Taken at Kleine-Brogel air base by our friend Andrew Timmerman from Finn Aviation Photography, the cool photos in this post feature an F-16 of the 349th Squadron belonging to the Belgian Air Force. The special painted Viper, that is nearly 50-years old, commemorates the unit’s 80th anniversary and will fly under its colours until next summer.
The aircraft was presented on Nov. 4, 2022 to an audience of enthusiasts, including in flight, escorting a Spitfire fighter of the Second World War, a type used for years by the 349 (F) Squadron within the British Royal Air Force (RAF), and then under the Belgian cockades after the conflict.
As reported by the Brussels Times, the aircraft’s decorated tail fin is a reminder of this period on the right, with a drawing of Spitfire pilot “Duke” Ivan Du Monceau de Bergendal, its first commander, wearing a leather helmet. On the left, it is decorated with an F-35A stealth fighter – the future mount of the squadron from 2027 – and a pilot wearing the latest generation helmet with the words “349 Sqn. Proud of the past, Ready for the future.”
The British Royal Air Force’s 349 (Belgian) Squadron was founded in 1942 as a Belgian British Royal Air Force (RAF) unit.
The squadron participated in all significant actions during the Second World War, including the first flights over the Normandy beaches on D-Day and the subsequent liberation of Western Europe.
Together with its French-speaking sister unit (350 Squadron), 349 Squadron helped lay the groundwork for the modern Belgian Air Force in 1946.
The two Squadrons remained with the 1st Fighter Wing at Beauvechain until 1996 (the 1st Fighter Wing was disbanded on Mar. 4 of the same year). During this time the units developed their expertise in every facet of air combat, including the renowned F-104 Starfighter stratospheric flights.
349 Squadron became the first operational NATO F-16 unit in 1979.
The 349 Squadron relocated to Kleine-Brogel Air Force Base in 1996 and underwent multi-role training there. The base now carries the name of the illustrious 349 CO Count “Duke” du Monceau de Bergendal.
349 Squadron has participated in all Belgian air operations throughout the years; it conducted the first flights over Libya in 2011 and was the first NATO squadron to land in Siauliai, Lithuania, in 2004 to defend the Baltic airspace from that location.
Photo credit: Andrew Timmerman
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