Text Serge Van Heertum - Pictures : Serge Van Heertum & Marc Arys sbap 2011


Air Traffic Control Center a real important matter in flying safety above Belgium for all kind of aircraft...(Serge Van Heertum)
Aerial view of Semmerzake Air Traffic Control Center (ATCC) (Marc Arys)

In 1951 the Belgian Air Force decided to bring serious improvements in 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 that 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 that 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 campground!
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).
Begin 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 upto 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 avoiding the interferences between civillian and military airtraffic.
10 years later, in 1973, this system was transfered to a new and well known institution : Eurocontrol. But Semmerzake control center remains an important unit especially for the Belgian territorial defence.
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 performed with a General Electric GE592-3D (3D for tri-dimentional), 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 able to detect an aircraft at 450 kilometers away at an altitude range that was 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 left for a modern building where the air controllers could work in realy better circumstances.
In 2003 the program SEROS I was replaced by the 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 computerisation of all this information gives a general and automated view of the overall traffic situation, and moreover gives insight in the flight plan of each  aircraft and the meteorological evolution in real-time thanks to the most modern communication systems.

What an evolution between 1951 and 2011 !  60 years of Air Traffic Control Center was an unique occasion to open the doors for visitors and shed a light on this unit and  the installation, including the old control bunker. This was also the opportunity to show the high importance of air traffic control and all the systems that ensure the safety of travelling people and the defence of the territory.

Old pictures of the center exposed to the public  (Serge Van Heertum) The old buncker was accessible to the visitors  (Serge Van Heertum)
The past...  (Serge Van Heertum) ...and the present (Belgian Defence)
The radar ball, certainly the main image of the site  (Serge Van Heertum) sample of controller screen (Belgian Defence)
Unusual view of a B hunter  (Serge Van Heertum) Still the highlight for visitors...the F-16  (Serge Van Heertum)
The new wave Belgian Air Force IPR stand with flight simulator and F-16 cockpit mock up  (Serge Van Heertum)
Arrival of the MD520 of the Belgian Federal Police  (Serge Van Heertum)
Westland Seaking Mk 48, coast angels in demonstration  (Serge Van Heertum)
Some fly by of military and civil aircraft  (Serge Van Heertum) Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II coming from Spangdalhem Air Force Base
(Serge Van Heertum)
A rare machine in our airshow and opendoors  (Serge Van Heertum) Dassault Mirage 2000D from EC03.003 / BR44 Nancy Air Base
(Serge Van Heertum)
A box of four F-16's from Kleine Brogel, note the presence of the first MLU 6.1 aircraft with the OCU tail  (Marc Arys) & (Serge Van Heertum)
Stampe & Vertongen SV4's formation...  (Serge Van Heertum) ...two of them wearing Belgian Air Force colour scheme  (Serge Van Heertum)
The "Red Devils" in Swan formation pass  (Serge Van Heertum) Box formation gear doawn  (Serge Van Heertum)
Always nice the national colours in a blue sky  (Serge Van Heertum) Tactical break before returning to Beauvechain Air Base  (Serge Van Heertum)
350 Squadron F-16A/M from Florennes Air Base  (Serge Van Heertum) A low pass in pair  (Serge Van Heertum)
Tactical evolutions  (Marc Arys) & (Serge Van Heertum)
and a last pass to salute the public  (Serge Van Heertum)
Shert Skyvan from Invicta company  (Serge Van Heertum) De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunck  (Serge Van Heertum)
Stampe & Vertongen SV4c in French colours  (Serge Van Heertum) Tipsy Trainer  (Serge Van Heertum)
Yakovlev Yak 52   (Marc Arys) Agusta A109 back to homebase  (Marc Arys)

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