Text: Marc Arys - Pictures: SBAP team work and more... See the picture credentials 
©sbap 2021
 

The end of an era...

17 December 2021 saw the final flight (well almost) of the Mighty Hercules, for 50 years the workhorse of the Belgian Air Force 15 Wing Air Transport.
We will not elaborate vastly on the subject as much has already been written, but will give an overview of the milestones of the career of the Belgian C-130H.

Milestones of the Belgian Air Force C-130H during their 50 years of dedicated service
(presentation given during the press conference by Major Bodet, head of the Maintenance Unit)

Always in service of others, bringing peace by deploying troops, relief by humanitarian or medical goods, evacuating people from harms way, the C-130 has always been ready for the job, 365 days a year, 24/7. Deployable in a matter of hours, it could reach the world, anywhere in a matter of days.

150.000 tons of cargo - 285.000 flying hours - 199.500 landings... quite an achievement !

Some highlights of the finest moments in it's history :

1971 - the Belgian Air Force staff decides to replace the aging C-119 by 12 C-130H, based on the recommendations of the Paracommando Regiment after having used USAF C-130's in 1964
- the first one, CH-01 was officially delivered on 25 July 1972
- the last one, CH-12 on 16 May 1973
" The last C-130 was only delivered less than a week and crews were still being reconverted, when the first operation was launched, SOS-Sahel.
1973, the 20th Squadron has 14 converted crews available

1973 - 1974 SOS-Sahel
- 6 aircraft from May 1973 till September 1973
- continued in 1974 with 2 aircraft
- Niger, Chad, Upper-Volta (currently Burkina Faso)
- 4.000 tons of humanitarian relief - 1250 hours
- development of VLAGES (Very Low Altitude Gravity Extraction System), a wordly
renowned Belgian speciality

1978 Red Bean
- 13 May, FNLC rebels capture Kolwezi and take hostages
- 18 May, 9 C-130's and 2 Boeing 727 depart from Kamina
- 20 May, 8 C-130's perform an assault landing on Kolwezi
- Paracommando's evacuate 2.300 people the same day

1985 - 1989 Sudan & Ethiopia

Sudan
- 4 periods of humanitarian relief operations
- main operating base is Lokichokio
- 1.500 missions

Ethiopia
- 1 C-130, 69 times
- 5065 flighthours

1990 - 1991 Gulf War

Flying Carpet: airlift of refugees from Jordan to Egypt
- 25 August till 4 October 1990
- Flying hours: C-130 - 400 / Boeing 727 - 15

Ace Guard: deployment of Belgian Mirages and Dutch Patriots to Turkey
- 27 December 1990 till 24 March 1991
- Flying hours: C-130 - 790 / Boeing 727 - 95

Gulfstream: air transport for the United Kingdom and France to Saoudi Arabia
- 4 December 1990 till 19 May 1991
- Flying Hours: C-130 - 1270 / Boeing 727 - 35

Southern Breeze: replenishment for Belgian fregates in the Gulf
- 5 September 1990 till 13 july 1991
- Flying Hours: C-130 - 585 / Boeing 727 - 135

NATO Early Warning Force: deployment of AWACS to Turkey
- 7 August 1990 till 28 May 1991
- Flying hours: C-130 - 180

Brown Shelter & Blue Lodge: humanitarian assistance for Kurdish refugees in Iran and Irak
- 6 April till 3 July 1991
- Flying Hours: C-130 - 655 / Boeing 727 - 10

Total flying hours for these six operations: C-130 - 3880 / Boeing 727 - 290

1991 Sweet Home & Blue Beam Zaïre

Sweet Home
- July-August 1990 - 8 C-130 evacuate men and material from Zaïre

Blue Beam
- The operation is enlarged to Belgian compatriots
- 5350 evacuees
- 'CH-14' brings assitance (Portugese Air Force C)-130 operated by Belgian crews

1992 - 1993 Restore Hope Somalia

Operation Restore Hope was initiated by the United States on 9 December 1990, within the UN operation UNOSOM, to protect the civilan population from clan warfare
- On 11 December, 7 C-130 and a Boeing 727 bring UN troops to Kismayo
- a 4 montly rotation is due to follow

1993 - 1994 Ruanda
- 18 November 1993, the 1st Bn Para goes to Kigali, inder the banner of UNAMIR
- 8 April, all Belgians must evacuate Ruanda, the start of operation SILVERBACK
- C-130's and C5's depart Nairobi (one C-130 severely damaged) to Kigali
- 21 April till 7 May - Blue Safari - withdrawal of 500 Belgian troops from Ruanda

1996 - 1998 Somalia Famine
- UNOSOM ends in 1995, but famine and chaos remains
- 1 C-130 for the World Food program and ECHO (European Community Humanitarian
Office)
- a new technique developped by the RAV-AIR is deployed to spread more food over
larger areas - Lightweight Food Delivery or 'Snowdrop'. Only used once in this
operation

 1997 Green Stream Zaïre
- Mobutu has fallen, rebels are heading for Kinshasa
- 23 March, 550 Paracommando's transported to Brazzaville with 8 C-130
- troops remain till April, but withdraw as exercise by crossing the Congo stream

2004 - 2012 ISAF
- from 2003 till 2012 operation ISAF (International Security and Assistance Force)
- 1 C-130 permanently at Kabul

- 2004 - 2005
- 2006 - 2007
- resupply missions

2006 - 2007 - 2008

2006 UNIFIL Lebanon
- evacuation of 400 refugees with 5 C-130' from Lebanon in support to UNIFIL

2007 Assistance traincrash in Congo
- a C-130 on mission in DRC (Democratic Republic Congo) was used as an ambulance
and moved medical supplies after the traincrash in Western Kivu

2008 EUFOR Chad
- deployment of Belgian detachment to Chad

2008 DRC Kivu refugees
- on the run for General Nkunda, 71 tonnes of humanitarian supplies overflown to
Goma

2009 - 2013 MONUC / MONUSCO
Mission of the United Nations (UN) to bring stability in the Democratic Republic Congo
- from 2009 till 2013: 1 C-130 permanently at the disposition of the UN
- 25 persons are rotated every month in Kisangani

2011 - 2018
Support to other operations
- SERVAL (Mali) logistic support
- PPM / Kindu: military partnership program
- ISAF supply missions
- SANGARIS (Central Africa - from Gabon)
- Operation Guardian Falcon
- Operation Desert Falcon
- EUTM (European Training Mission in Mali)

2018 - 2019 MINUSMA
MINUSMA (Mission Multidimensionnelle Intégré des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation au Mali -- Integrated Mutlidimensional Mission of the United Nations for Stability in Mali)
- 14 May, the Belgian giovernment proposes to have one C-130 permanently at the
disposition of the UN in Mali
- 7 rotations, 739 flyinh hours for the UN
- this is the last long term mission of the C-130 on foreign soil, but bot his last
weapon feat though...

2021 Operation Red Kite
- August 2021: the Taliban are at the gates of Kabul
- from 18 August till 3 September
- 3 C-130 will do 20+ rotations between Islamabad and Kabul
- evacuating more than 1.400 refugees between 20 and 25 August
- standing by another 8 days for evacuation betwxeen 26 August and 2
September

This is the last NEO operation - 43 years after RED BEAN, RED KITE marks the end of the operational life of the C-130, apart from the exercise Tropical Storm 21, which will finally close this historical chapter.

Through the independence revolutions of the seventies, the famines of the eighties, the gulfwars of the ninetees, the middle-east operations in the 2.000's, the C-130 did not just survive... they thrived !!

And as the last slide of the presentation depicted :

"The end is at hand, a new chapter is about to begin, the book is far from over" #WeAre15thWing#

Cover picture: Courtesy Michael Moors / BAF CoaIpr©

December last missions
  
CH-05 back to homebase in the late afternoon of December 2nd
(Serge Van Heertum©)
CH-07 back to base on December 5th
(Serge Van Heertum©)
CH-07 tactical landing on December 8th
(Serge Van Heertum©)
CH-07 back to base after a night flight on December 13th
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Operation "Tropical Storm" 2021 was the last operational mission for the CH-01 and the Hercules fleet
This last abroad operation for the C-130H was held from November 22nd until December 14th
(Courtesy Michael Moors / BAF©)
Above Gabonese forest
(Courtesy Michael Moors / BAF©)
Dropping
(Courtesy Michael Moors / BAF©)
CH-01 back to base on December 16th, after the "Tropical Storm" operation
(Serge Van Heertum©)
December 17th the official farewell
An international participation for the event
(Philip Verhasselt©)
Polish Air Force arrival on December 16th
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Lockheed C-130E  3 SLTr / 14 Eskadra Lotnicza - Powidz Airbase
(Jacques Vincent©)
Lockheed C-130J-30  86th AW / 37th AS "Blue Tail Flies" - Ramstein AFB
(Philip Verhasselt©)
USAFE C-130J nose close up
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Extreme foggy arrival...
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
...for the Aeronautica Militare Italiana
(Philip Verhasselt©)
Lockheed C-130J  46ª Brigata Aerea - 50° Gruppo - Pisa/San Giusto airbase
(Patrick Brouckaert©) & (Jacques Vincent©)
Col. Avi. Vandenbussche, BaseCo of the 15 Wing
(Marc Arys©)
Major Bodet, Head of the Maintenance Unit
(Marc Arys©)
The press presentation
(Jan de Clercq©)
The jubilee aircraft, CH-O1 - first in, last out
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Simply eloquent figures
(Marc Arys©)
Queen was met in the skies?
(Marc Arys©)
Some signatures
(Marc Arys©)
The last mission team
(Marc Arys©)
Tenacity... 50 years on !
(Marc Arys©)
The Base Commander posing proudly with "Mighty Herc"
(Marc Arys©)
Half a Century !
(Jan de Clercq©)
 
In the hangar
 
The "Eleven" posing for the photographers
(Philip Verhasselt©)
The plane and the parachute, quite a symbol
(Philip Verhasselt©)
Let's stay proud of our colors in all circumstances
(Jacques Vincent©)
Inside the cargo bay at rear door level
(Jacques Vincent©)
Not the best place to stay in case of...
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Navigation colour
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
the most famous Amerindian of Belgium
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Under European management
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
The faithful Allison
(Jacques Vincent©)
Big nose is watching you...
(Jan de Clercq©)
  
Affection marks and tagged floor
  
(Philip Verhasselt©)
(Patrick Brouckaert©) (Patrick Brouckaert©)
(Philip Verhasselt©)
(Patrick Brouckaert©) (Patrick Brouckaert©)
(Philip Verhasselt©)
(Patrick Brouckaert©) (Philip Verhasselt©)
   
 The partially cancelled mission
  
(Philip Verhasselt©) (Philip Verhasselt©)
(Philip Verhasselt©) (Philip Verhasselt©)
Due to the weather conditions, only CH-05 took off. Back to the apron for the USAF and Polish Air Force
(Philip Verhasselt©)
  
The press flight
 
After the presentation the members of the press and invited guests had the opportunity to be part of the farewell flight on board of CH-07.
This farewell flight should have been a flight of 2 Belgian C-130H, 1 Belgian A400M and the visiting guest aircraft, a C-130J-30 from the USAFE, a C-130J from the Aeronautica Militare Italiana and a Polish C-130E. However, due to the bad weather conditions, two flights were planned. One with the visiting aircraft and CH-05, afterwards one with the members of the press and guests with 2 BAF C-130 (CH-07 and CH-05) and one A400M (CT-05). Sadly for the first flight, only CH-05 went airborne, the USAFE and Polish aircraft taxying back to the apron.
After the usual pictures on to the apron, we boarded CH-07 for this farewell flight. Take-off and a little later we popped out on top... Beautiful sunlight and a nice cloudy carpet underneath. To our surprise, the loadmasters readied some gear and opened the rear ramp. 
What a sight !
In turn, we had the opportunity to sit on the ramp for some pictures. At first, a bit of cloud surfing for the photographers in the A400 to immortalize CH-07. After a second switch (being part of this as well ;-), the A400M Atlas appeared behind the C-130 which allowed some nice shots to be taken.
Ramp closed, down through the clouds for a little farewell flight and back to the homebase at Melsbroek airport.
On arrival CH-07 and CH-05 were greeted by the firepartment of Brussels airport with the traditional 'waterwall'. Back to the apron, shut down of the engines and final pictures.
The era has ended...
 
In the pilots office
(Marc Arys©)
(Roland Broeckhove©) (Roland Broeckhove©)
(Jan de Clercq©) (Jan de Clercq©)
The Allisons sweetly humming
(Marc Arys©)
Other outside view
(Roland Broeckhove©)
Shadow and light
(Marc Arys©)
Dancing with the clouds
(Marc Arys©)
Zeus' son surfing through the clouds
(Marc Arys©)
Only a few saw the sun on this farewell day
(Jan de Clercq©)
The new one is taking some pictures of "Hercules"
(Jan de Clercq©)
Simply a mythic aircraft
(Courtesy Michael Moors / BAF©)
The new sight for years to come
(Marc Arys©)
(Jan de Clercq©) (Roland Broeckhove©)
Up close
(Marc Arys©)
(Marc Arys©) (Marc Arys©)
(Marc Arys©)
Sunlight playing on CT-05
(Marc Arys©)
(Jan de Clercq©) (Marc Arys©)
CT-05 for posterity
(Marc Arys©)
CH-07 landing on RWY 25R, still in foggy weather
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Followed by CH-05 in the same conditions
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Firemen are waiting the "Mighty Hercs" pair
(Jacques Vincent©) &
(Philip Verhasselt©)
(Philip Verhasselt©) (Jacques Vincent©)
Waouw... Still impressive, even after 50 years !
(Philip Verhasselt©)
(Philip Verhasselt©) (Philip Verhasselt©)
The traditional water wall
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Keep cool, we are being followed
(Marc Arys©)
The water wall seen from inside
(Marc Arys©)
(Philip Verhasselt©) (Philip Verhasselt©)
Smoking effects
(Jacques Vincent©)
(Marc Arys©) (Jacques Vincent©)
(Philip Verhasselt©)
(Philip Verhasselt©) (Philip Verhasselt©)
(Jacques Vincent©)
The souvenir pictures:
(Marc Arys©)
Another one with the men from the shadow, the maintenance personnel
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Royal Air Force tribute with a flypast, just at the cloud base
(Serge Van Heertum©) & (Jacques Vincent©)
Foreing visitors departure back home: Aeronautica Militare Italiana
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
United States Air Force Europe
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Polskie Sily Powietrzne
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
A last look at the first one...Goodbye Hercky!
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
  
 But... Some more flights before final retirement
 
December 20th
 
(Philippe Decock©) (Philippe Decock©)
(Philippe Decock©) (Philippe Decock©)
A pair flypast at Charleroi Gosselies (Brussels South Airport)
(Philippe Decock©)
(Serge Van Heertum©) (Serge Van Heertum©)
(Serge Van Heertum©) (Serge Van Heertum©)
CH-12 and CH-05 back to homebase
(Serge Van Heertum©)
  
 December 21st
 
(Serge Van Heertum©)
(Serge Van Heertum©) (Serge Van Heertum©)
Two missions for CH-07. One in the morning and one in the sunny afternoon
(Serge Van Heertum©)
  
 December 22nd... The ultimate Hercules flights
 
CH-05 leaving Melsbroek apron for the last time
(Courtesy Kristof Moens - 15W / BAF©)
Final flypast on the runway 25L
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Morning sunrise colours
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Followed later by CH-07
(Simon Van Assche©)
CH-07 from the other side
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Goodbye Brussels Airport
(Simon Van Assche©)
The way from the light to the shadow of the past
(Serge Van Heertum©)
CH-05 for a touch and go at EBCI
(Jacques Vincent©)
(Philippe Decock©) (Philippe Decock©)
(Philippe Decock©) (Philippe Decock©)
(Philippe Decock©) (Jacques Vincent©)
The ultimate landing of CH-05
(Philippe Decock©)
(Philippe Decock©) (Philippe Decock©)
(Philippe Decock©)
(Jacques Vincent©)
(Philippe Decock©)
(Philippe Decock©) (Philippe Decock©)
Flypast and tactical break for CH-07
(Jacques Vincent©)
(Philippe Decock©) (Philippe Decock©)
(Philippe Decock©) (Jacques Vincent©)
Ultimate Belgian Air Force C-130H flight on ADSB exchange...
(Jacques Vincent©) (Philippe Decock©)
CH-07's utlimate landing... We can't miss where it is...
(Jacques Vincent©)
(Philippe Decock©) (Philippe Decock©)
(Philippe Decock©) (Philippe Decock©)
(Philippe Decock©)
(Jacques Vincent©) (Philippe Decock©)
(Jacques Vincent©) (Philippe Decock©)
Sadly, the party is over "Mighty Hercs"
(Philippe Decock©)
  
 December 23rd... A last visit to the Gentle Giant pair
 
CH-05 last crew tagging
(Philippe Decock©)
Same for CH-07
(Philippe Decock©)
The real last daily inspection before leaving the homebase
(Philippe Decock©)
A last look back
(Philippe Decock©)
(Philippe Decock©)
  
Belgian Air Force C-130H Hercules
CH-01   C/N 382-4455
Date in: July 1072
Date out: End of service 2021

CH-02  
C/N 382-4460
Date in: July 1072
Date out: 05 May 2006
Destroyed in a hangar fire at Brussels Airport
(Hangar 40 Sabena Technics)

CH-03  
C/N 382-4461
Date in: August 1072
Date out: October 2019

CH-04  
C/N 382-4467
Date in: October 1072
Date out: July 2020

CH-05  
C/N 382-4470
Date in: December 1972
Date out:
End of service 2021

CH-06  
C/N 382-4473
Date in: December 1972
Date out: 15 July 1996
Written off after a fatal crash at Eindhoven airport


CH-07   C/N 382-4476
Date in: January 1973
Date out:
End of service 2021

CH-08  
C/N 382-4478
Date in: February 1973
Date out: December 2017

CH-09  
C/N 382-4479
Date in: March 1973
Date out: December 2020

CH-10  
C/N 382-4481
Date in: March 1973
Date out: December 2018

CH-11  
C/N 382-4482
Date in: April 1973
Date out:
End of service 2021

CH-12  
C/N 382-4483
Date in: April 1973
Date out:   End of service 2021

CH-13   C/N 382-4047
Date in: March 2009
Date out: April 2021
Former N130EV - first registered as CH-14, then CH-13 - preserved at Beauvechain airbase since 26 April 2021

The first one... ...and the last one
 

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