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BELGIAN HIGH-VIZ MARCHETTIs

SF260s in the old camo scheme. Courtesy V. Pirard/AviaScribeWolf's head emblem of the 1st Wing. AviaScribeHugo Mambour, Vincent Pirard & Richard Simon/AviaScribe describe the recent changes to the Belgian Marchetti fleet

At the end of 1996, all the training aircraft of the Belgian Air Force (BAF) were relocated at Beauvechain airbase to form the new 1st Wing. The air traffic at the base has grown consequently and Alpha Jet, SIAI-Marchetti SF 260 and Fouga Magister now have to use the two parallel runways simultaneously.

ClickIn such circumstances and for security reasons, the BAF conducted tests in 1999-2000 to improve the visibility of the smallest aircraft, the SF 260. Two versions (M and D models) of this aircraft were bought in two batches, one at the end of the sixties and the second one in the early nineties. Originally they were camouflaged in the three-tone Vietnam scheme, at that time the standard livery of BAF aircraft. However, as they were just training aircraft, they had their wingtip tanks and tail painted in day-glo, as well as a nice sharkmouth on the nose. At end of the nineties, most of these aircraft were also adorned with a wolf's head, the new emblem of the 1st Wing. The tactical camouflage was justified during the cold war period, as, in case of war, the Marchettis would have been used as FAC platforms, but nowadays is of no use and so it has been decided to replace it with an overall high-viz scheme in order to increase visibility in flight.

Courtesy V. Pirard/AviaScribeTaking into account what had already been tested by foreign air forces, three new overall schemes were considered:  white, yellow, and black. The white scheme was applied on SF260M ST-34 in March 1999. The day-glo areas were maintained and a cheat line in the Belgian national colours was painted on the fuselage sides. The cheat line widened from nose to tail to become a flag on the vertical tail. In early 2000, SF260D ST-44 was painted in the same way but in a yellow scheme. The black scheme was however not tested. The technical services had deemed the use of black paint inadvisable on the wings because a long exposure to the sun would dangerously increase the temperature of the fuel tanks. Moreover, it is more difficult to see fuel or hydraulics leaks over a black background.

5 Squadron badge - Courtesy AviaScribeOn 2 May 2000 the BAF HQ announced its decision: the yellow scheme was the winner. This new scheme is now slowly but surely applied to the whole Marchetti fleet - twenty-three SF 260M and nine SF 260D as of May 2001 - during periodic maintenance at the rate of about three per month.

At the present time, some SF 260 of the 5th ‘Egyptian Falcon’ Squadron are wearing special markings: ST-34 is still in her white test livery, ST-35 is still in the Swallows team blue markings - although the latter was disbanded in December 1997 - whereas ST-36 is painted in the red and white livery applied in 1999 to celebrate thirty years of service of the type with the BAF.

 

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