|OCU on Squadron Exchange in the Czech Republic.|
Between the 18th and 29th of June 2007 the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) had a Squadron Exchange with the Czech squadrons based at Caslav. Together with the Saab Gripens and Aero L159 Alca the F-16’s trained in air-to-air combat and mixed combat formations.
Mixed formation: from l. to r. Belgian F-16AM FA-136, L159 6049, Gripen 6237 and 212 special tail 6066.
Kleine Brogel’s 10th Wing deployed 6 F-16’s (3 single seater F-16AM and 3 twin seat F-16BM) and some 65 persons to Caslav. The aims of the exercise were three fold: the advanced training of 4 young F-16 pilots into air combat against other types of aircraft, the renewal of tactical qualifications of the F-16 instructor pilots and to continue the training of the Czech pilots into NATO tactics and technics. Indeed, the OCU has a traditional close link with the Caslav based units dating back to squadron exchanges in 2003 and 2004 when the equipment still consisted of Soviet era MiG 21 fighters. Today, N° 211 Squadron of Caslav is equipped with the most up-to-date version of the Swedish build Saab Gripen C, the “fourth generation fighter”, 14 of which have been leased from Saab. Several Belgian pilots were able to fly in the twin-seat Gripens thus offering a good comparison with the capabilities offered by the F-16AM.
Two Gripens start "breaking" before landing
The Caslav sister Squadron N° 212 can boost some 24 locally manufactured Aero L159 ALCA Advanced Light Combat Aircraft. This aircraft for the moment only existing in the single seat version is specialised in Close Air Support (CAS) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) of downed pilots.
N° 212 Squadron's "Pegasus" flagship, Aero L159 6066.
Besides the training aspect for the Belgian pilots, two Belgian Air Component members of the "Control and Reporting Centre" (CRC) at Glons were given advanced training and instruction was also proved to the Czech air-control personnel to operate independently with the F-16’s. For training purposes the Czech forces provided an SA-6 ground-air missile battery, a Mil Mi-24 Hind combat helicopter and a very modern and sophisticated RBS-70 airbase protection anti aircraft battery. All young pilots were given the opportunity to visit the installations and other equipment in use. It is crystal clear that this type of deployment offers interesting advantages concerning the exchange of knowledge and procedures of the modern and former-East Bloc equipment. Without any doubt the friendly and open approach by the Czech military contributed largely to the success of the international exercise. A major Czech Air Force delegation will be present at Kleine Brogel on 17 July 2007 and will participate in the Operational Intergration Exercise 07 (OIE 07). Next year the Czech friends will be warmly welcomed by the OCU at Kleine Brogel for a next Squadron Exchange.
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Text and pictures by
© Daniel Brackx (June 2007)
Last updated 22/07/07 09:49 Daniel Brackx