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Douglas C-47B Dakota
The relation between the Douglas C47 Dakota and the Belgian military aviation can be traced back to october 1944 when a group of Belgian pilots were detached to the Royal Air Force training squadrons based at Welford and Crosby-on-Eden for flight training.These squadrons were equipped withe the C47A, called Dakota by the RAF.
The newly trained pilots were allocated to No 187 and 525 Squadron (code WF), based at Membury
At the end of 1944, when all British pilots had left, 525 Squadron was completely Belgian, although it was never designated as a 'Belgian section' in the RAF.
In the same year a Belgian liaison flight, part of of the Metropolitan Communication Squadron, was formed at RAF Hendon, equipped with Avro Ansons and de Havilland Dominies. This flight was responsable for a regular connection between London and Brussels.
In April 1946 525 Squadron, followed in August 1946 by the liaison flight moved from the United Kingdom to Evere, near Brussels.
Once established it was redesignated 169 Wing Transport and Communications, with 2 squadrons.
- 366 Squadron (callsign -WF), equipped with C47B Dakotas
- 367 Squadron (callsign -ZC), equipped with Avro Anson, Airspeed Oxford, de Havilland Dominie, Percival Proctors and Hawker Hurricane.
On October 15th, 1946, at the creation of the Belgian Military Aviation, the Belgians left the RAF and the USA started the delivery of surplus U.S.Air Force C47B Dakotas to 169 Wing, Shortly later the Dakota-callsigns were changed to '-CN' for 366 Sqn and '-CW' for 367 Sqn.
One of the first Dakotas, K10, was converted into a VIP-plane and it was with this aircraft that the first long-range flight was made, when it departed in March 1947 to the Congo.
As more aircraft became available, the number of tasks and missions was increased.
The primary task was tactical air support, the first paradrops being made at Schaffen on September 11th, 1947.
Another new task was aerial photography on behalf of the Military Geographical Institude, for this role seven Dakotas were equipped with cameras (the serial changed from K- to KP-), some of these aircraft were also used in the Congo.
On January 10th, 1948 the name 'Belgian Military Aviation' was changed to 'Belgian Air Force'. In the subsequent reorganisation 169 Wing Transport Command was redesignated to 15 Wing Transport.
The 'new' wing had 2 squadrons:
- 20 Transport Squadron 'Blue Sioux' '(ex 366Sqn) equipped with C47B Dakota (callsign '-CN')
- 21 Communications Squadron 'Red Sioux' (ex 367Sqn), this squadron was composed out of 2 flights: a 'transport flight' equipped with C47B Dakota (callsign '-CW') and a 'communications flight' with Dominie, Anson and Proctor. (callsign '-ZC')
From April 10th, 1948 onwards a regular (weekly ?) liaison flight was made from Brussels to the Congo. In those days such a mission took 4 days
More and more Dakotas were delivered and from aircraft 'K19' onwards these were ex-RAF aircraft. The last aircraft, serialled 'K41', was delivered in 1949.
In August 1949 the callsigns were changed to 'OT-CN.', 'OT-CW.' and 'OT-ZC.'.
In June 1950 15 Wing Transport left the airfield at Evere and moved to Melsbroek.
From 1951 onwards the number of aircraft decreased continuously. K28 went to the Ministry of Transport as OO-SNC and 24 aircraft were returned to the U.S.Air Force and exchanged for 18 Fairchild C119F Flying Boxcars. These ex-belgian aircraft started new military careers in France, Holland and Israel.
In 1953, after the delivery of a new batch of Fairchild C119 Flying Boxcars, 20 Sqn transferred all its Dakotas to 21 Sqn.
The increased need for a transport unit in the Congo was answered with the creation of a permanent 'Detachment BAKA' comprising 3 aircraft at Kamina in 1956, in 1957 this detachment was allocated the 'Green Sioux' badge. The aircraft were used for the transport of passengers and cargo, paradrops, aerial photography and mapping, flight training, medical evacuation and SAR-missions.
In 1960, during the independence of Congo, the aircraft left their base at Kamina and flew to Burundi, where they were reinforced with additional aircraft flown in from Belgium. During the insurgency in the Congo the aircraft flew various dangerious missions in support of the belgian troops until 1963.
When in the early sixties the first Lockheed F104G Starfighter became operational, the need arose to train the F104-pilots in the navigation procedures. In 1965, two Dakotas (K4 and K40) were modified to NASARR (North American Search and Radar Ranging)-trainer by Hamburger Flugzeugbau, and were equipped with the nose and navigation equipment of the F104G. They were nicknamed 'Pinoccio' and were used for about 2 years, both were put in storage at Koksijde.
In the following years its roles were taken over with the introduction of the Percival Pembroke, Hawker Siddeley HS748, Swearingen Merlin III and Dassault Falcon 20.
Gradually all remaining Dakotas were struck of charge and on January 26th, 1976 the moment of the final goodbye had come. That day the last two aircraft were transferred from Melsbroek to Koksijde.
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, Nov 18 2010, 2:29 AM EST
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