History

German occupation

Messerschmitt 110, one of the planes operated by the Luftwaffe in Florennes.

In 1942, during the German occupation in World War II, the Luftwaffe constructed a forward operating base (FOB) in the vicinity of Florennes village. This was necessary to compensate for the Allied bases nearby (St-Truiden and Laon), which led to a weak point in the Germans air defense system.

It took the Germans one year to complete the construction of the airbase, and subsequently started operating the Messerschmitt 110 and Junkers 88 as night fighter aircraft, and the Focke-Wulf 190 for day operations.

In early 1944, as the Allies advanced in Europe, the Germans left their airbase and retreated to Germany. The first non-Axis plane to land on Florennes was a USAF B-24 Liberator, on 11th September 1944, and marks the repossession of the airbase by the Allies. Two Belgian officers and sixty troops were tasked to protect the airbase against looting.

The Belgian Air Force took over the airbase in 1947, initially known as the 161st Day Fighter Wing, to be renamed 2nd Day Fighter Wing in 1948, and later in 1972, 2nd Tactical Wing. It operated the Supermarine Spitfire, closely followed by the F-84E Thunderjet and Thunderstreak. Through the years, also came the Mirage V and the F-16.

The Cold War

Tensions with the USSR reaching a new high, Florennes assumed the nuclear role. Some squadrons were moved from and to Bierset (Liège) for this purpose. As the entire European mainland was threatened by the Soviet SS-20 mobile missiles, NATO decided to install a brand new complex on Florennes Airbase, hosting a detachment of the USAF 485th Tactical Missile Wing which countered the threat till 1988.

International internships

TLP logo, Tactical Leadership Programme

For 20 years (1989-2009), Florennes airbase hosted the international training programme called TLP (Tactical Leadership Programme). It was designed to standardize procedures and tactics between AIRCENT (Allied Air Forces Centre Europe) fighter pilots, who are expected to operate together in combined operations.

The current lodging buildings and a specific airplane apron are still reminiscent of the TLP era. In 2009, TLP moved to Albacete (Spain).

Today

Today, the airbase is mainly used as a main operating base (MOB) for two F-16 squadrons: 1Sqn and 350Sqn, both of which have a multirole function, including QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) where two F-16s are ready to take-off in under 15 minutes. In 2025, Florennes will accept the first Belgian F-35 to set foot on national soil. Besides, it will also host the new RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) capability, operating the MQ-9 Sky Guardian.

Operations by the RBAC

Flight lessons given by an experienced instructor.

Easter theory camp

After two years of distance-learning due to covid-19 restrictions, cadets are to attend theory courses in person again. As of 2021, Florennes airbase will open its doors to the 50 new cadets, allowing them to study the basics of air law, meteorology, aerodynamics etc. in a military atmosphere, close to the operational environment.

Lodging is possible in the refurbished TLP blocks and catering is provided by the military dining facilities on base.

Flying weekends

During five weekends in spring and five more in autumn, the Air Cadets are welcome in Florennes to perform glider flying. These weekends are open for all members, although usually people living in the southern part of the country attend. The aim is to provide some flying continuity for all personnel, be it at the beginning or the end of the flying season.

All gliders are launched through towing by our Piper SuperCub PA-18s, on the main runway of the airbase. This also means that if the QRA aircraft are scrambled, procedures are in place to clear the runway as soon as possible. This definitely provides an extraordinary experience for cadets, as they can experience operationality at its very source.

Trivia

Florennes statistics

Aerodrome Reference Point (ARP): N50°14'36" E004°38'45".
Aerodrome elevation: 927 ft.
Geoid undulation: 152 ft.
Runway heading (QFU): 08/26 - 080°M/260°M.
Runway dimentions (main runway): 3385x45m.

Florennes from the sky