Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum, Marc Arys, Danny Carels & Régis Rocca © sbap 2014

The Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) was officially instituted on July 02, 1934 when the law promulgating the independence of this 'force' was issued. Of course, the French wings were already present during the First World War, but always under the authority of the Armée de Terre, the Army.

Towards the end of the 1920's, the demands of the pilots were very straightforward to make the aviation an independent and autonomous force. These demands were supported by a broad panel of parliamentary, industrial and mediatic members. It took more than one decennium of palaver and reasoning to come to this, so much desired for independence.

It has been 80 years now since the Armée de l'Air deployed her wings and 2014 is ment to be a celebratory year and multiple commemorations are organised within the different units and bases throughout the hexagon.

One has to know the Armée de l'Air set this anniversary day in 2013 on each Wednesday proceeding July 02. The goal of the military authorities was also the let the general public benefit of this prestigious anniversary and what else could be better done than to organise air shows? Cazaux airbase organised an international airshow on June 21 and 22 broadcasted directly onto the France 2 television channel. Afterwards we had the Lorraine region and more particularly the airbase at Nancy-Ochey with the second big event on July 05 and 06. Our team attended the show to give you an insight of the event, but the weather gods were not very keen to the organizers,... Dark grey days with numerous rain showers... Although the modern combat aircraft can execute “all weather” missions, to fly demonstration the cloud base has to be at least at 1.000ft (300 meters) which was not the case very often and so various display were cancelled such as the Austrian Saab 105, the Belgian and Dutch F-16,... In the mid-afternoon a little break in the weather gave the opportunity to the Patrouille de France and the Rafale solo-display to perform. Sunday conditions were however the same. The program also set to posterity the last presence of the Mirage F-1 which will be retired from active service after the airshow at Ochey and a last fly-by overhead the Champs Elysées during the French National Day on July 14. The last F-1 will then go to Chateaudun... definitively after 41 years of dedicated and loyal service. We also had the presence of the “Red Devils”, the F-16 solo-display “Grat”, the Rafale solo-display flown by Benoit “Tao” Planche, the Rafale sporting the colours of the last Tiger Meet, a fly-by of the Armée de l'Air Airbus A400M and of course the locally based Mirage 2000D.
Although the weatherman was not at his best, it was a very pleasant week-end with plenty of opportunities and encounters... French-Belgian friendship is not a futile word!

Base entrance and satellite view of Nacy-Ochey
(Serge Van Heertum & Google Earth)

Farman MF7 "Long Horn" (French Archives)

A little bit of history...

Let us go back to the base history and also to the first bombardment by the French aviation, which, not to forget, took place in this region and was the secondary theme of this show.

Indeed, this first offensive mission departed Verdun on August 14th, 1914. At 05.30 PM, on this August 14th, 1914, Lieutenant Cesari and Corporal Prudhommeau took off with two Farman MF-7 “Long horn” to destroy the facilities and in particular the balloon hangar at Metz-Frescati in German hands.

In the vicinity of the target at 2.700 meters of altitude for Lieutenant Cesari and 2.200 meters for Prudhommeau, they were greeted by an intense air defence gunnery fire. Despite this danger and some major engine problems for the lieutenant they continued towards the target. After dropping their projectiles through the heavy defence fire, the engine of Cesari resumed normal running and they were both able to return safely behind the French lines without seeing the results of this first bombardment. Afterwards they heard their mission was successful destroying two Zeppelin, the Lz9 "Ersatz" and the Lz12. They were both cited in the daily orders for their exceptional armed action. Lieutenant Cesari became a Captain and commanded the French Aviation in the Dardanelles. He died on December 18th, 1957. Corporal Prudhommeau continued into the fighter aviation and died in combat on September 08th, 1916.

Metz Frescati hangar (French Archives) Aerial view of Frescati airfield just after WWI (French Archives)

The base of Nancy-Ochey

The activation of the base goes back to September 1915, but was only used during the two world wars.

In May 1940, the airfield is headquarter to the Zone d'Opérations Aériennes Est (Z.O.A.E. – Eastern Aerial Operational Zone) with one Curtiss H.75 Hawk and ten heavy Potez 63. The base also hosted the No. 3 Wing of the British Royal Naval Air Service during the Bataille de France.

Captured by the Germans in June 1940, the Luftwaffe did not locate any unit until April 1943, when a glider unit, the Luftlandegeschwader 2 (LLG 2), equipped with Gotha Go 242 gliders and medium bombers Heinkel He 111 (used to tow the gliders) settled in. The LLG 2 left the base in June 1943 and the Luftlandegeschwader 1 (LLG 1) took over from September, equipped with DFS 230 gliders and Dornier Do 17 bombers. The glider units stayed on the base until August 1944.

In the spring of 1944, the Luftwaffe found herself on the defensive side trying to protect the German Reich from the allied strategic bombing campaign. Messerschmitt Bf109G from Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26) were deployed to Nancy to intercept these allied raids until June 1944 when the JG26 was replaced by the Kampfgeschwader 53 (KG 53) coming back from the Russian frontline and of which the Heinkel 111 were used to launch V1 missiles against England. The KG 53 left Nancy at the end of the summer, retreating before the progress of the allied troops.

The airfield of Nancy was liberated by the allies on August 20th, 1944 and almost immediately the 826th  Engineer Aviation Battalion of the IX Engineering Command of the USAAF started clearing the field of mines and to repair it regarding the future use by the American aviation. The base became one of the bases of the 9th US Air Force and designated Advanced Landing Ground A-96 Toul/Ochey Airfield on August 29th. The 50th Fighter Group took up residence on November 03rd, 1944 with its three P-47D Thunderbolt squadrons. Another unit, the 415th Night Fighter Squadron of the 12th US Air Force with Bristol Beaufighters followed from November 1944 till March 1945, executing fighter missions by night against the Luftwaffe.

After the truce, the base became a gathering place for the captured German airplanes within the frame of Operation "Lusty". Various jet- and propeller planes were transported and stocked at Ochey before being convoyed to Cherbourg and embarked bound for the United States. Operation “Lusty” ended progressively by the end of 1945 and the Americans started to evacuate their personal and material. The base was handed back to France on November 05th.

During the first years of the cold war, the French government made the base of Ochey available to the US Air Force as a dispersion airfield for its France based units within the NATO framework.

Substantial works were executed in 1950, the concrete runway 07/25, damaged during the war, was destructed and to be able to take in the new jet driven aircraft a new asphalt runway of (8000 ft - 2.434 meters) was build. Hardened shelters, set out circularly (set out said "like a daisy") were erected. Two daisies are located on the north end of the runway and one on the south. Each daisy made up of 15 to 18 shelters (with one or two aircraft per shelter) regrouped around a central hangar.

From 1961 on the base will welcome the first jet aircraft, the Mystère IVA. On January 12, 1962 the base was officially denominated Base Aérienne 133 (BA 133) and named base "Commandant Henry Jeandet", fighter and ace pilot of the second war.

In 1967 the “3ème Escadre” took its quarters in the Lorraine region made up of three squadrons equipped with the prestigious Mirage IIIE. A little bit later one of the squadrons was equipped with the Jaguar instead of the Mirage and took part in various operational missions in Africa.

Since June 1995, the “3ème Escadre” is disbanded making place for three operational squadrons flying the Mirage 2000D, spearhead of the combat aviation. Each squadron has a designated hangar/shelter and are the “Escadron de Chasse 1/3 Navarre”, the “Escadron de Chasse 2/3, Champagne”, the “Escadron de Chasse 3/3 Ardennes” and finally added the “Escadron de Transformation Mirage 2000D 2/7 Argonne” later on.

The Mirage 2000D is the first fighter aircraft of the Armée de l'Air with “all weather” capability and in 1997 a flight simulator was installed on site on the base. From 1999 on, the Mirage 2000D came to know real operations in ex-Yougoslavia and in particular in Kosovo-airspace. In 2003 a batch of 2000D was set up at D'Jamena in Tchad to reinforce the peace keeping forces in the Ituri region and in the Democratic Republic Congo.

For many years the units of Nancy/Ochey took part in various war operations in Afghanistan (ISAF), Lybia (Operation Hartmattan) or in Mali (Operation Serval).

To conclude this short survey, do know the insignia of the base is made up of three superimposed Mystère IVA overhead the Alérions representing the Lorraine region depicting the close bonds which had been created during the 90 years of common existence between the Lorraine region and the French Air Force, of which 50 years on the set of the Ochey town.

Dassault Mystère IVA from Nancy airbase in the late 50's (courtesy AdA)


The 3ème Escadre aircraft:
Mirage IIIE, Jaguar A & Mirage 2000D
(courtesy AdA)


BA 133 Nancy-Ochey insigna

The SBAP team would like to thank warmly the authorities of the Nancy/Ochey airbase in general for their hospitality and organisation and particularly Commander André Hautchamps for the facilities granted to the press, without forgetting Sergent Emilien Crespin, our dedicated companion for the day.
And to conclude, let us say it loud and clear : Happy Birthday to the Armée de l'Air, go for 90... 100 years !

Alpha Jet from BA 705 Tours (Serge Van Heertum) 2nd Sqn from EIV 3/13 Auvergne (Serge Van Heertum)
Escadron de Transformation 02.092 Aquitaine (Serge Van Heertum) Dassault Rafale B from BA 113 Saint Dizier (Serge Van Heertum)
Mirage F-1CR from BA 118 Mont de Marsan  (Serge Van Heertum) One of the 3 last of Escadron 2/33 Savoie - C.53 squadron colours (Serge Van Heertum)
Mirage 2000D (Serge Van Heertum) Mirage 2005 B from Orange Caritat (Serge Van Heertum)
NH90 TTH (Serge Van Heertum)
Eurofighter Typhoon from JG74 (Serge Van Heertum) The tail painting was amazing (Serge Van Heertum)
General view of the flight line (Serge Van Heertum) When Devil meet Athos... (Serge Van Heertum)
Cessna 195 from Foug Air Association (Serge Van Heertum) The Trescal Starduster (Serge Van Heertum)
Rockwell OV-10 "Bronco" (Serge Van Heertum) De Havilland Canada DHC-1 "Chipmunk" (Marc Arys)
(Marc Arys) De Havilland "Mosquito" 2/3 replica (Marc Arys)

The French Ambassadors (Serge Van Heertum)

The past and the present (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) From 01 to 10 (Serge Van Heertum)

TB 30 "Epsilon" from EPAA 315 of Cognac (Serge Van Heertum)
TB 30 "Epsilon" from the "Cartouche Doré" (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Marc Arys) The 4 of Albert Dassault "Flamant" (Marc Arys)
Mirage F-1B (Serge Van Heertum) Mirage F-1CR (Serge Van Heertum)
BR.11 "Cocotte" squadron colours (Serge Van Heertum) SAL.6 squadron "Mouette" colours (Serge Van Heertum)
KLU F-16AM solo diplay (Serge Van Heertum) Belgian Air Force F-16AM solo display (Serge Van Heertum)
Italian Air Force "Typhoon" solo display (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
French Air Force Rafale display with the 2014 Thundertiger aircraft
(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)
Mirage 200D from BA 133 Nancy (Serge Van Heertum) 2nd squadron "Navarre" from EC 1/3 (Serge Van Heertum)
Saab 105OE from the Austrian Air Force (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)
"Flamant" duo (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)
C-160 Transall as support for the PAF (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) ET 01.064 from Evreux (Serge Van Heertum)
Eurocopter EC 725 "Caracal" from Cazaux (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)

The special forces and the 1/67 "Pyrenées" insigna (Serge Van Heertum)

Amazing transport system... (Danny Carels)
(Danny Carels)
Preparing the 2000D for display (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) Due weather on saturday, the display was cancelled...sad (Serge Van Heertum)

The Austian display also preparing for the show (Marc Arys)

(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) But the pilots did only some taxi and came back to the parking (Marc Arys)
Nieuport 28 replica (Serge Van Heertum) (Marc Arys)

Airbus A400M from ET.01.061 " Touraine" fly by and French Army TBM 700 take off (Serge Van Heertum)
Belgian Air Force "Red Devils" in action (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Marc Arys)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Danny Carels)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Danny Carels)

(Serge Van Heertum)
North American P-51D and Yak 11 (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Danny Carels)
"Mustang" 1/2 replica... (Serge Van Heertum) ...and Spitfire (Serge Van Heertum)
(Danny Carels) "Mosquito" 2/3 replica (Marc Arys)

Nancy airshow was the last place to see the Mirage F-1 of the French Air Force in action before their retirment (Serge Van Heertum & Danny Carels)
(Serge Van Heertum) Transall at take off (Serge Van Heertum)
Patrouille de France presented their "low level show" (Marc Arys) (Danny Carels)
(Marc Arys) (Danny Carels)
8 planes roll (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Danny Carels)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Danny Carels)
Patrouille "REVA" (Serge Van Heertum) (Danny Carels)
Italian Air Force "Typhoon" display (Serge Van Heertum)

Wet wet wet... (Danny Carels)

(Danny Carels)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Marc Arys)
OV-10 "Bronco" display (Serge Van Heertum) (Marc Arys)
(Marc Arys) (Serge Van Heertum)
Cpt Alexandre Orlowski preparing for display (Marc Arys) EVAA Extra 330SC diplay (Serge Van Heertum)
(Marc Arys) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Danny Carels) (Marc Arys)

Rafale solo display by Cpt Benoit "Tao" Planche to conclude the airshow
(Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Danny Carels) (Danny Carels)
(Danny Carels) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)

(Marc Arys)

(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) Note the new antenna deployed on taxi... (Danny Carels)
To end the day when the sun was back...some flying models (Marc Arys) (Serge Van Heertum)
By Régis Rocca
Belgian Air Force "Red Devils" and "Grat" toegether...great to see

F-16AM solo display inverted ressource

The Patrouille de France in better weather conditions
EVAA display
Thundertiger in action with a better background as Saturday
Cpt Benoit "Tao" Planche
The "Red Devils" behind the scene...

Portrait (Serge Van Heertum) & Pilot and technicians on work (courtesy Red Devils)

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