The Devils are dead!
Pirard/AviaScribe reports on the disbandment of 23 Squadron,
Belgian Air Force at Kleine-Brogel.
23 "Devil" Squadron was established as a day fighter unit at Beauvechain, on 1 September 1951*. This new squadron was intended to form the embryo of the future 10 Wing, along with two other similar units, 27 "Black Panther" Squadron and 31 "Tiger" Squadron. Barely one month after setting up 23 Squadron moved to Chièvres where it was equipped with the Spitfire Mk.14. Begun in January 1952, the association of the 'Devils' and the Spitfire was rather short-lived as these already old fighters were withdrawn from use six months later and replaced by the F-84G Thunderjet from December 1952. These jets were delivered by the Americans to the Belgian Air Force, in accordance with the MDAP (Mutual Defence Aid Programme). This change of aircraft type meant the transformation of 23 Squadron into a tactical unit as well. On 23 January 1953, the 'Devils' finally moved to the new airbase of Kleine-Brogel. To celebrate this event, the noses of all their aircraft were adorned with a distinctive red stripe, which was later decorated with white edges, and by the addition of an aircraft identification code (Z6-A to Z6-Z).
years later, in May 1956, after a brief period which saw its strength
completed with E model Thunderjets, 23 Squadron received its first F-84F
Thunderstreaks. It exchanged these for F-104G Starfighters from April
1964, the Lockheed "rocket with a man in it" remaining on strength
for 18 years until the Spring of 1982 and the delivery of its successor
and new Belgian standard fighter, the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
end of the Cold war, new commitments appeared. In October 1996, flying
from Villafranca air base in Italy, the 'Devils' of 23 Squadron flew their
first operational missions during the NATO operation 'Joint Falcon'. These
sky-control missions over Bosnia and Slavonia were followed in 1999, by
participation - this time from Amendola air base - in the war operations
led by NATO over Serbia and Kosovo within the framework of operation 'Allied
Like in Florennes,
where 2 'Comet' Squadron was incorporated into 350 'Ambiorix' Squadron,
23 Squadron was simply integrated into its sister and ever rival unit,
the famous 31 'Tiger' Squadron. This unit saw, at the beginning of this
year, the number of its pilots increase with numerous 'Devils', whereas
its aircraft strength grew from 12 to 18 ships. The professional integration
of these two units ended on 8 March, with a mass formation flypast over
the main Belgian airbases. At the end of this flight and after the usual
official speeches, the last 'Devils' were called one by one by the CO
of 31 Squadron, Lt-Col Rudy Theys, and knighted as a 'Tiger'.