60 Years Red Devils

The Red Devils are the official aerobatic display team of the Belgian Air Force. The current team flies with four SIAI Marchetti SF260 trainer aircraft in an overall red paint scheme with the colors of the Belgian national flag on the bottom of the wings and at the vertical stabilizer. All pilots of the Red Devils are flight-instructors and combine their display duties with their regular squadron assignments. Today, the famous Red Devils are part of the 1st Wing based at the Beauvechain Air Base and celebrate their 60th anniversary in 2017. 

 

The Red Devils demonstration team was created in 1957, under the impulse of Maj. Robert “Bobby” Bladt. At that time, this new display team used the British Hawker Hunter F.6 fighter aircraft and was part of the 7th fighter Wing based at the Chièvres Airbase. These red Hawker Hunters took park at several international airshows making the Red Devils soon famous throughout Europe. After the establishment of this aerobatic display team, the Red Devils used sixteen aircraft in 1959. Because the crash risk was too high and the amount of aircraft was too much, the Red Devils aerobatic display team was reduced to five aircraft. Eventually the team finished their activities in 1963 after the disbanding of the 7th fighter Wing. Two years later, the Red Devils were born again under the impulse of Maj. Jacques “Red” Dewaelheyns. The new team used the Potez-Air Fouga CM170R Magister twin engined jet trainer and was based at the Brustem Airbase. The two seat jet trainer Potez-Air Fouga CM170R Magister was purchased by the Belgian government in 1958 to replace to T6 Harvard aircraft. Between 1965 and 1977 Fouga Magisters of the Red Devils performed in several airshows in Europe and became well known ambassadors for the Belgian Air Force. Unfortunately, the Red Devils had to stop a second time because of the arrival of the Alpha Jet trainer aircraft in 1978 which became the successor of the Fouga Magister. Despite the fact that people thought that a new team would be formed with Alpha Jets, tight budget restrictions made this never happen. Thirty years later, the aerobatic display team was re-founded in 2011 by Maj. Jacques “Red” Dewaelheyns to underline the 65th anniversary of the Belgian Air Force. This time the Red Devils used the SIAI Marchetti SF260 light trainer aircraft which are still being used today. The Marchetti SF260 is a light training aircraft designed and built in Italy. It has been in service with the Belgian Air Force since 1969 to train new pilots. After a training period of two years, under the name “Hardship red”, the famous Red Devils gave their first performance for an audience in May 2011 at the official presentation of the Belgian Air Force display teams. Especially for their 60th anniversary the Red Devils chose the Belgian racing driver Vanina Ickx, daughter of the famous Formula One racing driver Jacky Ickx, to be the godmother of the formation team.

 

Text & photos: Kris Christiaens

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