Back home from a week aircraft spotting in the UK. RAF Mildenhall, Lakenheath and Coningsby were the main targets. Added to the route as plan B were RAF Cranwell, Marham and the Imperial War museum in Duxford.
After more then a decade, a museumtrip to the UK was planned. Finally diverting my attention from aircraft spotting to my first interest, aviation museums. The biggest and well known museums were visited, including two small ones to get back in the mood. See map below. A modest tour off almost 1800 km driving on the left side off the roads without any major accidents or conflicts.
Allied Air Forces have gathered in Leeuwarden to take part in the exercise Frisian Flag. Over a two-week period, participants from different nations , alongside NATO Airborne Warning aircraft, will take part in this live-fly air combat training event. Many nations were present, but the presence of some Canadian F/A-18 Hornets triggered my interest.
After my museum trip last week, it was time to see some real action. Place to be was Leeuwarden. The "Weapon Instructor Course" exercise brought some nice jets to Leeuwarden. A two day trip was planned. The weather was excellent, resulting in some nice shots. I was looking forward to see my first European JSF fighters. Leeuwarden is a JSF only base for the Dutch, complemented for this exercise with some Norwegian JSF fighters.
Second museum of the day in the Rechlin region. The oldest museum also. This really showed when you enter the museum. It is a remarkable collection of bits and pieces found in and around the Rechlin airfield.
A well known museum which I visited many many moons ago. But since then a lot has changed. And not all for the better. There is no entrance fee any more which is always a good thing. The collection on display is dispersed over the airfield, so be prepared for a lot of walking in this museum.
Today a shoot with the new arrival at this museum as a subject. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules "CH-13". Recently retired from active service with the Belgian Air Force. Replaced after years of faithful service by the Airbus A-400M Atlas.
Today a quick visit to the 1st Wing Historical Center in Beauvechain. Due to the corona crisis the museum was closed for a long time. Nevertheless the organisaton was able to acquire a Suisse Hunter for the museum. It is a gem longtime hidden on Beauvechain AFB. But now it is in the museum. Looking more beaten and battered than the first time I saw it many decades ago, during a open day in the back of a hanger.
Not my first visit to this nice museum. But today I went especially to see the Fi-103/Re-4 Reichenberg. A manned version of the V-1 missile. Not many of those still around in the world. The one displayed in Soesterberg is mostly original. It came from Delft and was refurbished by a Dutch company called Historic Engineering. The example in Belgian hands displayed in la Coupole is not so complete. So well worth the trip to this museum.
The gunfire museum is located on the old airfield of Brasschaat. This airfield was linked to the 15th Squadron heli, Belgian Army. Before the unit disbanded in 2004 after 50 years operating from Brasschaat. The museum is mostly dedicated to armour and other heavy rolling material. But one hall is filled with equipment used by the 15th Squadron. Together with some some interesting rolling ground to air defense material.
Thanks to GRAS (Gilze Rijen Aviation Society) I was able to attend a base visit to Nörvenich AFB. 35 members of this spottersgroup were invited on base. After meeting up at the parking lot near the main gate, we drove on base in convoy with our cars. We quickly transferred to a tourbus, where we were greeted by our tour guide for the afternoon.
A small event in my backyard which I never visited before. But today this changed. The sun was out and I thought "why not". Brasschaat is one of the oldest military airfields in Belgium. The last military occupants was the "Licht vliegwezen", flying Alouette helicopters. Now it's exploited by the motorvliegclub Brasschaat. Alongside the airfield the old hangars and buildings are in use by the "Gunfire" artillery museum.
It has been a while since I visited this museum. Not only did they add some new aircraft in their collection, but they also rearranged the collection. The trainer aircraft are in one group now. Maybe they should also include the SF-260 Marchetti in this group and move the Britten Norman Islander next to the Gloster Meteor. Old adversary aircraft (Mig 21, F-16 and F-104) are on view in the courtyard. But some how the MiG-21 is the odd one out in this museum. Being the only aircraft which never entered service with the Belgian Air Force.
The Belgian Air Force has 2 specially painted "D-Day" F-16's flying, to commemorate the anniversary off 75 years since D-day. One at Florennes and one at KB. High time for me to try and catch one in front of my camera. So a day of Kleine Brogel spotting was planned. The sun was out and it promised to be a perfect spotting day.
This trip was planned to take pictures of the local Typhoon and Skyhawk aircraft and to witness the arrivals on Friday for the "family day" on Saturday. I booked the hotel on monday, for a three day trip. Later on that day sad news about a midair collision between two Typhoons, killing one pilot, appeared on facebook. This could affect the flying the next few days. Still decided to try my luck, since the hotel was booked and payed for.
At the end of WWII the Germans employed their V-weapons "Vergeltungswaffen". Towards mainly London and Antwerp. For this reason they were building special assembly and launch sites in Northern France. One of these sites was La Coupole. A domed shaped bunker for assembling and launching V-2 rockets. A few weeks before the site could have been operational the English bombed it with their Tallboy bombs. Severely damaging the complex.Today I visited this site. To photograph the V-weapons on display inside the bunker. Especially the V-1 Reichenberger was of interest to me.
The Kakamigahara Aerospace & Science Museum displays 35 aircraft including fighter jets, transport planes and helicopters. The second level of the museum is dedicated to the Japanese space exploits. Kakamigahara is the location of Japan's second airstrip built in 1917.
Yamato Museum opened in 2005 and has become a not-to-be-missed tourist spot in Kure. Officially it is the Kure Maritime museum, but it is better known as the Yamato Museum, after the big model (1/10th scale) of this battleship on display.
After 2 years of absence it was time to visit Japan again for some serious spotting. After a year of non spotting I was really looking forward to this trip. The trip started on the downside. No flying T-4's due to a technical failure with their engines. And to make things even worse, no Japanese fighter jet was flying after their first JSF crash. Luckily our tour started near American bases and they were flying.
Today marked the official end of the Belgian Seaking in European skies. After 40+ years of operational service, Seaking RS-05 made its last appearance before being flown to Oostende the following day. There was a course plotted along the Belgian coastline with several stops at different locations to drop off a commemorative flag. We opted go to Koksijde the homestay of the Seaking. Hoping they would make a extra effort a this location. A final landing was made at the beach, after winching down the mayor of Koksijde.
It was a cold and windy day when I visited Koksijde AFB to attend a spotters day. This event was organized to pay tribute to Seaking RS-02 which would make its last operational flight on this day. Alongside RS-02, two other Seakings were on static display. RS-04, which would make its last flight almost a month later. And RS-05 which is scheduled to make its last flight on the 21st of March. Being the last Seaking going in retirement. Ending an era of almost 50 years Seaking SAR.
Although i was aiming for a non spotting year in 2018. This event popped up and I couldn't resist. A small group of spotters positioned in a ideal place between the runway and the taxiway. Sounded to good to ignore. Weather was also on its best behavior on the day of the shoot. After a safety briefing we were dropped off between runways. 6 aircraft were scheduled to fly. Four operational missions and two departures to Jordanië. One operational flight was cancelled. Still enough to make some awesome shots during take-off and recovery of the operational flights.
Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine in central Tokyo that commemorates Japan's war dead. The shrine was founded in 1869 with the purpose of enshrining those who have died in war for their country and sacrificed their lives to help build the foundation for a peaceful Japan. Although there is some controversy around this shrine it's well worth a visit.
As a last trip before my big year away from military aviation spotting, I was able to go to Taiwan with 4Aviation. A first for me and for our tour guide. Taiwan has always been high on my wishlist. For the simple reason that they have a large variety of Western and self designed aircraft flying around. And we got to see them all on our trip.