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Flotille 17 F
History
17F was established on 17 April 1958 at BAN Hyères, initially equipped with with F4U-7 Corsair.

It gained its first combat experience in the French war in Algeria but was disbanded on 1 April 1962.

It was stood up once again on 6 January 1964 at Hyères, this time with the classic Dassault Étendard IVM, and it flew this type until 27 June 1980 from a number of different bases.

On 5 September 1980, it received its first Super Etendard models and from 1993 it began to receive the upgraded Super Étendard Modernisé (SEM). In the same year 17F also left Hyères and moved to BAN Landivisiau.

In conjunction with 11F the squadron took part in the Kosovo War between February and June 1999 flying missions from CV Foch.

Waddington's Wycombe Wanderers

John Heard / Focal Plane photography reports from RAF Waddington on the recent detachment of French Navy Super Étendards for Exercise 'Wycombe Warrior'. A tale of expectant optimism and bitter frustration for all those who went to see them fly!

The closure of the BAe Systems ACMI late in 2004 was, for many enthusiasts, a huge disappointment. After spending years of watching the visiting fighters here many feared that RAF Waddington would become just another sleepy hollow. However, in mid-March spirits were temporarily raised as rumours spread that a small detachment of FN Super Étendards were expected to be deployed towards the end of the month to take part in Exercise 'Wycombe Warrior'.

With the rumour-mill in full swing many enthusiasts naturally turned up at Waddington to watch an expected late lunchtime arrival on Friday 18 March, but things didn't quite work out that way! Indeed it was not until around 15:00 local that four Super Étendard Mordernisé (SEM), drawn from 17F at BAN Landivisiau, eventually pitched up in the circuit as 'French Navy 5413' (s/n 3, 30, 41 and 65).

Mission Pods
With the SEM 17F undertakes close-air-support, conventional and nuclear attack, anti-ship operations and reconnaissance.
The mulit-role use of the SEM was well illustrated by the variety of equipment carried. Above and below the Thales 'Damocles' targeting pod.
Below - reconnaissance pod on aircraft 65.

After landing the four aircraft taxied to RAF Waddington's 'Charlie' dispersal and shut down for a respite until their mission tasking the following week, Exercise 'Wycombe Warrior 03-05' being scheduled for 22-23 March. This meant that for Monday (21st) there was no flying scheduled, but it was expected that two missions would be flown by the Étendards on both the 22nd and 23rd, with a morning and afternoon sortie widely rumoured to be planned for each day.

Once again things didn't quite go the way the rumours had scripted and Tuesday dawned grey and overcast, shortly to be followed by heavy rain which saw the mission times not only slip, but eventually cancelled due to the very poor visibility and unavailability of tanker support. Nevertheless the weather for Wednesday was forecast to be much better with long spells of sunshine touted; we should have known better!

With Wednesday dawning bright and sunny, spirits in the WAVE car park at Waddington were at last high amongst the gathered enthusiasts, but at around 09:30 the dark clouds loomed and the impending gloom was palpable amongst everyone as the low overcast rolled in from the west. However, with the first mission expected around lunchtime all seemed not lost as the weather slowly lifted. But then more bad news as it was confirmed that the French quartet would now only fly a single mission starting around 14:00 and that they wouldn't be coming back after the sortie.

And so it was that shortly before 14:00 the four Étendards called the tower for their taxi clearance ready for departure (once under the callsign 'French Navy 5413 A-D'), and by 14:10 it was all over, the four aircraft turning out towards the east climbing for their tanker ('Tartan 38') in AAR 5 ready to fly their one and only sortie of the five-day deployment.

So came to an end a rather frustrating and disjointed detachment; a deployment that seemed initially full of promise but which failed to live up to its full potential.

Exercise Wycombe Warrior

Wycombe Warrior exercises usually take place over the UK and the North Sea. The purpose of the exercise is to provide realistic coalition training for the RAF and aircrew of the USAF and other NATO countries as well as exercising the UKs defensive command and control chain.

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