Beauvechain airbase was established in 1936 as a Belgian Air Force base then known as 'Le Culot' airfield, operating Hawker Hurricanes and Gloster Gladiators.
During World War II, more specifically the Battle of Belgium, as Germany was invading the country, they took control of the base and made it one of their main operating bases (MOB) for the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain. Operating the Junkers 88, the Germans revamped two concrete runways, taxiways and numerous other infrastructure works such as hangars and buildings.
Le Culot airfield was a frequent target for Allied bombings. In 1944, a USAF B-17 Flying Fortress caused significant damage to the airfield, limiting the German operations out of Beauvechain.
As the European Liberation made progress and the Germans were forced out, the Canadian Air Force temporarily used the airfield to support Operation Market Garden in Arnhem and Nijmegen. Subsequently, the USAF took control over the airfield and repaired the runways that were severely damaged by the Allied bombings. After this, the airfield was intensively used as resupply base for Belgium, and eventually returned to Belgian control by the end of 1946.
After World War II, the Belgian fighter squadrons that operated out of Britain, 349 and 350 squadrons, returned to Belgium and were based in Beauvechain as from 1948. Together with two other squadrons, they formed the 1st Fighter Wing, initially operating the Supermarine Spitfires.
Throughout the years, the 1st Fighter Wing assumed a mere air-defense role, converting to the F-104 Starfighter, later, in 1976, the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Dissolution of the 1st Fighter Wing
In 1996, 349 and 350 squadrons moved respectively to Kleine-Brogel and Florennes airbases, making room for the training squadrons of Goetsenhoven (Tienen) and Brustem (Sint-Truiden). From there on, the 1st Wing became more of a training centre. In 2010, when the helicopter units moved to Beauvechain, the base became operational once more. It formed the 1st Heli Wing. The training squadrons fell under the command of the Air Force's Competence Centre (CCAir), but remained on base.
Nowadays, 1W Beauvechain hosts many different corps within the premises: 1W (helicopter base), CCAir (Air Force's training centre), FAU (Field Accomodation Unit), MeteoW (meteorological service) and CRC (Control and Reporting Centre) are a couple of them. The Royal Belgian Air Cadets operate as a full-fledged squadron, under CCAir.
Operations by the RBAC
Five weekends are organized in spring, five more during autumn. These occur simultaneously to the weekends in Weelde and Florennes. The aim is to provide flying continuity to all aircrew, be it glider or tow pilots. This is necessary for maintaining qualifications and imperative to the safe conduct of flight. The Air Cadets use Beauvechain's main runway for their operations.
Beauvechain's centralized position in Belgium and the fact that the airbase is home to the Belgian Air Cadets, make it ideal to organize flying activities for members from all over Belgium. However, due to increasing noise complaints, the Air Cadets are forced to spread their operations across its operating bases and limit its flying activities to these ten weekends as noise abatement measures.
Although our maintenance personnel are under 1W command, the Belgian Air Cadets have a number of maintainers permanently at their disposal. They are dedicated for the maintenance and the follow-up of our gliders and tow planes, and are located in hangar C7.
The secretariat of the Royal Belgian Air Cadets is also located in Beauvechain. It is located in block B1, next to the entrance to the airbase, under the F-16 on display. They consist of the commander of the Royal Belgian Air Cadets, an operations officer, a liaison officer and a number of non-commissioned officers. They manage the personnel and the yearly recruitment, schedule flying and ground activities, organize the yearly IACE, maintain a follow-up of the association's finances, coordinate with military services and so on.
Aerodrome Reference Point (ARP): N50°45'28" E004°46'01".
Aerodrome eleveation: 362 ft.
Geoid undulation: 150 ft.
Runway heading (QFU): 04/22 - 039°M/219°M.
Runway dimensions (main runway): 3074x45m.
Sources: Bundesarchiv; The Luftwaffe 1933-1945, ww2.dk.