite predictable following other Nato
countries and particularly neighbour Netherlands adoption of the type. A
total of 112 Starfighters were procured by the Belgian Air Force, this
being split between 100 F-104G (serial FX-01 to FX-100) and 12 TF-104G
trainers (serial FC-01 to FC-12). Of these, 40 F-104G's were MDAP-funded,
the remainder being paid for by the Belgian goverment.
With the exception of the very first ones, shipped as CKD kits to Belgium,
all Belgian F-104G were built and assembled at SABCA Gosselies plant,
alongside 88 others airframes for the Bundesluftwaffe or Federal German
Air Force use.
The initial three TF-104G were built at Lockheed Palmdale plant, the
remaining nine two-seaters being assembled by SABCA from Lockheed CKD
One aircraft crashed before being taken on charge by the Belgian Air
Force, being later replaced by another similarly numbered machine. This
was the aircraft serialled FX-47.
The "first one" being
test flown from Sabca's Gosselies facility. This was the only machine to
wear a non "digitalised" serial-number (FX-1 compared to FX-01)
The Starfighters were slated to replace Avro Canada CF-100 Mk.5 Canucks of
N°1 All-Weather Fighter Wing at Beauvechain air base, then the Republic
F-84F Thunderstreaks of N°10 Fighter-Bomber Wing at Kleine Brogel air
Originally deliveries planning was as follows:
FX-01 to FX-40 and TF-104G's FC-01 to FC-03 to N°1 Wing;
FX-41 to FX-80 for N°10 Wing;
FX-81 to FX-100 held in storage as attrition replacement batch.
wise, things were somewhat different for each Wing:
N°1 Wing started
receiving its Starfighters in April 1963, these reequipping 350
Squadron, 349 Squadron followed suit in October of that year. The
aicraft remained assigned to squadrons until April 25th, 1966, when the
Wing pooling was instated. The control and daily management of the
aircraft was the responsability of the Wing Maintenance Group. A small
operational conversion flight , the Flight TF-104G, was established in
January 1965 with the three assigned TF-104G. At that time, the TF-104G
received as identification serial a US-like buzz number (FG + followed
by the last three of their construction numbers; FG-104 to FG-106).
Pilot "Jim" Van Roy in FX-04 at
Beauvechain in the "metallic" days.
N°10 Wing started
its Starfighter era on June 1964, the 31 Squadron reequipping first. For
the sake of convenience, initial operations were carried out from
Beauvechain air base, where assistance for the type conversion could be
given by N°1 Wing. Most aircraft left for Kleine Brogel air base in
July. The 31 Squadron was the recipient of all Starfighter earmarked for
N°10 Wing; 23 Squadron kept operating F-84F Thunderstreak, sending its
pilots to 31 for conversion. Effective on January 1st 1965, the aircraft
were pooled in the Wing, the remaining F-84F going to the N°10 Wing
F-84F Base Flight before being quickly phased out.
planning was broadly adhered to, however, due to the non-delivery of FX-01
(keep as instruction airframe) and to early crashes, two aircraft from the
attrition batch were delivered to each wing as early as in 1965; these
being FX-82 and FX-83 to N°1 Wing and FX-91 and FX-92 to N°10 Wing. All
the others were kept in storage, and issued to units as older airframes
went back to SABCA Gosselies for overhaul. In fact, most went to N°1 Wing,
which had the oldest Starfighters then in service.
Interesting study of
the three colour schemes worn by the Belgian Air Force Starfighters.
Now about the Belgian F-104s conversion units. Between 1962 and 1965, the
Belgian pilots F-104 conversion courses were organised in common with
their Dutch and German colleagues at the Bundesluftwaffe Waffenschule 10
at Nörvenich air base and later at Jever air base. The first national
F-104 conversion unit was the Flight TF-104G of the N°1 Wing established
on June 15th, 1965.
Late 1967, early 1968, saw the delivery of the nine remaining TF-104G
(FC-04 to FC-12) of the Belgian order allowing the creation of a
Operational Conversion Flight (OCF) under N°10 Wing at Kleine Brogel air
base. By then, the OCF was responsible for the Starfighter pilot aircraft
conversion course as for the fighter-bomber conversion course. For its
part, the Beauvechain based Flight TF-104G was responsible for the
air-defence conversion course.
Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter twin-seater FC-06 being refuelled at Kleine
Brogel airbase on 15 June 1982
During their operational live the F-104G were swapped
between the two Wings in order to balance airframe fatigue between medium
to high altitude fighter missions and low altitude fighter-bomber
The N°1 Wing main mission was the air-defence. Therefore Beauvechain air
base hosted, between 1957 and 1996, a NATO 24 hours alert section. The
F-104 became operational in the role in August 1964. The 24 hours alert
section, with two aircraft (one ready at 15 minutes, one ready at 30
minutes), became the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) section. In 1967 this
section was enlarged to four ships - two pairs of aircraft. In 1970, they
were hosted in a dedicated hangar and renamed Interceptor Alert Force (IAF).
Later in the 70's, they were transferred to a special hardened shelter
complex, close to one of the Beauvechain runway ends. The F-104G were
replaced in the role by four F-16A Fighting Falcon in September 1980.
The N°10 Wing One-O-Four main missions were: ground attack, tactical
support and the (nuclear) Strike. To fulfil this last sensitive as
secretive commitment, Kleine Brogel air base hosted, till the early
sixties, a 24 hours nuclear QRA. The F-104G replaced the F-84F in this
role in 1965. The tactical nuclear weapons were US nuclear B-61 free-fall
bomb, controlled and maintained in special storages facilities by the 52nd
Special Ammunition Group homed at Meeuwen. The B-61 is said to be of great
tactical flexibility, since the yield as well as the time and type of
detonation can be chosen in flight. The weapon can be used by aircraft
flying at altitudes as low as 15 meters. The bombs were 3.61 meters long
and had a diameter of 0.34 meters. The US forces retained custody of all
US nuclear weapons and would have released US nuclear weapons to the
Belgian Air Force only in accordance with NATO defence plans, SACEUR
directives, and US national control procedures. As the Interceptor Alert
Force, this Nuclear NATO QRA was housed in a heavily protected hardened
shelter complex near the Kleine Brogel eastern runway ends.
FX-94 in front of a hardened shelter at Beirset airbase on
27 May 1983
The Starfighter phase-out started in late 1979, older airframes going
first to Saffraanberg Technical Training School (T.T.S.). The 349 Squadron
was first to relinquish its Starfighters for General Dynamic F-16A
Fighting Falcon, allowing N°1 Wing F-104G/TF-104G operations to be
centralised within 350 Squadron from April 1st, 1980. In the same time the
Flight TF-104G was disbanded and replaced by the F-16 Conversion Flight.
This lasted until April 14, 1981, when all remaining 350 Squadron
Starfighters were flown to Koksijde air base storage park, where they
joined others already stored.
At Kleine Brogel air base things were fairly similar, 23 Squadron leaving
31 alone to operate Starfighters from July 1st, 1982, until October 1983.
From Kleine Brogel, withdrawn airframes went either to Koksijde air base
deposit center or to Turkish Air Force. In the latter case, these were
MDAP funded machines i.e. amongst the first fourty single-seaters: FX-17,
FX-19, FX-20, FX-22, FX-23, FX-24, FX-26, FX-27, FX-28, FX-29, FX-30,
FX-31, FX-32, FX-33, FX-34, FX-38, FX-40, .
The last two
Belgian Starfighters (FX-99 & FC-11) flew into retirement from
Kleine-Brogel on 26 September 1983.
Force Aérienne Belge (FAéB) -
Belgische Luchtmacht (BLu)
F-104G & TF-104G Starfighter Units
1er Wing de Chasse Tous-Temps (1 W Ch TT) -
1ste Jacht Wing Alle Weer (1 JW AW)
base: Beauvechain - Bevekom
349ste Smd "Goedendag"
Air Defence from October 1963
till February 1980
350e Esc "Ambiorix" Air Defence
from April 1963 till April 1981
Flight TF-104G Conversion & Air Defence training
from June 1965 till March 1980
10de Jacht Bommenwerpers Wing (10 JBW)
base: Kleine Brogel
23ste Smd "Duivel"
from January 1965 till October 1982
31ste Smd "Tijger" Fighter-Bomber/(Nuclear)
from June 1964 till October 1983
OCF Conversion &
from January 1968 till July 1983
V.P. & P.L.