Text: Serge Van Heertum & Jan de Clercq
Pictures: Serge Van Heertum, Kristof Moens (PR 15th Wing), Jan de Clercq, Patrick Brouckaert, Marc Arys, Pierre Taquet, Jacques Vincent
Translation: Marc Arys  ©sbap 2021
 
"Arizona Dream", a name full of sun and warm sand... This is the name of the first training operation for the Belgian Air Force's brand new A400M. For this mission, the A400M's and personnel of the 15th Transport Wing from Melsbroek deployed to the coastal base of Koksijde and staged an airlift operation from a forward base as it would be the case in real operations. The home base of the NH-90NFH served as a simulated deployed operating base (DOB) and some 70 personnel were deployed there.
The main objective of such an exercise is to test the personnel and equipment required to operate the new transport aircraft in the most efficient way possible outside its usual environment.
The personnel of the 15th Wing must be able to carry out daily flying activities from this forward location and keep the aircraft operational, while complying with the regulations in application.
This first deployment was originally part of a multinational exercise planned for Yuma, in the Sonora Desert, Arizona, USA. By participating in exercises in sparsely populated areas, such as the Arizona desert, under normal circumstances, Defence is trying to reduce the impact in Belgium. Due to the ongoing pandemic and the health measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the exercise was cancelled and replaced by the deployment to the North Sea coast. The name chosen for this operation, "Arizona Dream", was a small nod to the exercise that was to have place across the Atlantic.
This first deployment was obviously of paramount importance in the evolution towards an operational capability of the new A400M "Atlas" transport aircraft.
    
Airbus Military A400M "Atlas"
General characteristics:

Crew: 3 or 4 (2 pilots, 3rd optional, 1 loadmaster)

Capacity: 37,000 kg (81,600 lb)
- 116 fully equipped troops / paratroopers
- up to 66 stretchers accompanied by 25 medical personnel

cargo compartment: 
width 4.00-metre (13.12 ft)
height 3.85-metre (12.6 ft)
length 17.71-metre (58.1 ft) (without ramp 5.40-metre (17.7 ft))

Length: 45.1 m (148 ft 0 in)
Wingspan: 42.4 m (139 ft 1 in)
Height: 14.7 m (48 ft 3 in)
Wing area: 225.1 m2 (2,384 sq ft)
Empty weight: 76,500 kg (168,654 lb) ; operating weight
Gross weight: 120,000 kg (264,555 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 141,000 kg (310,852 lb)
Fuel capacity: 50,500 kg (111,300 lb) internal fuel
Max landing weight: 123,000 kg (271,200 lb)

Powerplant: 4 × Europrop TP400-D6 turboprop
8,200 kW (11,000 hp) each

Propellers: 
8-bladed Ratier-Figeac FH385 and FH386 variable pitch tractor propellers with feathering and reversing capability 
FH385 anticlockwise on engines 2 and 4 
FH386 clockwise on engines 1 and 3
5.3 m (17 ft 5 in) diameter
Performance:

Maximum speed: Mach 0.72

Cruise speed: 781 km/h (485 mph, 422 kn) at 9,450 m (31,000 ft)

Initial cruise altitude: 9,000 m (29,000 ft) at MTOW

Range: 3,300 km (2,100 mi, 1,800 nmi) at max payload
(long range cruise speed; reserves as per MIL-C-5011A)
Range at 30-tonne payload: 4,500 km (2,450 nmi)
Range at 20-tonne payload: 6,400 km (3,450 nmi)

Ferry range: 8,700 km (5,400 mi, 4,700 nmi)

Service ceiling: 12,200 m (40,000 ft)

Wing loading: 637 kg/m2 (130.4 lb/sq ft)

Tactical takeoff distance: 980 m (3,215 ft), aircraft weight 100 tonnes (98 long tons; 110 short tons), soft field, ISA , sea level

Tactical landing distance: 770 m (2,530 ft) (as above)

Turning radius (ground): 28.6 m






  
Arrival of CT-01 during the press conference
(Jan de Clercq©)
 
Friday March 19th, 2021

On this day, the CT-01 with the Luxembourg roundel, went to the Koksijde base to carry the necessary equipment for the deployment; technical and telecommunication equipment essential to run an advanced operational base. This day was also the day of the press conference intended for the local media in order to warn the local population of an increase in flights from the Koksijde base as well as over the neighbouring towns and villages.
During the conference, an introduction was given by Lieutenant-Colonel Aviator Stéphane Roobroek, commander of the Koksijde airbase.
Afterwards, the briefing on the flight operations within the framework of the 'Arizona Dream' exercise was given by Lieutenant-Colonel Aviator Thomas Deberdt, second-in-command of the 15th Transport Wing's flight group.

 
Koksijde airbase was the deployed operating base for Operation Arizona Dream
(Jan de Clercq©)
The Seaking memories are not far away
(Jan de Clercq©)

Colonel Aviator Stéphane Roobroek
(Jan de Clercq©)
The paterns area around Koksijde and the patch of the operation
(Jan de Clercq©)
Arrival of CT-01
(Jan de Clercq©)
Break and landing
(Jan de Clercq©)
Face to face
(Jan de Clercq©)
Parked
(Jan de Clercq©)
Ready for material unload
(Jan de Clercq©)
Lieutenant-Colonel Aviator Thomas Deberdt
(Jan de Clercq©)
Material unload
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
GPU (Ground Power Unit)
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
"Atlas" take off, back to homebase
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
 
Saturday March 20th, 2021

No reprieve for the Communication and Information System team (CIS) of the 15th Wing, as a high-tech aircraft such as the A400M "Atlas" requires a complex data network to connect to maintenance data servers. The network and the strategic data link were set up today.
A UHF/VHF radio system allowing the operations centre to communicate with the aircraft has also been implemented and WiFi connectivity has been upgraded to operational status. But at this stage, there is still a lot of work to be done before flight operations can begin on Monday.

 
Satellite antenna installation
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Communication testing
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Computing, the sinews of war
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Connections and communications
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
 
Sunday March 21st, 2021

Third and final day of setting up the operations centre and, once again, a busy day for the CIS team (Communication and Information System). Today, a high frequency antenna was installed to establish long range communication with the crew and the aircraft. Camera surveillance was also set up to ensure security and monitoring of the operational area. The secure computer systems in the mission planning room were brought online and a test of the entire network was conducted. After three days of intense work, everything is in place at the forward base to welcome aircraft and crews and begin operations.

 

Installation of high frequency antenna
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Teamwork
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
 
Monday March 22nd, 2021

CT-03 left its home base at around 11.00 a.m. local time to head for the forward operating base and from there to carry out its assigned mission of the day. This was an opportunity to take some more equipment and especially the rest of the contingent. But before reaching the advanced base, the crew made a few circuits at Ostend airport as training. After an unloading and a quick check by the technical team, the plane left for its second mission of the day. The mission ended at about 16.00 local time and the aircraft was refueled and underwent the necessary routine checks to ensure that everything was ready for the next day's missions.

 
Arrival of the CT-03 with a chase plane...Bird...at Yumakoks airbase
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Marshalling
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Big chocks for a big plane
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)

More material unload and refueling
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Some technical inspections
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Ready for the second mission of the day
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Take off in good weather conditions
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Time is over for the first day, installation of the protections
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Considering the height of the plane, safety straps are essential
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Good night "Atlas"
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
 
Tuesday March 23rd, 2021

This week in March was exceptionally beautiful and the sunrise offered an image of the "Atlas" aircraft as it could have been taken under the Arizona sun.
But no more daydreaming, the day's missions took place in the Orleans area of France as the concentration of birds in the coastal region was too high and safety was an issue. At the time of departure, the CT-01 joined the advanced base with a supply of material and it was the occasion to test the refueling with two twin hoses.

 
Like in Arizona at dawn
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Cockpit technical inspections
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
External inspection
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Check into the cargo bay by the loadmaster
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
CT-03 on taxi, CT-01 touch and go
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Another visitor
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Missions of the day are over
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Preparing a load for the next day
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Twin hoses refueling test
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Main landing gear inspection
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
It is not a small size!
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Night is coming, but operations continue
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
NH-90NFH preparing for a night flight
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
RN-03 will lift off in few seconds
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
  
Wednesday March 24th, 2021

CT-03 took off just before noon for a 5-hour flight to Bordeaux, Marseille, Luxembourg, Cologne and Liège airfields. During this time, ground support technicians carried out the necessary inspections and repairs on the support vehicles. After the aircraft landed, the technicians carried out the post-flight inspections and some ground tests of the high-frequency radios. Everything went perfectly, but well after sunset.

 
Early and long mission today
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Inspection and maintenance of support material
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Preparation for the technical work which will have to be done at night
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Back to DOB around 16.30 local time
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Landing
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Missions accomplished, preparing for some technical inspections
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Refueling, never empty tanks!
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Light testing
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Cargo bay inspection
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Night work
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
We are far from analog ...
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Test and inspections in the cockpit
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
A sweet night in Arizona
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
 
Thursday March 25th, 2021

This day's operations consisted of two short missions. The first flight, which took off just after 10 a.m., went from deep down Arizona to Brussels and Ostend airports to practice various approach patterns, while the second flight was to show the aircraft's performance to the Air Component Commander, General Major Thierry Dupont and other members of the Air Force. Our communications technicians performed additional tests using high frequency radio to get the best possible reception. After the day's flying activities, the detachment began packing up the equipment for the return to their home base.
"Atlas" CT-03 departed EBFN aka Arizona airbase for EBMB at 20:20 local time for a 21 minute flight.
Arizona (USA) - Melsbroek (Belgium) in 21 minutes... A record?... No simply a dream...The Arizona Dream!

 
Last operations day and the SAR is already on stand-by in the early morning
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The base wakes up slowly
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Test flight for the RN-01, the stand by helicopter today
(Marc Arys©)
New generation helicopter, also Airbus
(Pierre Taquet©)
Gear up
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Back to base after a little warm-up
(Serge Van Heertum©)

"Atlas" backtrack before take off
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Dramatic view of take off - Vortices festival
#1 (Serge Van Heertum©) - #2 (Pierre Taquet©)
Line astern formation with CT-03 ;-)
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Communication team
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
In contact with the crew
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Control tower of the DOB
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Taxi track light
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Base communication antennas
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Firemen always ready
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Back to base after the first mission of the day
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Short final
(Pierre Taquet©)
Few seconds before touch
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Majestic
(Marc Arys©)
Rock and Roll pics
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Touch and go
(Jacques Vincent©)
Second approach
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Short final again
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The giant Atlas in all its splendor
(Pierre Taquet©)
Airmen and landmen
(Jacques Vincent©)
Tenacity
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Spoilers open, landing
(Jacques Vincent©)
In the heat of Bkoks desert
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Siai Marchetti SF.260D arriving from Beauvechain airbase
(Jacques Vincent©)
The ST-46 at landing
(Pierre Taquet©)
It was the General Major Avi Thierry Dupont, Chief of the Belgian Air force, at the controls
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Oups...just a little bit fun, the opportunity was too good (isn't it "Skycrane"?)
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The chief of staff is welcomed
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
A briefing about the operation
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Visit to the loading team...
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
...and the mission planning campaign office
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Boading for a mission with "Atlas"
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
A good place at observer seat
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Vic formation training flight above Koksijde airbase (European spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia))
(Serge Van Heertum©)
A Siai Marchetti SF.260M in training
(Marc Arys©)
"Jean" on board of the ST-26
(Marc Arys©)
Short final
(Pierre Taquet©)
Going for a touch and go
(Jacques Vincent©)
Second mission of the day, a drop in the Moorsele area
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Back track to join the holding point
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Perfect right profile view
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Taxiing
(Pierre Taquet©)
There are even big birds among the branches
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Mighty aircraft...waouw!
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Turn before alignment
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Europrop TP400-D6 turboprop, 11.000 hp each!
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Beautiful view of the CT-03
(Jacques Vincent©)
High turn to align
(Pierre Taquet©)
Big flying machine!
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Alignment...
(Jacques Vincent©)
...on the holding point runway 29
(Jacques Vincent©)
Perfect left profile view
(Serge Van Heertum©)
V2 speed
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Take off
(Jacques Vincent©)
Hot season here!
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
The belly of the giant
(Patrick Brouckaert©)
Tight turn after take off
(Pierre Taquet©)
Heading for the Moorsele area
(Jacques Vincent©)
On the way for a drop
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Extra large cargo door
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Back to the deployed Operating Base (DOB)
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Dance with the clouds
(Jacques Vincent©)
On final for landing
(Pierre Taquet©)
Nose close up
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Last mission of the deployment is over
(Jacques Vincent©)
A view of the pilots
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Shortly before landing
(Serge Van Heertum©)
A souvenir picture of the detachment and the Chief of the Air Force, first deployment in the history of the Belgian "Atlas" is now a fact
(Kristof Moens© - PR 15th Wing)
Back to Beauvechain for the SF.260D pair
(Pierre Taquet©)
Taxiing to the holding point
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Engine and cockpit checks before take-off
(Pierre Taquet©)
Alignment clearance
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Joining the runway 29
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Take off of General Major Avi Thierry Dupont to conclude this exercice week
(Serge Van Heertum©)
 

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