[Belgian Air Force][Pictures & Report] Laying of foundation stone for new Airbus A400M hangar by Minister of Defence Philippe Goffin

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Laying of the foundation stone for new Airbus A400M hangar by Minister of Defence Philippe Goffin

Text and pictures by Martin Gillet & Benoît Denet

On Monday 24 August 2020, Brussels Military Airport (Melsbroek Air Base EBMB) welcomed Belgian Minister of Defence Philippe Goffin and distinguished visitors to celebrate the laying of the foundation stone for the new A400 Hangar.

Among the attendees were Admiral Michel Hofman, Chief of Defence, Colonel Geert De Decker, Chief of Staff of Major General Vansina, Colonel Frank Vandenbussche, Base Commander 15th Wing, Major General Frédéric Goetynck, Chief Infrastructure, Kurt Ryon, Mayor of Steenokkerzeel and Frederik Bijnens General Manager, DEMOCO Contractor representative.

Executive Summary 

Philippe Goffin: “This afternoon in Melsbroek, I had the honour of laying the first stone of the hangar intended to accommodate the 8 Airbus A400M transport planes (7 acquired by Belgium and 1 by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg).

© Martin Gillet

Covering an area of 13,621 m2, this hangar will be used for the maintenance of the new planes which will replace our C-130s. The cost of building this hangar is 49.6 million euros. The hangar will be operational in mid-2021.” (via Philinfo)

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© DEMOCO

Full onsite debriefing

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Onsite welcome in the HERPAIN Hangar by Colonel Frank Vandenbusschen, Base Commander of the 15th Wing

“This hangar was built in 1952, 4 years after the operations of the 15th Wing in MELSBROEK started. For almost 70 years, this hangar has been the place where our maintenance activities have taken place without interruption.

This hangar clearly demonstrates that the 15th Wing is none other than the oldest operator still active at this international airport. But your presence here in our oldest building today, with the mission of laying the foundation stone for the new A400M hangar, sends a strong and clear message. A message that confirms that the Wing will continue to operate from Melsbroek for decades to come.

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© Benoît Denet

Because it is this place, or rather this base, and this TENACITY Spirit that characterises us so much, that alone forms the DNA of the 15th Wing. Indeed, who says MELSBROEK thinks of C-130 and who says C-130 thinks of MELSBROEK. Today, the 15th Wing is directly associated with the C-130 and the myriad essential missions it has performed. But tomorrow, the international fame of the 15th Wing will be associated with the A400M.

After almost 50 years of intensive service as a workhorse, it is time to retire our loyal and widely acclaimed C-130 fleet. Very soon we will welcome the first of 8 A400M (* Aviation24 note: 7 acquired by Belgium and 1 by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg) here in MELSBROEK. After all, this new technologically advanced aircraft will be the cornerstone of military air transport operations for the coming decades.

The commissioning of this capacity requires a thorough make-over of our Wing, in terms of equipment, in terms of personnel, in terms of qualifications and procedures.

A modern and appropriate infrastructure is also decisive in the success of the new flight of the 15th Wing. Our first A400Ms will be serviced in this hangar where we are, and just like the C-130 here, only its cockpit will find refuge inside. This is why we are eagerly awaiting the delivery of the new A400M maintenance hangar. A hangar equipped and adapted to our needs in order to technically support our new work tool for decades to come.

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© DEMOCO

Alongside this new maintenance complex, Defence will launch new works such as the construction of a “flight simulator”, and the complete replacement of aircraft parking lots, access routes in order to align to the standard of our giant, the A400M.

The next steps in the transformation of the infrastructure are also urgent and necessary in order to operate the A400M safely and efficiently. It goes without saying that our crews, just like the support services and personnel at our military airport BRUMIL, must be able to work from an adapted working environment. Safety and security, safety and security, must be urgently put in order so that we can also look to the coming decades at an operational level so that we as an employer are attractive to our employees.

As a representative of the military who are ready day and night, all over the world in all circumstances to guarantee military air transport and who represent our country every day as ambassadors, I expressly thank all parties present here for helping to build the future of our Wing. We, therefore, consider you very good friends of the 15th Wing family.

Earlier, when you arrived at the 15th Wing you saw in large letters our slogan #WeAre15thWing. In the near future, this WeAre15thWing will be associated with our new aircraft, with a team of motivated and passionate professionals(*) but also with a modern infrastructure.

You can count on us !!!” 

(*) Belgian Defence is recruiting: “Working by Defence is more than a Job, it’s a Mission“. All open positions are available here.

A word from Colonel Geert De Decker, Chief of Staff of Major General Vansina

Colonel De Decker provided a short reminder on the determining infrastructures challenges to meet today and tomorrow’s challenges. “Support technically Defence’s personnel for the next decades with the new tools”.

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© Benoît Denet

A Word from the Minister of Defence Philippe Goffin

(Excerpt from speech)

I am delighted today to lay the foundation stone for this unique project. In any case, it is not a traditional first stone laying. After all, the infrastructure works are already in full swing.

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© Benoît Denet

Anyone who has passed by the military airport in recent months has already seen it: the construction of the aircraft hangar for the new A400M is currently underway.

The works started in February of this year, the preparatory work has been completed and the company has started the concrete construction of the new warehouse which will be no less than 2 football pitches large.

The works are well on schedule and the completion and commissioning of the entire building with offices, warehouses and parking space is planned for the summer of next year. It is immediately the largest aircraft pilot that the Defence Department will ever have put down. In the new hangar, the maintenance of three future transport aircraft will be possible at the same time.

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© Benoît Denet

This first stone laying symbolises a new era to mark the commissioning of a new fleet. With the arrival of the state-of-the-art transport aircraft of which our country has ordered eight, one of which is on behalf of Luxembourg, we are giving a new impetus to the Belgian air component.

The A400M can fly much farther, is much faster and has a much larger load capacity than the C-130 aircraft that are taken out of circulation. A new modern warehouse will accommodate these larger and more powerful devices.

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© Martin Gillet
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© Benoît Denet

With this new working environment and the delivery of modern transport aircraft, we also present ourselves as a modern employer for our military personnel.

Today’s first stone laying also illustrates that we are working concretely on the implementation of the strategic vision for Defence.

In recent years, we have made significant investments in new Defence capabilities. With the purchase of new aircraft, new frigates and new rolling stock, we are strengthening our Belgian Defence capacity. The results of these decisions and the implementation of our strategic vision will be visible through the concrete infrastructure works that are underway.

Defence is investing and will continue to do so because investments are needed to continue to fulfil our humanitarian and social missions of defence and to fulfil our commitments to our partners.

Investing in Defence is also investing in our own economy. We invest not only in new material but also in the necessary infrastructure to exploit these new capabilities in the best conditions. At the same time, we continue to invest in infrastructure works and improvement works that significantly improve the work and home settlement conditions of our military personnel.

(…)

This project here at the airport in Melsbroek is one of those projects needed to accommodate the new capacity of the A400M and Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) in the best conditions. But the work is not finished with the realisation of the new aircraft shed.

In a second phase, modern passenger facilities and a new baggage and cargo department must also be built. In that next phase, it is also appropriate to create a covered storage area for equipment and vehicles for airport operations, new outdoor parking spaces and taxiways and machined taxiways and maneuvering areas for the aircraft on the tarmac. In order to carry out this second phase, I will shortly present a dossier for approval to the Council of Ministers.

The infrastructure works here at Melsbroek airport and the numerous innovation works and new projects I had just discussed are necessary and necessary for the future of Defence, but they are equally necessary for the future of our country because by investing in infrastructure works we continue to support the economy, entrepreneurship and employment(*) in our country during difficult economic conditions.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear attendees, I wish the contractors and all staff every success with the construction works because we are all looking forward to the realisation and commissioning of this unique building.”

(*) Belgian Defence is recruiting: “Working by Defence is more than a Job, it’s a Mission“. All open positions are available here.

A word from Major General Frédéric Goetynck, Chief Infrastructure

(Excerpt from speech)

(…) “These outdated warehouses and the buildings of BruMil will make way for a larger aircraft parking, a multipurpose building with all the necessary functions for command and operational operation, a mess complex and a new passenger and cargo terminal. These will all respond to contemporary standards with respect for environmental and energy requirements. We hope for this to quickly obtain the agreement of the Council of Ministers so that the selection and award phase of this public contract can be started.

The design and construction of such a maintenance shed is a feat. For the infrastructure services of Defence, this is an example of a new working method for the realisation of large projects. Where we used to have the resources to conduct such studies.

In recent years, more and more external engineering offices have become available in-house who carry out the studies under our supervision. An appeal was made for the maintenance shed done on yet another method, the “design and build”, involving a consortium of designer and contractor, on the basis of a detailed needs file, is responsible for both the study and construction and usually also maintenance. This form of public-private partnership guarantees high-quality, customer-oriented and competitive services, whereby the concept and implementation are one unique contractor.

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© Martin Gillet

(…) The basis for a successful public-private partnership lies in the preparation and the constant consultation between specialised Defence staff and the contractor in both design and implementation. For this, I wish in the first place all the authorities present, and not to forget our Luxembourg partners. You have given the approval to complete this project start. Many users of this airbase have also made an expert contribution to the formulating the needs. A special thank you also goes to my employees of the different infrastructure services involved: building managers, experts from competence centre infra and the leading service. They helped ensure that this shed meets all aircraft maintenance requirements and is now responsible for the daily follow-up of this public contract.

Finally, the contractor also serves DEMOCO and its partners in the viewer. The experiences during the past year have taught us that through the professional and result-oriented approach of these firms, even in these special COVID-19 times, the intended result commitment will remain assured. We are convinced that this new maintenance shed will be ready for use from the summer of 2021, after which the structural one cooperation for the optimal conservation of this building for the next three decades will be continued”.

Frederik Bijnens, General Manager DEMOCO concluded with a short review of the new hangar specifications and a warm thank you to all attendees and parties involved while inviting all guests to head to the construction site.

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© Martin Gillet
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© Martin Gillet

From left to right: Colonel Geert De Decker, Chief of Staff of Major General Vansina, Colonel Frank Vandenbussche, Base Commander 15th Wing, Frederik Bijnens, General Manager DEMOCO, Philippe Goffin, Belgian Minister of Defence and Major General Frédéric Goetynck, Chief Infrastructure.

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© Martin Gillet
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© Benoît Denet

The (impressive) new hangar

The impressive warehouse, measuring no less than two football fields (13,621 m²), will serve for the maintenance of the new transport aircraft from Belgium and Luxembourg, the Airbus A400M.

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© DEMOCO

In addition, with a construction cost of 49.6 million euros, the building will also have two floors with offices, large storage areas and parking spaces around and under the building. According to contractor DEMOCO, construction is a real feat. The new hangar provides an area without internal pillars to free up all the space for aeroplanes.

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© Martin Gillet

DEMOCO works closely with the French architectural firm Kardham Cardete Huet, the Brussels firm Styfhals and Tractebel Engineering for the stability and technical studies. The construction of the hangar was due to start at the beginning of March 2020.

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© Martin Gillet

Out of the six selected candidates, three consortia finally submitted a bid and Democo was designated as the winner of the contract after a number of intermediate bids and a final BAFO (best and final offer) on 13 May this year. Maintenance will be carried out by Cofely Services from the date of the Provisional Acceptance.

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© Benoît Denet

Minister Philippe Goffin laying ‘the first stone’.

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Views on the ongoing work, ‘work in progress’ at the construction site.

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© Martin Gillet

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