Base aérienne 103 Cambrai - EC 01.012
Report by Remco Donselaar
In the north west of France, near the city of Cambrai, Base aérienne 103 "Commandant René Mouchotte" is situated in an area with a rich aviation history. In 2012 Ba103 will be history as well as the airbase will close due to defense cuts and a repositioning of the French air forces. For this occasion we were guest once more to watch the operational activities of Escadron de Chasse (EC) 01.012 on March 31st 2011.
After the disbandment of EC 02.012 at July 7th 2009, EC 01.012 is the only flying squadron left at Cambrai. Flying the Mirage 2000C since 1992, its main task is providing air defense. For this objective 2 aircraft are on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) 24/7. EC 01.012 also supports QRA deployments in France with 2 aircraft at Ba 110 Creil (Paris region), 2 aircraft at Ba 118 Mont de Marsan (southern France) and an overseas deployment with 3 aircraft based at Chad.
At this moment (spring 2011) EC 01.012 isn't involved in operation Harmattan (French part of Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector) in the Libya region. The 12 operational aircraft are being used for training purposes. During our visit only 5 aircraft were flying during the day, meaning not all missions can be executed as planned and pilots are not making not as many flight hours as expected.
EC 01.012 consists of 3 flights: SPA 166 'Tarn', SPA 89 'Guepes' and SPA 162 'Tiger', the latter being one of the founders of the NATO Tiger Meet as one of three participant to the first meeting in 1961. To celebrate 50 years of NATO Tigers a Tiger Meet and air show will be held from May 9th - 20th 2011. It will be the last large scale exercise at Ba 103 and one of the last Meeting de l'Air. In April 2012 when Ba 103 closes, EC 01.012 will be disbanded and the aircraft will go to Ba 115 Orange. It's uncertain for now where the Tiger spirit and traditions will go.
During our visit we were able to watch the startup, taxiing, take off and recovery of several missions. A briefing was held in the squadron building of EC 01.012 and in the maintenance facility we were able to photograph some additional airframes. Two visitors were welcomed: a Belgian Air Component SF-260D Marchetti and a French Navy Dauphin which was on SAR duty at le Touquet for a tank stop.
We would like to thank EWAS for arranging the visit and Ba 103 for the perfect organization!