Text: Philippe Decock - Pictures: Philippe Decock & Ejercito Del Aire Ala 46    © sbap 2017
 
 The base entrance and a today aerial view of the site from Google Earth
(Philippe Decock ©)
 North American NA-121 Texan (AT-6D) (C.6) as gate guardian
(Philippe Decock ©)
(Philippe Decock ©)
  
The Canary Air Command, the General Air Command and the Combat Air Command constitute the force structure of the Spanish Air Force.
The Canary Air Command (Mando Aéreo de Canarias, or MACAN) is responsible of conducting air operations against enemy forces, whether air, sea, or land and even rescue, surveillance and reconnaissance, air transport and air operations supporting operations within its area of responsibility which covers one million five hundred thousand square kilometers, almost three times the size of the Iberian Peninsula.
This command is like a small scale Air Force, and it must be so given the distance from the Canary Islands to the Iberian Peninsula and its geographical singularities, being so close to the African mainland and setting a geostrategic space with its own personality and different characteristics.
The Canary Air Command's Headquarters (CGMACAN) is located in Las Palmas, de Gran Canaria capital, and has the following units under its command:
- Gando Air Base, where the Control and Warning Group (GRUALERCON), the "Canarias" Rescue Coordination Center (RCC), the Las Palmas Operational Squadron Air Traffic (ECAO), the Gando Detachment of the Canary Natural Emergencies Intervention Unit, belonging to the Military Emergencies Unit (UME) and the 46th Wing are based,
- The military airfield of Lanzarote, where all the means necessary for a permanent deployment of Air Force units are available,
- The Air Surveillance Squadrons (EVA) No. 21 and No. 22, respectively situated on the peaks of Gran Canaria and Lanzarote islands.
In addition to their specific facilities, MACAN units can use those of the airport infrastructure of the other islands, Tenerife North (also called Los Rodeos), Tenerife South, La Palma, El Hierro, La Gomera, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria.
Gando Air Base is the essential element of air defense and security of the Canary Islands, since all combat, transport, maritime patrol and rescue units available to the Spanish Air Force are located there.
The Canary Air Battle Management Center, from where air-to-air operations, as well as operations is support of Ground and Sea Forces can be managed, is also located in Gando, belonging to GRUALERCON.
Inter-island transportation needs are covered with the support of 35th Wing CASA 295 aircraft (spanish denomination T.21), which regularly perform flights between all the islands under operational command of MACAN.
Military aviation has been present on Gran Canaria for about a hundred years, and this activity had started in a place that would become Gando Air Base, initially known as the "Desert of Gando", along the bay of the same name.
Back in 1924, three Breguet airplanes named "Archipiélago Canario", "Gran Canaria" and "Tenerife", escorted by a Dornier seaplane, flew from Tetouan to Gando as thanksgiving to Canary people for donating them.
 
 
 Military side view of Gando   (Philippe Decock ©)
  

Several types of planes have been based in this Canary corner:

 
 Fiat CR.32 Cricri  (Hispano HA.132L)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Junkers JU 52/3M  (Casa 352L named T.2)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Heinkel He 111H-16 (Casa 2.111F named T.8)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Messerschmitt Bf 109G  (Hispano HA-1112L1L name C.4)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Douglas DC-3-A-467 Skytrain  (named T.3)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 North American NA-121 Texan (AT-6D)  (named C.6)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Hispano HA-200D Saeta  (named A.10B)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
  Grumman SA16B Albatross  (named AD.1B)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Dornier Do 27B-5 (Casa C-127)  (named U.9)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Northrop SF-5A & SF-5B Freedom Fighter  (named C.9)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Dassault Mirage F.1EE  (named C.14) 
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Fokker F-27-200MAR   (named D.2)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Caza C-212AA Aviocar  (named T.12)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Mc Donnell Douglas F/A-18-11-MC Hornet  (named C.15)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 
Sikorsky H-19  (named Z.1) - Agusta Bell AB 205A  (named HE.10A) - Aerospatiale AS 332C1 Super Puma  (named HD.21)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 
 461 Squadron short history 462 Squadron short history
  802 Squadron short history
 Northrop SF-5A Freedom Fighter (C.9)   (Philippe Decock ©)
 
 

462 Fighter and Attack Squadron "Halcones" (Falcons), part of 46th Wing, a unit with over fifty years of existence (created at 1965), is actually equipped with McDonnell-Douglas, now Boeing, F/A-18 "Hornet" fighters (spanish denomination C.15) and constitutes the effective arm of airspace control in peacetime, maintaining a permanent alert service day and night, like other MACAN units that support the Command and Control System, such as the GRUALERCON, EVA 21 and EVA 22.
The background of the 462 Sqn. is the Mixed Air Regiment No. 4, created in 1940, and the Expeditionary Force formed following the conflict of Sidi Ifni in 1957, from which the 36th Wing was born in 1957. In 1962, 36th Wing became a "Mixed" unit due to the use of cargo, bomber and fighter aircraft, and was finally denominated 46th Mixed Wing or "Ala Mixta 46" in 1965.

At that time it was formed by four squadrons :
- 461 Squadron (Junkers Ju-52)
- 462 Squadron (Heinkel He-111)
- 463 Squadron (Texan T-6)
- 464 Squadron (Messerschmitt Me-109)

After AT-6 and Me-109, the following "pure" fighters were Hispano Aviación HA200D "Saeta", Northrop SFA-5, Mirage F-1CE and Hornets from 1999. The fighter aircraft were all operated by 464 Sqn until its disbandment in 1982. They were then transferred to 462 Squadronn.
The F/A-18 is powered by two General Electric F-404 afterburning engines and is one of the most versatile tactical aircraft in the world. It is a multirole aircraft designed to have large capabilities as a fighter aircraft and as an attack aircraft. It is extremely flexible and can maintain maneuvers above seven g's of acceleration. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 23,000 Kgs and a top speed of nearly twice the speed of sound. The version flown by Ala 46 is locally, and unofficially, called F/A-18CX as a reference to the acquisition program that led to their buying. They are all former US Navy F/A-18A's and Spanish Air Force brought them to the EF-18A+ standard after their delivery to Ala 46. Initially, they were delivered to the Spanish Air Force between 1995 and 1999 and were first flown by Ala 21 in Morón de la Frontera. Just before Ala 21 was re-equipped with Eurofighter Typhoons, being re-named Ala 11 in the process, the Hornets were transferred to Gando based Ala 46 in order to replace the ageing Mirage F-1EE's. The process was fully completed in 2003. Of the 24 ex-USN Hornets delivered, 20 remain active, all operated by 462 Sqn.
For air-to-air missions, the Hornets can be equipped with Sparrow or AMRAAM radar guided missiles and Sidewinder or IRIS-T infrared guided missiles. It is also equipped with a M61A1 Vulcan six-barrel 20mm Gatling gun systems with 578 rounds. The Sidewinder version used by 462 Sqn is unique as it is an AIM-9P upgraded to "L" version by CLAEX (the Spanish Air Force test and development unit) and called JULI.
For air-to-ground missions, pilots can choose among a wide range of weapons, depending on the characteristics of the target to destroy. They can also use advanced infrared sensors and laser designation equipment (FLIR) that permits to observe and discern day and night any ground target from heights above eight thousand meters. The air-to-air refueling capability of the Hornet enables prolonged range and autonomy.

  

 (Philippe Decock ©) Wall of Fame... (Philippe Decock ©)
 Some historical souvenir of the Squadron (Philippe Decock ©) Models to show the past (Philippe Decock ©)
 The briefing room  (Philippe Decock ©) Equipment room  (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
 Inside the flight line building 
(Philippe Decock ©)
Checking and signing the aircraft maintenance form before flight
(Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©)
 A visit into the hangar and other shelters   (Philippe Decock ©)
 Special paint for the 25.000 Hornet flight hours of the Squadron
(Philippe Decock ©)
The 46-01 is wearing this paint scheme
(Philippe Decock ©)
 Maintenance  (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) Technical team on duty  (Philippe Decock ©)
46-12 QRA bird, armed and dangerous!  (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) 46-22... QRA: Awaiting the call!  (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©)
 The 46-16 with special paint from 2015  (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
 50 years of the Ala 46 creation  (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) A view on the refueling probe  (Philippe Decock ©)
 The 46-07 will take part to the day mission  (Philippe Decock ©) Crew chief preparing the plane  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Turnaround  (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) Straping and check list  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Run up  (Philippe Decock ©) On taxi with a view on the civilian side of the site  (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
 Another view of Gando apron
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
The giant parking view during a multinational exercice in 2015
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Take off  (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
 Some view of 462 Squadron missions
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
Close formation
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Refueling training with a KC-130H Hercules (TK.10)...
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
...and with a Boeing 707-331B(KC)  (T.17)
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 (Ejercito Del Aire ©) Flares effect  (Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 Mission accomplished, back to the base  (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
(Philippe Decock ©)  (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) Back on the parking, the technical crew takes the plane back
(Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) After the rain...the sun  (Ejercito Del Aire ©)
 462 Squadron is also prepared for real operational missions
(Ejercito Del Aire ©)
A last view of the parking and the civilian trafic
(Philippe Decock ©)
 
 
 Caza C-212AA Aviocar  (T.12)  (Philippe Decock ©)
 
  
802 SAR Squadron, is equipped with CN-235 VIGMA maritime surveillance aircraft (spanish denomination D.4) and AS 332 Super Puma helicopters (spanish denomination HD.21). The planned dotation is two D.4 and four HD.21 but, for the time being, only one D.4 and two HD.21 are available.
For the exercise of their duties, D.4 requires a crew of two pilots, a flight engineer, two mission system operators and an observer. It has an endurance of 9 hours at a cruising speed of 240 knots. It also has a mission system integrated with FLIR, maritime search radar of 250 nautical miles range and HF, UHF, VHF and SATCOM communications. It is equipped with rafts and survival kits, as well as flares, smoke canisters and marine markers launchers.
The HD.21 requires a crew of two pilots, a flight engineer/rescue winch operator, two rescuers and a nursery assistant. It has a range of 350 nautical miles at 120 knots; it is capable of carrying 19 passengers or 4 stretchers and has a 270 kg capable crane, HF, UHF, VHF and IRIDIUM communications, and smoke flares and markers marine launchers.
The 802 has an important task given the heavy air traffic and complies with ICAO requirements in the SAR field since 1955. These aircraft and their crew are on alert 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, reacting in one hour from assets activation in case of air accidents. This squadron also develops specific humanitarian functions such as medical evacuations or maritime surveillance and control of ships plying the waters around the islands, tracking those deemed suspicious to carry out criminal activities, providing therefore a greater security to the Spanish Nation.
  
 The Squadron is fully equipped for SAR missions  (Philippe Decock ©) Aerospatiale AS 332B Super Puma   (HD.21)  (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©)
 Super Puma cockpit...  (Philippe Decock ©) ...and cargo bay  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Preparing for a mission  (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
 The modernized full glass cockpit of the AS 332C  (Philippe Decock ©) The cargo bay with the needed material  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Few minutes before run up  (Philippe Decock ©) the glass instrumentation  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Taxiing...  (Philippe Decock ©) ...and lift off  (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)

 Back from mission  (Philippe Decock ©) Marshaling  (Philippe Decock ©)
 (Philippe Decock ©) The anti-corrosion treatement with the rotor still turning (Philippe Decock ©)
The biggest problem of Gando: CORROSION  (Philippe Decock ©) (Philippe Decock ©)
Gando is also an international platform: a Boeing C-17A Globmaster III from the SAC (NATO Strategic Airlift Capability) visiting the base  (Philippe Decock ©)
 

Gando Air Base have some positive aspects but also some negative aspects, or hostile peculiarities. The positive elements to note are operational infrastructure and optimal weather conditions for flight.
The infrastructure of Gando Air Base comprises two runways, shared with the airport of Gran Canaria, cantonments, desalination plants, a water-purification plant, twelve aircraft shelters, a dozen hangars mainly used for maintenance and two large aprons which allows an almost complete autonomy in these areas.
On the negative side, Gando is far away from mainland Spain and is subject to a special microclimate.

Main effects of the distance :
- In the maintenance area, being away from the main supply centers means an increase of downtime for supply, requiring additional effort in storage and streamlining transportation, unloading and distribution procedures.
- In the personnel area, the distance and the subsequent transfers, conditions personnel at the request of destinations, required by the duty of mobility, innate in the Spanish Air Force.
And, of course, the biggest problem of Gando: CORROSION.
As we have highlighted, the weather as optimal for flight, but, in addition to the marine environment with a special microclimate, Gando is battered by strong winds carrying dust and sand that have a high content of magnetite due to volcanic terrain features, fixing on the metal components of aircrafts, facilities and equipment, producing significant corrosive effects and requiring additional effort in preventive maintenance and, in some cases, corrective action at a high cost.
Thus one can understand the importance and significance of the environmental adaptation of the Base, endowing it with a gigantic effort of a vegetative cover in certain areas to reduce the action of wind erosion and complementing it with a careful choice of the most exposed to wind materials, the design and orientation of buildings and the protection of aircraft and equipment under cover.
Undoubtedly, the re-population of plant species and their conservation requires a vital and costly element: WATER, which has led to the installation of seawater desalination plants and a wastewater recycling plant.
Gando Air Base represents and brings together the Spanish military aviation tradition in the Canary Islands and on its facilities are located the Canary Air Command units, whose men and planes keep watch day and night for the security and tranquility of each and every one of the inhabitants of this Spanish region.

In name of SBAP, I would like to thank Ejercito del Aire HQ, Ala 46 base commander, 462 and 802 squadrons commanding officers, Major Dasi, Captain Munoz and all the people I met during my visit for helping us in the realization of this report.

  
  
Gando Aviation Museum
  
 The timeline of Gando Airbase  (Philippe Decock ©)
 First flight registrated in Canarias was a Bleriot XI  (Philippe Decock ©) The first Gando landing  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Gando-Buenos Aires raid  (Philippe Decock ©) 1926 raid pilot equippement  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Hydrobase project from 1940  (Philippe Decock ©) Artist view of this project  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Gando in the years 1940's  (Philippe Decock ©) The beginning with Buchon and Ju 52/3M  (Philippe Decock ©)
 In 1953  (Philippe Decock ©) In the 1990's  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Radio transmission material - Radio transmission plan between Canarias and the Spanish Sahara - General view of the museum room  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Breda-Safat 7.7 mm gun (AT-6D & H200D Saeta)  (Philippe Decock ©) DEFA 553 30 mm (Mirage F.1EE)  (Philippe Decock ©)
 General Electric J85-GE-13 engine (Northrop SF-5A Freedom Fighter)
(Philippe Decock ©)
Some models to show the past of the base
(Philippe Decock ©)
 From left to right:
General de División del Ejército del Aire Alejandro Mas de Gaminde
General de División del Ejército del Aire Luis Manzaneque Feitrer
General de División del Ejército del Aire Francisco Mata Manzanedo
General de División del Ejército del Aire Ángel Salas Larrazábal
(Philippe Decock ©)
 Gueneau helmet from Cmte Salto that became Chief of Ejercito Del Aire
(Philippe Decock ©)
HGU 55/P helmet  (Philippe Decock ©)
 The Hormet cockpit with pilot equipement and the Martin Baker Mk7 ejection seat  (Philippe Decock ©)
 Pictures wall with many souvenirs...  (Philippe Decock ©)

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