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

Text & Pictures : Guy Liesse © sbap 2011


1984 the F-16A was already in service for five years and at this time the 1st Fighter wing of Beauvechain was fully operational on the new American fighter. Regularly, shooting campaigns were organized on the French airbase of Solenzara in Corsica. August, 1984 was a shooting period dedicated to the 349 “Maze” squadron. This was a period when I had many friends in this squadron and they invited me for a two day stay at Solenzara to have a look at the operations dedicated to air to air shooting. August 20th was the great day when I was at the entrance of this mythical and well international military airbase used by different NATO countries for exercises.

After the morning briefing the operation started conducted by Major Robert “Bob” Verbist, the C/O (Commander Officer) of the squadron. During the pilot preparation, on the tarmac, the technical crew was busy to prepare the 13 detached aircraft for the missions of the day. Two waves a day were scheduled and each team was composed by three or four aircrafts. This means many activities for the Belgians over there and hard work for the technical crew.
During the two days, Beauvechain OSN (Officier Superior Navigant)
Kolonel Guido Van Hecke, spent a visit at the detachment and was also integrated in the mission planning. Everybody in operational squadron or wing have to keep the qualifications.

After an intensive activity on the apron, all foreseen aircrafts were on air for around an hour.
Mission accomplished the aircraft when back to the base and the technicians took the aircraft for the next mission preparation. This was also the moment when the
SECAPEM (towed target pod) was removed and the flags deployed for the shooting results analyses. A great moment is when the involved pilot has to retrieve his own bullet impact (each pilot had his own colors). Finally the results are published and the discussions between the pilot about their mission, the shooting performance or the shooting procedures are going on. After the evaluation and debriefings, it was time to relax a little bit and the missions of the day were over. During the evening diner the aeronautical discussions were still present during this convivial moment. Someone with the aviation virus knows that he is incurable…

After more than 27 years and the opportunity to publish this page, I would like to thanks all the pilots and personal present at Solenzara : “Guido”, “Flip”, Fons”, “Latty”, Bob”, “James”, René”, “Guy” & “Jay”









Thirteen Belgian F-16's on Zara tarmac a perfet line up !
In the Belgian section rest room The blackboard with the missions and the shooting results
Ready for the next mission Relax, awaiting his plane
"Fons" Some more debate before departure

Some are ready !

  Turn around by René Schouben
A last check of the SECAPEM target pod Here we go
The pilot and his crew chief, the perfect combination  
"René" awaiting the start up Posing for the photograph
This one is ready In background the munition stock
Kolonel Guido Van Hecke OSN is participating the mission Kolonel Van Hecke became the Air Force chief later on
Preparation The target plane with the 350 squadron colours
Note the cable between the rope container and the MDI (Miss Distance Indicator) The target plane is equipped with two target system
Start up Some other fighters in preparation
Waiting the clearance The typical Solenzara background
Hot weather clothes for the technical crew Still awaiting the taxi clearance
  The target aircraft on taxi
And a wave of 349 fighters on taxi... Up thumb, all is ok
FA16 Note the large position light forseen with ECM container
Above Corsica This is a clear view of a Block 10 aircraft
Ongoing for the shoot Target aircraft is preparing the target flag and MDI
Back from mission After the Belgian, French Mirage F-1 are taking off
Deployement of the flag for the shooting verifications The different impact and colours are noted
Same for the second one Patrick "James" De Rouck in full concentration
And the resuts of this wave...3 Fighters, 112 hits! A MDI seriously damaged, showing the precision in air to air combat of the Belgian pilots