70 Years 15th Wing - 45 Years C-130
The transport of military cargo and troops within the Belgian Air Component is carried out by the 15th Air Transport Wing. This Wing includes the 20th Squadron, the 21st Squadron and a Training & Conversion Unit. These two squadrons are the former 366 and 367 squadrons of the 169 Wing. While the 20th Squadron mainly transports cargo and troops within operational areas, the 21st Squadron is responsible for passenger transport. The homebase of the 15th Air Transport Wing is the Melsbroek Air Base, which is located on the northern side of Brussels Airport. The air transport wing of the Belgian Air Component currently operates the following types of aircraft: 1 Airbus A321, 2 Embraer ERJ 135, 2 Embraer ERJ 145, 1 Dassault Falcon 900 and 10 Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft. In the near future the C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft from the 20th Squadron will be replaced by seven Airbus A400M aircraft.
To replace the fleet of aging Fairchild C-119G Flying Boxcar's, the Belgian Air Component ordered twelve Lockheed C-130H Hercules military transport aircraft in 1970 of which the first were delivered in 1972. The C-130 Hercules aircraft became the workhorse within the Belgian Air Component and played a major role during important moments in Belgian history such as the evacuation of Belgians during the Congo Crisis. These aircraft were also deployed many times for the transport of medical equipment and relief supplies to disaster areas such as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami and several humanitarian missions. Unfortunately, the 15th Wing lost two of these aircraft as a result of a fatal crash at the Eindhoven airport in 1996 and a hangar fire in 2006. The motto of the 15th Wing is 'TENACITY' which stands for 'Transportwing's Extraordinarily No-nonsense Adaptive Capability Internationally Trophied Year-long'.
In 2018 the Belgian Air Component celebrated the 70th anniversary of the 15th Wing and also the 45th anniversary of the C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft. To commemorate these two anniversaries, the PR department of the 15th Air Transport Wing organized on September 13th, 2018 a special sunset and nightshoot. To highlight both anniversaries, a C-130 Hercules and an Embraer ERJ 135 were given a special paint, designed by Peter Verheyen and Johan Wolfs. In both designs the head of a Sioux Indian is clearly noticeable as this is the official emblem of the 15th Wing.
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens
Location: Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium
More info: Belgian Air Force