|Belgian Defence Days 2007|
The 6th edition of the Belgian Defence Days was organised – for the second time – at Koksijde Air Base during the weekend of 30 June and 1 July. It attracted a record 145,000 visitors, who could learn more about the diversity of the Belgian Defence as numerous stands illustrated its diversity in missions, jobs, equipment and people in a static, dynamic or interactive way. The organisers did not grant any good photo opportunities along the runway to spotters or press for the first time ever, which made it an opportunity to have a closer look at some of the static displays.
A DEADLY COMBINATION
The Belgian and French armed forces successfully participated with a Belgian/French Mistral section in the European Union Battle Groups 2006/II and 2007/I between 1 July and 31 December 2006 and 1 January and 30 June 2007 respectively. The section consisted of a MARTHA NC1 air defence management system (see also the BAHA special feature “Mistral over Crete”) and a Mistral platoon comprising 6 firing units and 36 troops. The former was provided by the French 57e Régiment d’Artillerie, based at Bitche, Moselle, the latter by the Belgian 43rd Battery of the 14th Regiment Anti-Aircraft Artillery (14A), based at Lombardsijde.
The principal element of the MARTHA NC1 Mistral system is the Thales SAMANTHA air defence early warning and command & control unit, built around the Thales Raytheon Systems TRS 2630P Griffon two-dimensional pulse Doppler radar and the Thales SB 16 IFF-interrogator. The radar can engage aircraft at distances up to 20 kilometres and moving helicopters at up to 17 kilometres. For hovering helicopters, the range is limited to around 10 kilometres. The radar’s detection ceiling lies around 3,000 metres.
Belgian Mistral launchers are installed on Unimog 1350L trucks, which are designated PAMELA-B. The aluminium seeker head of this missile indicates that it is a training round. Since April 2005, the Belgian Mistral launchers are equipped with a MATIS (Medium wavelength Advanced Thermal Imaging System) digital thermal imaging camera, which makes them fully day/night and limited adverse weather capable.
The MATIS camera operates in the same 3 to 5 μm waveband as the Mistral missile’s seeker head, giving the gunner an exact copy of the seeker head’s image. In this photograph of the infrared image white equals hot. The left side of the Tornado’s nose is white, thus hot, as it is warmed up by the sun. Its shadow side is black and cold, as is the overcast sky. The naked skin of the people’s faces, arms and legs is warmer than skin covered by clothes.
The Franco-Belgian Mistral section tested its combined operability during a live firing exercise on the island of Crete, Greece, in June 2006. The targets used were home-made Belgian Ultima I UAVs. Every hundredth built Ultima UAV receives a special color scheme. This one is thought to be the 500th.
The participation of Ukrainian Armed Forces Antonov An-30B “80 Gold” (c/n 06 08) in the Belgian Defence Days 2007 was not its first visit to Belgium. It was spotted earlier at Melsbroek Air Base in August 2005 in the framework of the Treaty on Open Skies.
The Treaty on Open Skies was signed on 24 March 1992 in Helsinki, Finland. It was designed by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to promote openness and transparency in military activities between western and eastern countries by establishing a regime of observation flights over the territory of its signatories. Signatories are allowed to conduct observation flights with unarmed fixed-wing aircraft to gather information about military forces and activities of other State Parties. The Treaty currently counts 35 State Parties and entered into force on 1 January 2002 after ratification by 20 countries. The aircraft and their observation equipment are certified according to technical criteria determined by the Treaty.
The words “Zbroini Sili Ukraini” on the lower fuselage of the aircraft stand for “Ukrainian Armed Forces”. “Vidkrite Nebo” on the badge means “Open Skies”. “Blakitna Stezha” or “Blue Road” is the name of the unit to which the aircraft belongs and which is based at Kiev/Borispol. The Open Skies logo and the words “Certified Aircraft” are applied to an aircraft after certification of the type and its observation equipment according to the technical criteria in one of the Treaty’s annexes.
Except for the Garmin GPS, the cockpit of the An-30B breathes the late 1960s early 1970s era. The aircraft’s construction number can be found on the left underneath the anti-glare panel.
The Ukrainian Open Skies Antonov An-30B can be equipped with a floor mounted AFA-41/7,5 or AFA-41/20 camera with a lens focal length of 75 mm and 200 mm respectively.
The control panel next to the camera contains instruments providing information on the position of the aircraft and on the state of the cameras (temperature, cabin humidity, etc.).
THE LAST OF THE MANY
Solo display pilot Lieutenant-Colonel (Reserve) Paul Rorive, his crew chief 1st Sergeant William Peeters and their Magister MT35 are nearing the last of the many solo displays of the type.
The names of the last Magister pilots and technicians can be found on the orange aft fuselage band. The artists behind the nose art found eternal fame on the inside of one of the port landing gear doors.
Paul Rorive as he is best known by thousands of aviation enthusiasts: “turtling” while taxiing out and in before and after every display.
Weird boys, these display pilots! Paul Rorive always flies with his inevitable family of turtles. When flying a display, however, most of them have to move to the storage space in the aircraft’s nose as a matter of flight safety. Paul’s turtles are not the only pets in the air show circuit. Leo the bear, KLu F-16 display pilot Captain Ralph “Sheik” Aarts’ darling, seeks to fly with as many display pilots as possible. On Saturday, he flew a Fouga display, on Sunday he joined Mickey during his F-16 display and the rest of the day he spent with the brave (and beautiful) wing walking girls of Team Guinot. Why do some get all the luck?
Soon only to be found in history books: a join up of a Belgian Magister and F-16 solo display aircraft. MT35 has only a very limited number of flying hours left, but will soon undergo a 150 hours inspection, granting the aircraft an additional 150 hours in the sky until the final curtain will fall over the type on 27 September 2007.
Mutual congratulations for a job well done immediately after the 30 June display. How will they feel after 27 September?
This Beech T-6A Texan II serial number 033 (c/n PG-33) of No. 361 “Mystras” Air Training Squadron flew in from Kalamata Air Base in Greece.
From Moron Air Base in Spain came a pair of brand-new Eurofighters, a.k.a. Typhoon II, of Ala 11: C.16-28/11-08 and C.16-29/11-09.
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Text and pictures by
© Jos Schoofs (July 2007)
Last updated 16/03/12 09:09 Daniel Brackx