Bye bye "Mitch"...Welcome "Grat"...

Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures : 1st Wing archives via sbap © sbap 2011


September 1967, for the second time, the First Wing F-104’s were involved in the air defence competition with the Royal Air Force Lightning of 92 Squadron based at Gütersloh (GE).

This kind of competition was organized by AFCENT (Allied Air Forces Central Europe). In the NATO structure both squadron had the responsibility of the second sector of the 2 ATAF (Second Allied Tactical Air Force). During this exercise, the main goal was the evaluation of the squadrons in the air defense role capabilities.

This competition was mostly based on air to air shooting missions against towed targets and “cine weave” missions. The  air to air combat simulations were filmed by the movie guns.

For the competition, pilots were on alert level at the ORP (Operational Readiness Platform) located at each end of the runway. When controllers saw a possible enemy intrusion on their screens, they trigger the "scramble". In a minimum of time, pilots had to climb into their plane, strapped, started the engine, aligned the inertial platform,  executed the minimum cockpit checks and taking off to intercept the potential danger (Like the current QRA). There was a kind of “no man’s land” line that the enemy had to pass before the interception could be launched. The mission of the pilot at this moment was to launch the missiles as soon as possible. The very close collaboration between controllers and pilots was essential to guide and place the interceptor in the best firing position, everything was and is still about precision and speed. Some members of the jury were located in the radar station, and evaluated the controllers work, while another part was present on the base. They clock the scramble and makes a visual evaluation of the interception movies.

See also the site of Serge Bonfond for the 1965 competition :










A part of the jury at base Representative from the NATO
Open talk before the competition
Technical in place
Note the first camoufled F-104G Few seconds before the scamble
Go Go Go !
Ground power start Preparing the plane
As fast as possible Adj Palmer Devlieger (future Slivers) at scramble
Ready for taxi
FX83 passing the RAF 92 sqn Lightning Another plane at refueling
British pilot awaiting Here we go
Plane is back
Mission accomplished Adj Palmer Devlieger in discussion with a Luftwaffe judge
Hot debriefing
349th & 350th squadron pilots... ...involved in the exercice
Ground personal for a souvenir

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