Text & Pictures: Anthony Graulus - Historical and Industrial research: Serge Van Heertum - Translation: Marc Arys
© sbap 2018

Having some selected contacts with the Marine Nationale, I hit the road with zeal, heading for Open Door Day (ODD) at the Base Aéronavale (BAN - naval airbase) of Lahn-Bihoué, located at the airport of Lorient in Bretagne. This event was organized to commemorate the centenary of the Flotille 4F, actually equipped with 3 Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, successor of the Bréguet Alizé.
The BAN Lahn-Bihoué also houses the Flotille 21F and 23F allowing us to see the good old Bréguet Atlantique 2, the Flotille 24F equipped with Falcon 50 MER and the Flotille 28F with their Embraer Emb-121 Xingu.
For the open day of the 4F, the Marine Nationale set up a program tracing back the history and inventory of the French Navy, with, as top of the bill, the presence of the freshly restored Bréguet Alizé, from Nîmes-Garons.
Also noteworthy was the presence of two RAF CH47 Chinook, out on exercices and participating in these festivities.
Sadly, as is often in France, foreign participants, foreseen for weeks, were cancelled last minute, not talking about the catastrophic weather on the day, compelling the 4 Rafale Marine, to cancel their demonstration, due to a storm raging overhead the Landivisiau region.

In short, it was a very promising event, but disappointing through the force of circumstances.
However, some displays went on and one has to remember a rarity on the airshow scene, the Patrouille "Condor Acier" of the Marine Nationale, flying their Cap 10C, based at Lanvéoc-Poulmic.
Through these few lines, SBAP wshes to thank heartily the contacts of the Marine Nationale for their warm welcome during this event.


Missions :
The Flotille 4F is currently located at the Base Aéronautique Navale (BAN - naval airbase) of Lahn-Bihoué, operating the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye.
With her 3 E-2C Hawkeye, ordered by the new standards comparable to the aircraft of the US Navy, she has, as primary missions, operating from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle:
      - ensuring the safety of the naval forces against aerials and terrestrial threats, thanks to its detection capacity, long range identification and the control and guidance of intercepting aircraft.
      - supporting aerial interception and assault missions against naval and teresstrial targets and elaborating tactical situations.
      - relaying information and data within the naval aviation group.
      - take part in special guidance operations of helitransport and CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue, extraction of downed pilots in hostile or ennemy territory).


The Flotille 4F is a direct descendant of the Aviation d'Escadre, first embarked aviation group, created in 1918 by the Lieutenant de Vaisseau Paul Teste and the Béarn fleet, assigned on the first French aircraft carrier.
The 4F had her first glorious bloody hours with the sacrifice of her crews during the Battle of France in 1940, then equipped with dive-bombers Loire-Nieuport 401/411. Participating in all the subsequent campaigns: Holland, Italy, Gribraltar, Algerie, Morocco, Syria and the liberation of France. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre for her commitment in the Atlantic. Afterwards, Indochina in 1947-1948, from the carriers Dixmude and Arromanches.
Converted to TBM Avenger in 1950, she discovers the anti-aerial warfare with her TBM 3 W devoted to aerial detection and the guidance of Hellcat and Corsair fighters.
In 1960, she is endowed with the Bréguet Alizé and takes part in every mission to ensure peace and the preservation of the French interests, in which the aircraft carriers Clemenceau and Foch are engaged. The Alizé were much-needed during the deployments Saphir, Olifan, Proméhée, Salamndre and Balbuzard.
In 1997, the 4F is "put to sleep". The "Formation Avion de Guet Embarqué" (FAGE) is created and dispatched to the United States, to acquire the necessary technical and aeronautical competences on the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye. This American period is concluded by the qualification on night and day carrier landings aboard the USS John F. Kennedy.
After an intense military test program and adaptations to the new technical-operational environment of the E-2C Hawkeye on the carrier Charles de Gaulle, the FAGE, also located at the BAN Lahn-Bihoué, is renamed Flotille 4F on 10 March 2000.
In 2001, the Flotille 4F took part during 7 months in the operation Herakles in the Indian Ocean with 2 E-2C Hawkey. In 2011, the 4F took part in operation Harmattan of the coast of Lybia.
(Pictures courtesy Marine Nationale©)

Flotille 4F aircraft

Salmson 2A2 (1918 - 1922)
Breguet XIV (1921 - 1926)
Levasseur PL101 (1930 - 1940)
Loire-Nieuport LN401 (1939 - 1943)
Martin 167 Maryland (1939 - 1943)
Lioré et Olivier LéO451 (1941 - 1943)

Douglas SBD Dauntless (June 1944 - September 1949)
Curtiss SBC Helldiver (April 1949 - April 1951)
Grumman TBF Avenger (September 1951 - February 1960)
Breguet Br.1050 Alizé (February 1960 - June 1997)
Grumman E-2C Hawkeye (March 2000 - In service)

The BAN Lahn-Bihoué is located on the airport of Lorient - Lahn-Bihoué (IATA-code : LRT - ICAO : LFRH) on the Plœmeur territory, 9 km west of Lorient in the Morbihan region.
The history of the Lorientaise maritime aviation starts in 1912, with the creation of the first aviation committee, wich organized events in favour of maritime aviation.
Following the success of these events, the Naval Ministry promised to name 'Ville de Lorient' one of the 12 hydroplanes ordered in April 1914.
During the first global conflict, the French coasts were divided in various defence sectors to monitor maritime traffic, submarine movements and register the presence of mines. The Centre Aéro-maritime de Lorient (CAML - the aero-maritime center of Lorient), operating hydroplanes and captive balloons are created in April 1917, on the left bank of the Scorff, at the so called "Pointe du Malheur" ("Point of Misadventure").
In June 1917, the CAML is part of the "aerial patrols of the Loire" ensuring the surveillance of the sector stretching from the peak of Penmarch to the river mouth of the Loire. She is disbanded in December 1920 and the personnel assigned to the CAM of Brest.
Aeronautical activities resumed in Lorient during the summers from 1920 till 1925, during general exercises, involving the squadrons of the Mediterranean, the North, the hydroplanes of Hourtin, Brest and Cherbourg. From 10 July 1925, Lorient becomes "a simple training airbase" for pilot training.
The outset of terrestrial aviation at Lahn-Bihoué goes back to 1938, when an aeroclub used the little apron at the intersection of the 2 current runways. The name of the base comes from the village of Bihoué; Bihoué or Bezehoi is from the Breton "Bezvhoed" meaning "La Boulaie".
From their arrival in 1940 on, the Germans took interest in the site and start, from March 1941, the construction of a major base, including two runways from 2000 meters, dispersals, numerous shelters and hangars of which some still exist. The base, then named Kerlin-Bastard houses Messerschmitt Bf 109, Heinkel He 111, Focke-Wulf Fw 200, Junkers Ju 88, Bücker Bü 131 and Fieseler Fi 156.
The missions were the protection of the submarines entering and leaving the submarine base of Lorient, the logistical flow with Germany, the change of the crews of the U-boats and the attack on convoys off the coast of Ireland.
In 1945, the French Army takes possession of the base and starts its rebuild.
Today BAN Lahn-Bihoué is one of the largest airbases of France and the largest in area of Europe. The base is employing 2000 men and women, including 350 civilians and 17 aircraft. Spreading 800 hectares apportioned between the cities of Plœmeur, Quéven and Guidel, with a circumference of 21 km. The main runway has a length of 2400 m, and in case of problems a runway of 1700 m is also available.
The Flotilles based at BAN Lahn-Bihoué are particularly tasked with maritime patrols and rescue missions at sea with their Atlantic ATL2 and Falcon 50 MER, together with the E-2C Hawkeye, when they are not out at sea on the carrier Charles de Gaulle.

Lann Bihoué: Flotilles & Escadrilles (Squadron)

Flottille 24F (June 1952 - April 1954 / October 1954 - August 1998 / March 2000 - Active)
Flottille 25F (March 1953 - July 1983)
Escadrille 2S (April 1955 - March 2000)
Flottille 21F (June 1958 - February 1959  / Summer 2011 - Active)
Flottille 23F (January 1961 - Active)
Flottille 4F (July 1964 - June 1997 / March 2000 - Active)
Flottille 12F (October 1964 - July 1968)
Flottille 14F (March 1965 - July 1968)
Flottille 9F (December 1968 - June 1972 Disbanded)
Escadrille 12S (April 1969 - April 1972)
Escadrille 52S (September 1983 - September 1997)
Flottille 28F (Summer 2010 - Active)

Aerial view of Lorient BAN Lann-Bihoué (Courtesy French Defense©)
Arrivals and daily missions...
The Breguet Br.1050 Alizé preserved at Nîmes-Garons
Lorient is also a civilian airport: ATR 72-600 from HOP Air France Viking Dragonfly Mk II
Cessna 337B Super Skymaster Hawker - Beechcraft Beechjet 400XP
 British Aerospace Jetstream 41 One of the aicraft owned by Aviation Defense Services (AVdef)
 Boeing A-75/N1 Stearman Morane Saulnier MS 505 Criquet
 North American T-6 G Texan (F-AZBQ) North American AT-6D Harvard (F-AZRB)
 North American AT-6C Harvard Mk2A (F-AZBE) North American AT-6B-M0 Zero (F-AZZM)
 Fly pass of the "Patrouille de France" on the way for another event RAF Boeing CH-47D Chinook HC.5
 Embraer EMB-121 Xingu from Flotille 24F Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet E (E135/8-RX)  EE 3/8 Côte d'or
Like the good old times of the Foch... ...or the Clemenceau
 Just passing through, the Lockheed C-130H-30 Hercules (61-PM) Escadron de Transport 2/61 Franche-Comté - 30 years of service
 Aermacchi MB-339CB Draken International Morane-Saulnier MS.760 Paris from "Armor Aero Passion"
Avion Mudry CAP 10C from Flotille 50F  Socata TB 30 Epsilon (91/315-XH) EPAA 315
 Dassault Rafale M n°39  Dassault Rafale M n°5 anniversary 12F tail
 Breguet Atlantique ATL2 n° 23 from Flotille  23F  Breguet Atlantique ATL2 n° 17 from Flotille  23F
  Breguet Atlantique ATL2 n° 5 from Flotille  23F Nose close up with the 23F crest
Static Display...
 Aerospatiale AS565SA Panther from Flotille 36F
 The 4F anniversary bird Rafale M n°5 tail detail
 Grob G-120 A from Cassidian Aviation Training Services (CATS) Reims-Cessna F406 Caravan II from French Douane
  Aermacchi MB-339CB Draken International RAF Boeing CH-47D Chinook HC.5

Info:  With a fleet of 150 tactical fighter aircraft, Draken owns and operates the world's largest commercial fleet of tactical ex-military aircraft. Draken supports military training objectives around the globe, providing tremendous cost savings over the use of traditional military fighter assets. French Navy is one of their customer, reason of the presence of MB-339CB at Lann-Bihoué airbase

Aircraft fleet:

Aermacchi MB-339CB
Aero L-39 Albatross
Aero Vodochody L-159E Honey Badger
Atlas Cheetah
Dassault Mirage F1M
Douglas A-4K Skyhawk
Mikoyan Gurevitch Mig 21 (BIS/MF/UM Models)

Bombardier Challenger 601-3R
Grumman Gulfstream G300
Cessna Citation Sovereign
Cessna Citation CJ3
Hawker 800XP


Military Air Forces:
United States Air Force
United States Marines Corps
United States Navy
United States Air National Guard
French Navy

Military Air Forces:
US Air Force Test Pilot School
US Naval Test Pilot School
National Test Pilot School
International Test Pilot School
F-35 Joint Operational Test Team

British Aerospace Jetstream 41 from AVdef Dassault Falcon-20C from AVdef


The company AVDef (Aviation Defense Services) owned by Airbus Defense & Space is located at the airport zone of Nîmes, accomodating the operational and technical facilities as well as the management of the company. Since more than 15 years the company is credited with an ISO 9001-2008 standard. AVDef was also holder of an aerial transport license (CAT OPS1) but judged not cost-effective enough, this latter was dismissed. All the aircraft are maintained in house under PART 145.
AVDef is a partner of the Defence agency, industrials and territorial collectivities. Since 1990 AVDef proved that the outsourcing of training is possible and does not interfere with the regalian missions of the state.
From aerial defence training to maritime or terrestrial surveillance, AVDef adapt its methods and means to the given missions. In doing so, it is a service provider for civil aviation as well as for the Defence agencies, delivering innovative and cost-effective training means for state organizations, defence industrials and international organizations.
A broad range of training missions in aerial defence are proposed. From target towing to radar jamming, AVDef operates a fleet of multi-mission Falcon 20, comparable to those of Cobham (which is a shareholder of AVDef).
These aircraft, thanks to their specific equipment, single or multiple payloads, sole aircraft or integrated in an aerial set up, offer a variety of training missions into aerial defence. To complete this offer, AVDef also proposes a panel of towed- dropped- or piloted targets, allowing training based on every possible defence system from short-range (canon), medium- or long range versus the air-air missiles carried; but allowing also training of terrestrial and maritime means on aerial defence.
AVDef delivers as well flight hours to train the flight personnel, non-pilot, of the Ministry of Defence, from the Lahn-Bihoué airbase, reason why there were various of their aircraft present during the open door day.

Flying Display...and bad weather
 Classic Aircraft Corp WACO YMF 5C
 Breguet XIV-A2 replica Aermacchi MB-339CB Draken International
 Display presented by the Flotille 33F The 33F is based at BAN Lanvéoc-Poulmic
 Airbus Helicopter NH90 NFH also called Caiman Marine in the French Navy are owned by the Flotilles 31F and 33F
Avion Mudry CAP 10C n° 110 from Lanvéoc-Poulmic The n° 111
 The n°213 Interesting diplay, no jets but elegancy
 The "Condor Acier" team from Flotille 50F of Lanvéoc-Poulmic
 French Navy historical trio... Potez CM-175 Zephyr, Breguet Br-1050 Alizé and Morane Saulnier MS-760 Paris
 Splendid mix Navy formation! The ATL 2 are from Flotille 21F and the Falcon 50 Mer from the Flotille 24F
 Unusual in the airshow circuit...
 The n° 22 low pass gear down Nose close up with the 21F crest
 The Breguet ATL 2 entered into service in 1991
 Dassault Falcon 50 mer Business Jet elegancy for military purposes
 The Dassault Falcon 50Mer is in service since March 2000

 The Lann-Bihoué airshow final: the "Patrouille de France"

Reports Menu - Homepage