First Visit of the Belgian Minister of Defence to the
Air Component in Beauvechain
February 3rd, 2020 Minister of Defence Ludivine Dedonder joined by Major General Aviator Thierry Dupont, Commander of the Air Component, visited the Air Component for the first time at the Beauvechain Air Base (EBBE), in a typical February Belgian weather.
Captain Aviator Kurt Verwilligen (Media Relations – ComOpsAir IPR) introduced the purpose of this visit: “Madam Minister must know the capabilities for all components of Defence. As she has just been appointed as a new Minister of Defence (Aviation24 note: Since October 2020), she is not yet (fully) aware of these means. This is the first visit to the Air Force. She has already visited the Navy last week and parts of the Land Force as well as the military hospital. The goal is really to comprehend the means made available to our component, thanks to a “meet and greet” with Personnel and equipment.”
Today our MOD @DedonderLudivin visited Beauvechain Airbase. General Dupont, Commander of the Air Force, accompanied the MOD while visiting the Control and Reporting Centre #CRC. After meeting airmen and women, they attended a presentation of the capabilities of the @BeAirForce. pic.twitter.com/trLrPZLOcU
— Belgian Air Force🇧🇪 (@BeAirForce) February 3, 2021
The visit started in the new secured building where Control & Reporting Centre (CRC) is located. CRC is in charge of monitoring the airspace over Belgium and Luxembourg day and night, 24/7. It is also in charge, if necessary, of supporting interception missions carried out by the F-16s during Quick Reaction Alerts (known as QRA). It is also a link in the NATO air surveillance chain which is made up of 229 members.
It was created in 1955 during the Cold War to prevent a possible attack from the East. Within the current framework of the NATO Integrated Air & Missile Defense System, the role of the CRC has not changed. The unit is performing the same duties during this period of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to its air defence mission for NATO, the CRC also supports the fight against terrorism through homeland defence and training of F-16 pilots.
Minister Dedonder : “The CRC controls and monitors the airspace 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We had the opportunity to see an exercise and I was faced with an emergency and yes, I have to be prepared for that sort of things. I obviously hope that does not happen in our territory. It is a tool that is really important, in the future we will also have the Airspace Security Center where we will work in collaboration with the Defence with the Police, Customs, the SPF Mobility to be able to analyse the information in case of air incident. This is a great example of cooperation and collaboration as we already have with the Marine and we hope to have it here too”.
After the visit of the CRC, Minister Dedonder headed to the aprons where she could meet up close pilots, crew and personnel. The Minister had the opportunity to engage and exchange a few questions with F-16 pilots, SIAI Marchetti SF260 pilots, A109 crew, Fire Department delegation where she sat and simulated some actions onboard by triggering the fire hose, NH90 crew and a C-130 with its crew. The Minister had the chance to board the aircraft in order to get an up close ‘look and feel’ of this ‘office’. All along the journey, special forces where also securing the perimeter. A very good showcase or what is today the Air Component and the Personnel empowering the Minister’s decisions.
During the aprons walkthrough, two F-16s flew by, breaking the changing sky which was alternating with showers and blue sky.
After the fruitful encounters and exchanges, the delegation headed to a shelter facing the main runway where Minister Dedonder, Officers and guests could look up in the air to witness real life showcases, demoing the savoir-faire from the Belgian Air Component.
The demos consisted of a Medevac from an injured soldier on the ground, NH90 SAR operation then with another NH90 a heavy piece of equipment uplift.
round, aboard a medical A109, a SAR operation led by a NH90 then an heavy equipment pick up with another NH90.
We reached out to Minister Dedonder in order to get her insights on her first visit.
Minister Dedonder started with this statement : “We are always impressed by machines, but what impresses me even more is the Human”. Then to highlight the key takeaways : “As you know, this year the Air Component is celebrating its 75th anniversary like the Navy. It was important for me to come here to see where our abilities were. We were able to see the helicopters that can be used in the event of medical evacuations or to rescue people in distress at sea for example. There are our F-16s which contribute to the fight against the Islamic State from Jordan over Iraqi airspace. We also have the A400Ms and C-130s in a more humanitarian role. I really believe we have a full operational capability.”
The visit concluded in a cheerful tone with the Major General Aviator Thierry Dupont, Commander of the Air Component thanking the Minister with a token of appreciation (namely our finest Belgian Chocolates), while the weather was clearing.