Text : Serge Van Heertum    and    Pictures :Serge Van Heertum & Luc Dujardin   © sbap 2011   


End of July, the 52th FW based at Spangdahlem west Germany held an open house. This was not a really great event, but well pleasant and interesting. The organizer's proposed a traditional static display, some ground demonstrations like bomb alert, loading of transport aircraft and certainly one of the most interesting, the armament loading of a A-10A/OA-10A aircraft. Some flying display were also proposed. Some fly pass from two 52th FW aircraft, the A-10A and the F-16CJ, both finishing their presentation with some formation passes. The program included two civilian presentation. The OV-10 Bronco from Tony De Bruyn (Belgium) and an Aero L-39 from the former East German Air Force (Germany). Finally, the last demonstration was performed by the "West Coast Viper" team coming from Hill Air Force Base (Utah). Sadly they went to Europe for a tour, but without a west coast aircraft. So no "HL" tail, but well a demonstration with a "SP" home based aircraft. This was an amazing presentation because of the ceremonial around the aircraft as only the American team can do it. In one word, this open house was the good way to spend a day in the well appreciated American ambiance.



Spangdahlem history (© archives USAF & © Serge Van Heertum).


10th TRW 49th TFW 36th TFW 52nd TFW


Spangdahlem Air Base was created by the NATO in response to Cold War tensions in Europe, USAFE wanted its vulnerable fighter units in West Germany moved west of the Rhein River to provide greater air defense warning time. French authorities agreed to provide some sites located in their zone of occupation in the Rheinland-Palatinate. The base was constructed between 1951 and 1953.

The first USAF military unit present on base was the 7352d Air Base Squadron in September 1952. Initially based at Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base near Munich, their mission was to prepare the facilities for an operational wing.

On May 10th, 1953 the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was moved to Spangdahlem AFB from Toul-Rosieres Air Base.

Operational squadrons of the 10th TRW were:

1st Tactical Reconnaissance (RB-26C replaced by RB-57A in October 1954)
38th Tactical Reconnaissance (RF-80A, RF-80F replaced by RF-84F in July 1955)


Douglas RB-26C "Invader" Martin RB-57A Canberra
Lockheed RF-80A Republic RF-84F


In 1957 the RB-57A and RF-84F fleet were transferred to Chateauroux (Air Depot.) The 1st and 38th Squadrons were re-equipped with the Douglas RB-66 Destroyer.

Three additional squadrons, were assigned to the 10th TRW (moved from the 66th TRW of, Sembach),

19th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron RB/EB-66
30th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron RB-66B
42d Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron RB/WB-66


Douglas RB-66B


On August 25th 1959, the 10th TRW ended its six-year presence at Spangdahlem and moved to RAF Alconbury (UK) and the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing moved from Etain-Rouvres (FR) to Spangdahlem. In 1957, the French Government decreed that all nuclear weapons and vectors had to be removed from France. The nuclear North American F-100C/D Super Sabre of the 49th TFW had to be removed from France and was affected at Spangdahlem.


49th TFW composition:

7th Tactical Fighter (blue stripe)
8th Tactical Fighter (yellow stripe)
9th Tactical Fighter (red stripe)


North American F-100D Super Sabre


In 1961 the 49th TFW changed their F-100 aircraft for the Republic F-105D/F Thunderchief. The 49th TFW was the only European USAF unit to operate the “thud”.


Republic F-105D Thunderchief Republic F-105F Thunderchief

On March 9th, 1967, the Wing began his conversion on McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II.
The 49 TFW remained at Spangdahlem until July 1st, 1968 when it moved to Holloman Air Force Base (New Mexico).
On January 1st, 1969, the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Bitburg Air Base, assumed the operational control of Spangdahlem and became a dual-based wing. The Squadrons of the 36th TFW assigned to Spangdahlem were:

23d Tactical Fighter Squadron (F-4D, Tail Code: BS, red tail stripe)
39th Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (EB-66C, Tail Code: BV, green tail stripe detached from Shaw AFB, South Carolina)


Mc Donnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II
Douglas EB-66C Douglas EB-66C


On December 31st, 1971 the 52th Tactical Fighter Wing was transferred from Suffolk County AFB (New York) to Spangdahlem.

The 39 TEWS went back to Shaw Air Force Base on January 1st, 1973 and was replaced by the 81st Tactical Fighter Squadron from Zweibrücken Air Base, flying the McDonnell Douglas EF-4C Phantom II.
The 52th TFW gained its third fighter squadron with the activation of the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron on November 15th, 1976.
January 1st, 1977, the 52th TFW operational squadrons:
23d Tactical Fighter Squadron (F-4D black tail stripe, Code: SP)
81st Tactical Fighter Squadron (EF-4C yellow tail stripe, Code: SP)
480th Tactical Fighter Squadron (F-4D red tail stripe, Code: SP)
In 1979, the Wild Weasel F-4G was chosen to replace the EF-4C fleet of the 81th TFS, and in 1981 the F-4D of the 23rd and 480th fighter Squadron where replaced by the F-4E.


Mc Donnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II Mc Donnell Douglas EF-4C Phantom II
Mc Donnell Douglas F-4G Phantom II (Europe one camoflage) Mc Donnell Douglas F-4G Phantom II (Hill Camoflage)


When becoming fully operational in November 1983, the 52th TFW became the first and only all-defense wing outside the United States. During this period each Squadrons of the wing's flown a mixture of E and G model F-4 Phantom II with Wild Weasel capabilities.

In April 1987, the 52th TFW began the replacement of the F-4s with Block 30/32 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons for the 23rd TFS and 480th TFS. These were later replaced with Block 50 versions in 1993. The last USAF operational F-4E Phantom II aircraft departed Spangdahlem AFB in December 1987.
In the late 1990, the 81th TFS was equipped exclusively with F-4G and deployed 24 aircraft to Sheikh Isa Air Base (Bahrain) during Desert Storm operation.
On October 1st, 1991, the 52th TFW was renamed 52th Fighter Wing.
At closure of RAF Bentwaters (United Kingdom) on January 4th, 1993 the 510th Fighter Squadron moved to Spangdahlem with their Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. Also, early 1993, the 81st FS was reorganized to fly a mixture of F-4Gs and Block 30 F-16C/Ds. The F-4Gs were withdrawn in February 1994.
After the restructuring, the closure of Bitburg AFB and the transfer of the 36th FW squadrons to Spangdahlem, the operational squadrons of the 52th Fighter Wing were:

23d Fighter (F-16CJ/D blue tail stripe, Code: SP)
22d Fighter (F-16CJ/D red tail stripe, Code: SP)
53d Fighter (F-15C/D yellow and black tail stripe (Tiger stripes), Code: SP)
81st Fighter (OA/A-10A yellow tail stripe, Code: SP)


Lockheed-Martin F-16D (23 TFS) Lockheed-Martin F-16C (22 TFS)
Mc Donnell Douglas F-15C (53 TFS) Unusual Lockheed-Martin F-16C (81 TFS)


During the second quarter of 1999, the 52th FW witnessed the inactivation of the 53rd FS. all the F-15s were transferred to the 1st FW at Langley AFB (Virginia) or to the 48th FW at RAF Lakenheath (UK).
April 2010 the wing was reduced by one third. Twenty F-16Cs were moved to the 148th FW Minnesota Air National Guard and one F-16 was transferred to Edwards Air Force Base (
California). All moved aircraft were from the 22nd FS, resulting the deactivation on August 13th of 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons and the activation of a single "new" squadron, the 480th Fighter Squadron.

Open House 2011

Static display

Short Tucano T1 Royal Air Force 1FTS Linton on House air base



Casa C295M Polish Air Force 8.Baza Lotnicza Kraków air base

Gates C-21A 76th AS Ramstein Air Base

Eurofighter EF2000 Luftwaffe   Jagdbombergeschwader 31 (JBG31) “Boëlke”  Nörvenich

Eurofighter EF2000 Luftwaffe   Jagdgeschwader 73 (JG73)


F-16D block 52 Polish air force 31.Baza Lotnicza  Poznan Air Base

Lockheed-Martin F-35 mock up

Mc Donnell Douglas F-15E strike eagle 48th FW Lakenheath air base

OA-10A / A10A details and armement loading

The only difference between the A-10 and OA-10 is that the OA-10 only carries smoke rockets and AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs for self-defense.

Flying display line


Home base aircraft fly pass
Civilian demonstrations

Rockwell OV-10B “Bronco” preserved in flying conditions in Belgium. Former German Air Force


Aero L-39 private aircraft, former East German Air Force


West Coast Viper Demonstration Team
The team came from Hill Air Force Base (Utah) to perform their demonstration during the 52th FW open house. A perfect mix of ground and air demonstration performed by a really public minded team. After the show the pilot and ground crew didn’t hesitate to come to the public to sign folders and answer to all the questions. Very kind guys, this was a pleasure to meet them all…


Salute to the public

Pilot & crew chief complicity Flight controls check
Safety pins back in place, problems... Change of aircraft

A real ballet !

The demo driver 2011

Shocks removed, ready to taxi Ground crew left the machine
Purely American style  
Have a nice flight "Mace" 480 TFS plane "SP" in stead of "HL"

A brillant demonstration under the grey sky of July 2011
Landing on the runway 05 Back to the parking
Flight is over  

The last salute to the enthousiast public


Garrett "Mace" Dover, a real sympatic guy !

American style
Yellow lines...


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