|Air Component of the Belgian Armed Forces|
One of the F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Belgian Air Component
|Active||1909-1915: Company of Aviators
1915-1940: Military Aviation
1940-1946: Belgian Section, RAF
1946-1949: Military Aviation
1949-2002: Belgian Air Force
2002-present: Air Component
|Commander||Major-General Claude Van de Voorde|
The Belgian Air Force was founded in 1909 as a branch of the Belgian Army. It originally carried the name of Compagnie des Ouvries et Aérostiers. At the start of the First World War, the military aviation branch consisted of four squadrons equipped with Farman aircraft. In March 1915 it was expanded to six squadrons. During the war the Belgian squadrons were equipped with Nieuport 10, Nieuport 11, Nieuport 17, Hanriot HD.1, SPAD S.VII, SPAD S.XIII and Sopwith Camel. One of its pilots, Willy Coppens, even became the top ranking "balloon buster" of German observation balloons of World War I.
At the start of World War II, the Army Air Force had three active Air Force Regiments. Planes which were used by those regiments were the Renard R-31 and R-32, the Fiat CR.42, the Hawker Hurricane, the Gloster Gladiator, the Fairey Fox, and the Fairey Battle. These were massacred by the much superior German Luftwaffe in the German invasion of May 1940.
The following (possibly incomplete) table lists the inventory of the Belgian Air Force as in May 1940
|Aircraft||Origin||Type||Year acquired||In service|
|Fairey Battle||United Kingdom||Light bomber||1938||16|
|Fairey Fox||United Kingdom||Light bomber & observation||1933-1938||154|
|Gloster Gladiator||United Kingdom||Fighter||1937||22|
|Hawker Hurricane||United Kingdom||Fighter||1939||20|
|Koolhoven FK.56||Netherlands||Advanced Trainer||1940||12|
|LACAB GR.8||Belgium||Bomber prototype||1936||1|
|Potez 33||France||Light bomber & reconnaissance||1930||10|
|Renard R.38||Belgium||Fighter prototype||1940||1|
|SABCA S-47 / Caproni Ca.335||Belgium / Italy||Light bomber prototype||1940||1|
Before the outbreak of the war Belgium also sought to equip its Aviation Militaire with foreign designs, ordering production licences in Poland and France and aircraft in the USA. However, the acquired licences could not be used until May 1940 and the aircraft produced in the USA were eventually delivered to France and to the United Kingdom. The following table summarizes Belgiums foreign orders:
|Breguet 693||France||Light bomber and assault aircraft||1940||licence to build 32|
|Brewster B-339||United States||Fighter||1939||40 ordered, 1 delivered to Bordeaux, 6 to Martinique, rest to RAF|
|Douglas DB-7||United States||Medium bomber||1939||16 ordered|
|PZL.37 Łoś||Poland||Medium bomber||1938||licence to build unknown number|
After the surrender of Belgium on 28 May 1940, a very small Belgian Air Force in exile was created in Great Britain. This small force was active within the British Royal Air Force, and its squadrons were equipped with versions of the much better aircraft, the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Typhoon.
On 15 October 1946, the Belgian military aviation was turned into an autonomous force, independent of the Belgian Army.
During the Cold War, at various times the Belgian Air Force operated the following aircraft:
|Aero Commander 560F||United States||Twin-engined light transport||560F||1||1961 to 1973 as royal transport|
|Airspeed Consul||United Kingdom||Twin-engined light transport||4||Used from 1948 in Belgian Congo.|
|Airspeed Oxford||United Kingdom||Twin-engined light transport||20||Operated between 1947 and 1954.|
|Auster AOP6||United Kingdom||Single-engine light observation aircraft,||22||Operated between 1947 and 1955.|
|Avro Anson||United Kingdom||Twin-engined light transport||15||Operated between 1946 and 1954.|
|Avro-Canada CF-100 Canuck||Canada||Twin-jet interceptor||Mk 5||53||Operated from 1957 into the mid 1960s.|
|Boeing 727-200||United States||Three-engined jet airliner||727-29C||2||Operated from 1975.|
|Dassault Mirage 5||France Belgium||Jet fighter-bomber and reconnaissance||5BA
|Operated from 1970. 3 were built in France|
|Dassault Falcon||France||Twin-engined light jet transport||20E||2||Operated from 1973.|
|de Havilland Tiger Moth||United Kingdom||Biplane trainer||15||Operated from 1946.|
|de Havilland Dominie||United Kingdom||Biplane transport||7||Operated from 1946.|
|de Havilland Mosquito||United Kingdom||Twin-engined piston light fighter-bomber||TT3
|Operated from 1947 as target tugs and night fighters.|
|de Havilland Canada Chipmunk||Canada||Single-engined piston trainer||2||For evaluation from 1948.|
|Alpha Jet||France||Ground attack||Alpha Jet B||33|
|Douglas C-47 Dakota||United States||Passenger/troop transport||41||Operated in various roles between 1946 and 1976.|
|Douglas DC-4||United States||Four-engined piston airliner||2||Operated from 1950 to 1969.|
|Douglas DC-6||United States||Four-engined piston airliner||4||Operated from 1954 to 1960.|
|Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar||United States||Twin-engined troop or cargo transport||C-119F
|46||Operated from 1952 to 1973.|
|Fouga Magister||France Germany||Jet trainer||CM.170R||50||Operated from 1960|
|Built under licence in Belgium and Netherland.|
|Gloster Meteor||United Kingdom||Jet fighter||F4
|Operated from 1949 some built in Belgium and Netherlands|
|Hawker Hurricane||United Kingdom||Piston fighter||II||3||Operated from 1946|
|SABCA Hunter||Belgium||Jet fighter||F4
|Operated from 1956 all built in Belgium under licence|
|Hawker Siddeley 748||United Kingdom||Twin-engined transport||2A||3||Operated from 1976|
|Lockheed T-33||United States||Single engine jet||T-33A
|Operated from 1952|
|SABCA F-104 Starfighter||Belgium||Multi-role jet||F-104G
|Operated from 1963, Belgian-built|
|Miles Magister||United Kingdom||Single-engines trainer||1||Operated from 1946 to 1948|
|Miles Martinet||United Kingdom||Single-engined target tug||11||Operated from 1947 to 1953|
|North American Harvard||United States||Basic trainer||Various||173||Operated in Belgian Kongo|
|Percival Proctor||United Kingdom||Single-engined liaison||IV||6||Operated from 1947|
|Percival Pembroke||United Kingdom||Twin-engined light transport||C51||12||Operated from 1954.|
|Republic F-84 Thunderjet||United States||Single-engined fighter-bomber||F-84E
|213||Operated from 1951|
|Republic F-84F Thunderstreak||United States||Single-engined fighter-bomber||F-84F||197||Operated from 1955|
|Republic RF-84F Thunderflash||United States||Single-engined reconnaissance||RF-84F||34||Operated from 1955|
|SIAI-Marchetti SF.260||Italy||Single-engined trainer||SF.260MB||36||Operated from 1969|
|Stampe SV.4|| Belgium
|Operated from 1948|
|Supermarine Spitfire||United Kingdom||Piston-engined fighter||IX and XVI||181||Operated from 1945|
|Swearingen Merlin||United States||Twin-engined light transport||Merlin 3A||6||Operated from 1976|
|Westland Sea King||United Kingdom||Rescue helicopter||Mk 48||5||Operated from 1976|
In the beginning of the nineties, the end of the Cold War caused the Belgian government to restructure the Belgian Armed Forces in order to cope with the changed threats. This meant cutbacks and crimping of the Armed Forces. The Belgian Air Force was hit hard and saw its strength more than halved with the disbanding of the 3rd Tactical Wing in Bierset (1994); the disbanding of the 1st Fighter Wing in Beauvechain; the 9th Training Wing in Sint-Truiden; and the Elementary Flying School in Goetsenhoven (1996).
In 2002, the Belgian government decided to emulate Canada and impose a "single structure" on its armed forces in which the independent Belgian Air Force ceased to exist. The former Air Force became the Belgium Air Component (COMOPSAIR) of the Armed Forces. COMOPSAIR nowadays consists of 2nd Tactical Wing in Florennes and 10th Tactical Wing in Kleine Brogel, both flying F-16's in 4 squadrons. Out of the 160 F-16s originally bought by Belgium, only 105 were upgraded; with further reductions to 72 aircraft in 2005; and planned to 60 by 2015. The 1st Wing at Beauvechain is assigned with the training of pilots for which the Marchetti propellor-driven trainer aircraft is used for elementary training, and the Alpha Jet for advanced training. Advanced fighter training occurs in the F-16 at Kleine Brogel.
COMOPSAIR still uses the Lockheed C-130 Hercules in the 15th Air Transport Wing based at Melsbroek, Belgium, which in time is planned to be replaced by seven Airbus A400M transport planes. VIPs are transported with Embraer 135/145 jets, the Dassault 20/900 and the Airbus A310. The Sea King helicopters and the Alouette III SAR helicopters will be active for years. They will be replaced by NH-90's (10: 4 NFH + 6 TTH).
In 2004, as part of the new unified structure, the Army Aviation units were transferred to the COMOPSAIR. These contain the Agusta A109 attack helicopter, and the Alouette II training and recce helicopter.
Within the framework of its commitments within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. Belgium has allotted its 72 F-16s to NATO purposes. Two squadrons with a total of 16 aircraft have been designated for use by the Rapid Reaction Forces.
In February 2008, minister of defence Pieter De Crem announced that due to increasing problems and poor servicability, the 2 A310's are to be replaced as soon as possible by two aircraft in the same class.
In January 1991, 18 Mirage 5 aircraft of the 3rd Tactical Wing were deployed to Turkey's Diyarbakır air base. During this operation, Belgian planes carried out several flights along the Iraqi border. After this operation the obsolete Mirage 5's were phased out.
On 15 July 1996 a C-130 with serial CH-06 carrying 37 members of the Dutch Army Fanfare Band and 4 crew crashed at Eindhoven after a birdstrike while executing a go-around resulting in the loss of power to three engines. 34 Netherlands military were killed as a result of the crash and onboard fire, only 7 survived.
From October 1996 on, the Belgian Air Force cooperated with the Dutch Royal Air Force in the Deployable Air Task Force in patrolling former Yuguslavian airspace. F-16s of the 2nd and 10th Tactical Wings, operating from the Italian bases of Villafranca and Amendola, were assigned to missions insuring the control of a No-Fly Zone over Yugoslavia, and providing the air support necessary for UN and NATO troops. Between March 24 and June 10, 1999, 12 Belgian F-16s carried out 679 combat sorties - the first time since the second World War that Belgian aircraft took part in active war operations in enemy territory - against Serbia during the Kosovo crisis. The last Belgian F-16 detachment left Italy in August 2001.
On 29 March 2004, four F-16s from Kleine Brogel were transferred under NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission to the Sioulai air base in Lithuania for three months, where they were employed in monitoring the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian skies.
On 5 May 2006, a Belgian C-130 "Hercules" undergoing updating at the Sabena Technics was destroyed when the hangar that it was in burned to the ground. The C-130 and three commercial planes were destroyed beyond recovery. The Belgian Air Force announced its intention to acquire a second hand C-130 to replace the one lost in the fire. A month later, the Air Component acquired a C-130E from the American operator Evergreen (serial N130EV, to become CH14).
On 1 December 2006 the Belgian Air Force deployed again under Baltic Air Policing mission four F-16 MLU aircraft to Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania, where they are used to protect the airspace of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. 
As from August 2008, four F-16's will be deployed to Kandahar in Afghanistan in support of the Dutch land forces.
On 27 June 2008 an Agusta A109 helicopter crashed in Halleux. The pilot, co-pilot, a doctor and a nurse where injured.
On 27 July 2009 an F-16 fighter jet flying a practice mission over Germany accidentally dropped a harmless, unarmed practise bomb into the woods near the small town of Lastrup. No one was injured. 
|Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon||Belgium||Multirole Fighter||F-16A
license-built and developed by SABCA
|Aermacchi SF.260||Italy||Propeller-driven Trainer||SF.260D
|SABCA Alpha Jet||Belgium||Jet Trainer||Alpha Jet 1B+||29||Based in France for joint training with French Air Force|
|Aérospatiale SA 318 Alouette II||France||Light Utility Helicopter||SA 318C||13||retired from service on September 15, 2009.|
|Aérospatiale SA 316 Alouette III||France||Light Utility Helicopter||SA 316B||3||Mainly used by Belgian Navy|
|Agusta A109||Italy||Light Recce/Attack Helicopter||A109
|NHI NH90||European Union||Transport Helicopter||NFH
|8 to be delivered by 2011|
|Westland Sea King||United Kingdom||Search and rescue helicopter||Mk.48||3||Two has been retired, the remaining 3 will stay in service till the NH90 arrives in 2011|
|Airbus A330||European Union||VIP / Troop Transport Aircraft||A330-322||1||replaced the Airbus A310 as of october 23, 2009, the aircraft has been dry-leased from portuguese operator Hi Fly and will retain its civilian registration (CS-TMT).|
|Airbus A400M||European Union||Medium Transport Aircraft||A400M||0||Intention to order 7, with deliveries from 2018[7 ]|
|Dassault Falcon 20||France||Light Transport Aircraft||Falcon 20E-5||2|
|Dassault Falcon 900||France||Light Transport Aircraft||Falcon 900B||1|
|Embraer ERJ 135||Brazil||Light Transport Aircraft||ERJ 135LR||2|
|Embraer ERJ 145||Brazil||Light Transport Aircraft||ERJ 145LR||2|
|Lockheed C-130 Hercules||United States||Medium Transport Aircraft||C-130H||11|
|RQ-5 Hunter (B-Hunter)||Israel||Reconnaissance UAV||MQ-5B||6 aircraft and two ground control stations|