Two major anniversaries for the Belgian Air Force
During the International SAR Meet 2016 at the Koksijde Air Base (EBFN) in October 2016 the Belgian Air Component celebrated two important anniversaries.
The first one was the 40th anniversary of the Westland Sea King Mk48. Belgium bought five of these helicopters in 1974 to replace the Sikorsky HSS1 en Sikorsky S-58. The first Belgian Sea King Mk.48 started it’s operations in 1976 and took over the SAR role of the Sikorsky HSS1. All of the Belgian Sea King’s became part of the 40th helicopter squadron which is dedicated to search and rescue (SAR) operations from the Koksijde Air Base, located at the Belgian coastline. Between 1976 en 2016 the Belgian Sea King’s carried out more than 3000 scrambles. During these scrambles they saved more than 2000 lives. Some notable interventions of the Belgian Sea King’s took place in major accidents at the Belgian coast. One of them was the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster in 1987 where thirty people were rescued from a capsized ship. The usefulness of these old SAR heli’s was once again proved in 2015 when they were used to transport people who were seriously injured during the terror attacks in Brussels on March 22th. Especially for the 40th anniversary one of the three operational Sea King’s was fitted with some new stickers to highlight this important milestone. In 2018 the three remaining Sea King MK48’s will be finally replaced by four NH90 NFH helicopters.
The second Belgian highlight during the International SAR Meet 2016 was the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Belgian Aérospatiale SA 316 Alouette III. Three of these light utility helicopters were delivered in 1971 for the Belgian Navy. Over the past decades, these helicopters were not only used for missions from the Koksijde Air Base but also for operations on Belgian M-class frigates and a logistical support and supply ship. The Belgian Alouette III’s are therefore the only helicopters from the 40th Squadron who took part in operations and conflicts abroad. The past few years the Belgian Alouette III’s played an important role during different counter-piracy and counternarcotic operations in front of the Somali coast and in the Caribbean. It is expected that the Belgian Alouette III’s in 2020 will be replaced by the NH90 NFH helicopters.
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens
Location: Koksijde Air Base, Belgium
More info: Belgian Air Force