Belgian Air Force Demo Team 2012
   Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum, Patrick Brouckaert & Marc Arys  sbap 2013

As announced, the ATCC open door was held on May 24th, allowing the visitors to discover the air traffic control world but also other aspects of the Air Force. Regarding the location, the static display consisted only of helicopters, but it included some interesting participants like the French Navy, the French Air Force and the Luftwaffe. Some flybys were performed by F-16's, Siai Marchetti SF.260 and Alpha Jet. Visitors could also witness some interesting demonstrations like the anti-explosives dogs, drone helicopters, the Coast Angel better known as Seaking, and an amazing demonstration of the Belgian Federal Police MD-900 in teamwork with the Police Special Operation Team. In short: a pleasant (but sadly very wet) open door.

History of the Belgian Air Traffic Control

In 1951 the Belgian Air Force decided to make serious improvements to the radar coverage of the Belgian territory. After some prospection in the area around the City of Gent, the authorities chose a terrain at Semmerzake and shortly after, they started the implementation. The first 3 truck mounted radars were set up at Semmerzake. Those 3 units came from the United Kingdom and the maximum distance this equipment could cover was estimated at around 15 kilometer.  The working conditions at Semmerzake for the controllers and the technicians could be compared to a camping ground!
In November 1952 the Belgian authorities bought the castle of Gavere, so the personnel of the control center were able to spend their time in better conditions.
1954, the GCI n1 became an independent unit and received the new denomination of Control and Reporting Center 1 (CRC 1).
At the b
eginning of the 1960's the old radars were replaced by new American material. The new radars (type FPS-6 & FPS-33) were more efficient and the control radius increased to 300 kilometers for an altitude up to 20.000 meters.
In 1962, the denomination of the control center changed once more, to become Control and Reporting Post (CRP).

The Semmerzake control center became of great importance in 1963, with the implementation of a system that eliminates the interference between civilian and military air traffic.
10 years later, in 1973, this system was transferred to a new and well known institution: Eurocontrol. But Semmerzake control center remains an important unit, especially for the Belgian territorial defense.
In 1975 the Traffic Coordination Cell (TCC) was automated thanks to the launch of the SEROS (Semmerzake Radar Operating System) program.
As from April 1980 the main radar was replaced two times. The first replacement was done by a General Electric GE592-3D (3D for tri-dimensional), a radar able to make distinction between civil and military aircraft. The performance of the GE radar was a detection capability up to 270 kilometer distance and for an altitude of 8000 meters. Later on, the GE radar was replaced by a MARCONI S273, which is able to detect an aircraft 450 kilometers away, at an altitude that is above 60000 meters!
Since 1993 the Belgian Air Force and Thales-Raytheon company are busy with the SEROS I program. The old bunker built in the late 1950's was abandoned for a modern building, where the air controllers could work in notably better circumstances.
In 2003 the program SEROS I was replaced by SEROS II. This program gave the Belgian Air Force a master role in the Belgian air traffic control. This new system is coupled to 10 radars (civilian and military) and the computerization of all this information gives a general and automated view of the overall traffic situation, and moreover it gives insight in the flight plan of each  aircraft, as well as the meteorological evolution in real-time thanks to the most modern communication systems.

Police MD-900 and the radar ball in background (Serge Van Heertum) MBB BO-105 from Germany (Serge Van Heertum)

Aerospatiale AS 355 "Ecureuil" 2 from the French Air Force
(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)
Aerospatiale AS 365 F "Dauphin" from French Navy (Serge Van Heertum) Eurocopter EC135T1 (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) 3 tail models: tail screw, fenestron and NOTAR (Serge Van Heertum)
Robinson R44 (Serge Van Heertum) Aerospatiale Alouette III Belgian Navy (Serge Van Heertum)
The Belgian oast angel... (Serge Van Heertum) ...Westland Seaking Mk.48 (Serge Van Heertum)
Agusta A109BA Belgian Air Force (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
Robinson R22. The big one... (Serge Van Heertum) ...and the little one (Serge Van Heertum)
Bell 205A-1 (Serge Van Heertum) Amazing flying model (Serge Van Heertum)
B Hunter unmaned aircraft from Belgian Air Force 80 UAV squadron (Serge Van Heertum)

Always appreciated by the young generation, the F-16 flight simulator
(Serge Van Heertum)

"Smurf" at command! (Serge Van Heertum)
Army Piranha IIIc engineering version with shovel buldozer (Serge Van Heertum) Inside the Piranha (Serge Van Heertum)
Ultima target drone: Philip Avonds designed the ULTIMA target drone and the associated production set-up for the Belgian Army. It is a 2 meter wingspan all composite multi purpose vehicle with a primary mission as a target drone for the yearly Mistral firing campaign held at the NATO Missile Firing Installations on the isle of Crete, Greece.  (Serge Van Heertum)

During this campaign, some 30 Mistral missiles are fired at the same number of ULTIMA drones, resulting in a direct hit almost every time. The drones are equipped with smoke flares for visualization and infrared flares to act as a heat source for the heat seeking missiles. A 35 cc glow engine propels the drone to a speed of almost 200 km/h. (Serge Van Heertum)

Old pilots clothing exhibition
(Serge Van Heertum)

Testing the material, may be a start for a military carreer
The essential imago of the ATCC (Serge Van Heertum) The specific "skin" of the radar ball (Serge Van Heertum)
Controled traffic above Belgium (Serge Van Heertum) Center Europe traffic (Serge Van Heertum)
Some F-16's passes (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
The amazing Police display (Marc Arys) (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) Abseiling (Serge Van Heertum)
With a dog! (Serge Van Heertum) next intervention (Marc Arys)
Embarcation for the next mission (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Marc Arys)
(Marc Arys) Dog was dropped at 3 meters of the ground (Serge Van Heertum)
The suspect attack was fast and sharp (Serge Van Heertum) (Marc Arys)

Some more passes showing the machine agility
(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
5th Squadron Siai Marchetti SF;260 (Serge Van Heertum) Dassault Breguet Alpha Jet (Serge Van Heertum)
Seaking SAR demo (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)
EC135T1 going back to home base (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
French Air Force departure...(Patrick Brouckaert) real bad weather! (Patrick Brouckaert)
French Navy also leaving the site (Patrick Brouckaert) (Patrick Brouckaert)
(Patrick Brouckaert) (Patrick Brouckaert)

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