The Comete - © Copyright

The Comete and the 2 Squadron

As with 1st Squadron, it is impossible to recall the history of 2nd Squadron without associating it with that of 'La Comète'. 'La comète' and 'le Chardon' have always travelled together so the badge is our guideline.

 Nieuport 17 - © Copyright

'The Comete' appears for the first time in 1917 on a plane of the 5th Squadron, at the initiative of Aviator Warrant Officer Maurice “Teddy” Franchomme, pilot of that Fighter Squadron, who paints it for the first time on its brand new 130 hp Nieuport with rotating Clerget engine.

His commanding officer, captain Dony, requests to “let go of the badge” so that it becomes the emblem of the entire squadron, which he accepts. The 5th Squadron later becomes 10 Squadron (see below) and keeps 'La Comète' on their Nieuports and Spad VII.

 General Hellebaut and Baron Pierre de Caters on board of an HF III - © Copyright

Before discovering how 'the Comete' badge is to be found on 2 Sqn aircraft from 1947 onwards, a bit of history. Let us follow its journey over time.

In 1910 the Belgian Army was interested in the possibilities offered by the aviation. Under the impulse of General Joseph Hellebaut who had just made a baptism of the air, the Army bought its first "aeroplane", in this case a Henri Farman H.F.3. Before that, and at the initiative of two industrialists and war volunteers, Baron Pierre de Caters and Chevalier Jules de Laminne, they had the opportunity to train while flying from their own private airfields.

 Royal Decree 16 april 1913 - © Copyright

By Royal Decree of 16 April 1913 signed by King Albert I, the "Company of Aviators" is created and on the eve of the First World War and is composed of an aviation school and 4 squadrons equipped with H.F 20. Two for the fortified positions of Antwerp and two for those of Namur and Liège. 37 pilots and observers supported by 8 civilians in total, mobilized with their own aircraft. The widespread idea among staffs at the time is to use these units to observe the movements of troops on the ground. But as from the beginning of the conflict losses are severe, not because of the enemy but because of the fragility of the aircraft.

 Jero Farman type milaire 1913 - © Copyright

Upon examination of certain documents, including letters from Capitaine-Commandant Émile Mathieu, commandant of the flying school at Brasschaat in 1912, it is reasonable to think that II Escadrille exists de facto as early as September 1912, when it disposes of her first four JERO-Farman military type 1912. So the Royal Decree of 16 April 1913 only confirms the structuring of military aviation: two squadrons already exist: HF I squadron and HF II squadron (HF for Henri Farman); 3rd and 4th are being formed.

In August 1913, I Sqn and II Sqn participate for the first time in manoeuvres in the vicinity of Dinant. Renamed for the occasion, Red (I HF) Sqn and Blue (II HF) Sqn.

 Jules Soumoy, first 2 sqn C.O. - © Copyright

During the first clashes of 1914, Squadron II HF, under the command of Lieutenant Jules Soumoy as its first CO, is engaged in the defense of the Place Forte de Namur; it then folds back successively towards Chimay, Ostend and finally Saint-Pol-sur-Mer near Dunkirk.

 Ten Bogaerde Abbey - © Copyright

On March 20, 1915, the Aviator Company becomes the "Belgian Military Aviation" and the squadron moves to the "Ten Bogaerde" (Coxyde).

 Teddy Franchomme in front of a 'Bébé' Nieuport - © Copyright

The 5th Sqn is created in 1915. Maurice “Teddy” Franchomme, who obtains his pilot’s licence on 11 November 1915, is posted to the Sqn on 16 June 1916. Edmond Thieffry from 3/II/2 Squadron joins on December 11. He becomes a 10-victory legend plus five unconfirmed.

Meanwhile, on 10 August 1916, 5 Sqn under the command of Capitaine Aviateur Moulin, is transformed into a fighter unit. It is mobilized in September 1916 and is credited with 15 victories, losing 2 pilots in the fight plus 1 wounded. On January 31, 1917, Capitaine Dony becomes its commanding officer.

The first 5th Squadron victory is the work of Louis de Chestret de Haneffe, who shots down an Albatros on the 17 November 1916.

Edmond Thieffry 10 confirmed victories belgian ace Edmond Thieffry 10 confirmed victories belgian ace - © Copyright
Nieuport 17 C1 Nieuport 17 C1 - © Copyright
Capt. Dony C.O. 2 sqn in 1917 Capt. Dony C.O. 2 sqn in 1917 - © Copyright
 Spad VII - © Copyright

In March 1917, it moves to the airfield of Houtem (West Flanders) and in September it receives the Spad VII powered by a 180 hp Hispano-Suiza engine. At the end of 1917, it moves to the airfield near Les Moëres (Coxyde).

 Spad VII - © Copyright

In March 1918, the organization of the Belgian Military Aviation is reorganised once again and is structured into Groups. 5 Sqn is renamed 10 Sqn and is integrated into the Fighter Group, installed on the Moëres field and commanded by Capitaine Fernand Jacquet. The Group consists of 9 Sqn, 10 Sqn (Ex 5 Sqn) and 11 Sqn.

Fernand Jacquet  C.O. 'Groupe de Chasse' 1918 Fernand Jacquet C.O. 'Groupe de Chasse' 1918 - © Copyright
2 Comete pilots in front of a Spad VII 2 Comete pilots in front of a Spad VII - © Copyright
 Fokker D VII - © Copyright

After the armistice, 10 Sqn and 11 Sqn stay until July 1919 in Bochum, occupied Germany, and fly on recovered Fokker D-VII, in support of the Belgian occupation troops, before returning to Belgium in Schaffen-Diest.

Group of belgian pilots at Bochum Group of belgian pilots at Bochum - © Copyright
'2' Sqn ace Edmond Thieffry  together with 4 '1' Sqn aces '2' Sqn ace Edmond Thieffry together with 4 '1' Sqn aces - © Copyright

The decade 1920-1930 sees a constant evolution of the structures of the very young military aviation. In early 1920, the name "Aviation Militaire" changes to "Aéronautique Militaire (AéM). It then undergoes reorganizations and restructurations that see the appearance of Groups becoming Regiments and generating new hierarchical dependencies with sometimes suppressions of units. The squadron that perpetuates the traditions of 'La Comète' and its insignia is identified successively as:

  • 10 Sqn of IV Fighter Group,
  • 3 Sqn du I Fighter Group du 2 Groupement
  • 1 Sqn du I Fighter Group du 2 Regiment (1/I/2Aé),

without changing roles or locations.

 LVG C.VII - © Copyright

As for the equipment, it is initially inherited from the war, consisting mainly of Spad VIII and Henriot HD-1 to which some recovered Fokker D VII and LVG C.VI are added.

 Nieuport-Delage NiD.29 C1 - © Copyright

In June 1922, the unit is the first to be equipped with Nieuport-Delage NiD 29 C1 endowment completed in 1927 with the Avia BH-21.

NiD.29 C1 NiD.29 C1 - © Copyright
Avia BH-21 Avia BH-21 - © Copyright
 2 Comete Fairey Firefly IIM in flight - © Copyright

In November 1930, the Military Aeronautics orders Fairey Firefly IIM to replace its fighters. No less than 87 aircraft in total are ordered from the newly installed Fairey company in Gosselies; the first 25 being built at the mother house in England. The 1/I/2Aé (Comète) is the first to receive the new planes in May 1931.

2 Comete Fairey Firefly IIM 2 Comete Fairey Firefly IIM - © Copyright
Fairey factory buildings in Gosselies Fairey factory buildings in Gosselies - © Copyright
 2 Comete Gloster Gladiator MK. 1 - © Copyright

By the end of 1936, the latter no longer corresponds to the needs of the time, mainly according to the modernization of the fleet in other countries, more particularly in Germany. The Belgian Government then decides to acquire Gloster Gladiators for 1 Sqn (Comète) and Hurricanes for 2 Sqn (Thistle). The aircraft are delivered in 1937 and 1938/1939 respectively.

At the dawn of the war, 'the Comete' is therefore on the planes of the (1/1/2Aé) and the Thistle on those of the (2/1/2Aé). On April 24, 1940, during the Phoney War, a Gladiator shots down a Heinkel He 111 which crashes in the Netherlands.

4 Comete Sqn Gloster Gladiator in formation 4 Comete Sqn Gloster Gladiator in formation - © Copyright
2 Comete Gloster Gladiator MK. 1 2 Comete Gloster Gladiator MK. 1 - © Copyright
 Fairey Battle in formation - © Copyright

In 1940, the Comète Squadron has 14 Gladiators on strength. On May 10, two are destroyed on the ground, 12 manage to leave Schaffen in-extremis and join the planned deployment ground (N°21) located at the airfield called "Le Culot" near Beauvechain. On May 11 while escorting Fairey Battles of 5/III/3 Aé having to attack of the bridges on the Albert Canal, six of these planes are engaged in a fight with Me 109.

 Gloster Gladiator wreckage - © Copyright

Four are shot down, two pilots, Sergeants Pirlot and Clinquart, are killed. But one enemy aircraft is shot down and another damaged. In the afternoon of May 11, the Beauvechain field is the target of several attacks by Heinkel 111 and Me 109 destroying the last Gladiator.

The personnel, without aircraft to be deployed, is therefore evacuated to France.

 Belgian pilots in the Royal Air Force - © Copyright

After the French defeat, six pilots of the 1/1/2Aé (la Comète), together with other Belgian pilots, join England where they will continue the battle within the Royal Air Force.

They will once again show impressive courage.

 Raymond 'cheval' Lallemant DFC & bar - © Copyright

In 1947, the Florennes Base, built by the Germans in 1942, sees the creation of the 161 Day Fighter Wing commanded by Major Aviator Raymond Lallemant DFC and Bar, and composed of 351 Sqn and 352 Sqn.

The intended emblems for these two squadrons are the Thistle for the 351 Sqn and the « White Cocotte » for the 352 Sqn.

 2 Sqn Supermarine Spitfire MK XIV - © Copyright

In autumn 47, the first planes arrive: an Oxford and two Harvard, followed by the first Spitfire XIV on October 15. In 1949, there are eight aircraft in flying condition and one being overhauled.

In February 1948, the 161 Wing becomes 2 Day Fighter Wing. 351 Sqn is renamed 1 Fighter Squadron and 352 Sqn 2 Fighter Squadron. The latter assumes the traditions and the badge of 'la Comète'. Capitaine Smets takes over command.

North American T-6 Harvard North American T-6 Harvard - © Copyright
Airspeed AS.10 Oxford Airspeed AS.10 Oxford - © Copyright
Florennes Air Base mid fourties Florennes Air Base mid fourties - © Copyright
2 Sqn Spitfires MK XIV 2 Sqn Spitfires MK XIV - © Copyright
 2 Sqn pilots with the 'Comète' - © Copyright

Change of squadron for 'the Comete'. Since the end of 1923 it is the badge of the 1st Sqn and 'the Thistle' that of the 2nd Sqn. All aircraft of the 1st Sqn are carrying 'the Comete' till the last Gloster Gladiator destroyed on May 11, 1940 at Beauvechain.

 Pennants distribution in Florennes - © Copyright

In September 1949, while all units of the young Belgian Air Force are present in Florennes for the official recognition of the squadrons and the solemn presentation of their pennants to their respective C.O, Lieutenant-Colonel Robin hands over the one with 'la Comète' to 2 Sqn Commander, Herman Smets, meanwhile promoted to Major.

 F-84E 'Thunderjet' - © Copyright

As from 1951, 2 Sqn is equipped with some Republic F-84E 'Thunderjet', its first jet aircraft. The role of the squadron also changes: it is now a fighter-bomber unit. The F-84E is quickly replaced by the more performant F-84G.

Operational training increases: air-to-ground and air-to-air firing periods (on the Belgian coast until 1954, then in Sylt (FRG), and participation in various exercises (Hold Fast, Battle Royal, Carte Blanche etc.…).

2 Sqn F-84E & G on apron 2 Sqn F-84E & G on apron - © Copyright
F-84G on final F-84G on final - © Copyright
'2' in the air '2' in the air - © Copyright
 2 Sqn Republic F-84F 'Thunderstreak' - © Copyright

As from 1955, the 'Thunderjet' is replaced by the F-84F 'Thunderstreak', allowing Belgian air force to become supersonic.

In May 1956 the 2nd Sqn switches to the 'Streak' and uses it until 1970. From July 1964 to December 1966, it performs the STRIKE role during the conversion of 10 Wing to F-104G. This brilliantly: in a letter from Commander 2ATAF, dated January 1967: It is remarkable that this squadron is the first to obtain a 'Rate 1' in the nuclear role within 2ATAF.

F-84F in low level formation F-84F in low level formation - © Copyright
2 Sqn F-84F in flight 2 Sqn F-84F in flight - © Copyright
2 Sqn F-84F on apron 2 Sqn F-84F on apron - © Copyright
2 Sqn F-84F in flight in 2 Sqn colours 2 Sqn F-84F in flight in 2 Sqn colours - © Copyright
 2 Sqn Mirage 5 BA in flight - © Copyright

In 1970, the transition to the Mirage 5 BA takes place, an aircraft that equips 2nd Squadron Fighter-Bomber squadron until 1988.

2 Sqn Mirage 5 BA during taxi 2 Sqn Mirage 5 BA during taxi - © Copyright
2 Sqn Mirage 5 BA  on stand 2 Sqn Mirage 5 BA on stand - © Copyright
2 Sqn Mirage 5 BA in flight 2 Sqn Mirage 5 BA in flight - © Copyright
2 Sqn Mirage 5 BA low level 2 Sqn Mirage 5 BA low level - © Copyright
 2 Sqn Mirage 5 BA during TAM 1980 - © Copyright

In 1960 the AMF (Ace Mobile Forces) is created; 2nd Sqn is part of the 'AMF North', called upon to reinforce NATO's northern flank in the event of conflict. Initially in a secondary role, she effectively takes on this role after being relieved of the Strike mission. As a result, it regularly participates, with the "F" first, then the Mirage, in deployments and exercises in the Nordic countries.

Throughout this so-called "cold war" period, the squadron doesn't participate in any conflict but contributes within NATO in preserving peace whilst participating in a policy of “ deterrence » until the end of the eighties.

 2 Sqn F-16 ready for a mission - © Copyright

In 1988, the F-16 replaces the Mirage 5. This multirole aircraft allows a new fighter role.

Mid 90s the wording of the squadron badge now reads ‘Fighter 2 Bomber’ instead of ‘Fighter 2 Squadron’.

From March 1996, it assumes the QRA role of air defense with the 349 and 350 Sqn. It takes over a (complementary) role of Fighter-Bomber in "Additional Capability (ADCAP) from 1997 to, among other things, ensure "simple" missions in the Balkans.

 2 Sqn F-16 during Red Flag exercise - © Copyright

During the nineties 2 Sqn often participates in mixed detachments 1 Sqn -2 Sqn to several exercises where air tot air training as well as air to ground are flown, tested and improved (Maple Flag, Red Flag, TLP, ACMI, VLLF ...). Operations in flying with our NATO partners in numerous squadron exchanges (Montereal, Toul, Valencia...) also take place.

From 1996, the BAF is engaged in operations Deliberate Guard, Deliberate Forge and Deliberate Guardian over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, in collaboration with the RNLAF (Royal Netherland Air Force) and this within the framework of the DATF partnership (Deployable Air Task Force) under the name Joint Falcon. it was the first operational detachment in external operations of the 2nd Esc (and the second of the Air Force after Operation Ace Guard—AMF Gulf War in 1991).

 F-16 full load - © Copyright

From 1997 till 1999 the 2 Sqn participates, often in mixed detachments 1 Sqn-2 Sqn in the operation ‘Deliberate Guard’ and ‘Deliberate Force’ (military surveillance of bosnian air space) flying from italian air bases Villafranca and afterwards Amendola. All of this in a joint RNLAF-BAF detachment with each country commanding alternatively.

 2 Sqn F-16 in close formation with armement - © Copyright

From the Villafranca airfield first (October 1996-July 1998), then from the Amendola airfield (January 1999-October 2000), the squadrons of the 2WTAC, including the 2 Sqn, alternate with the 10W, within a combined RNLAF-BAF detachment, each country assuming command in turn. From 5 January 1999, the 2 Wing detachments is composed of pilots from 1 Sqn, 2 Sqn and 350 Sqn, with command rotating to one of the C.O's. The mission is to ensure compliance with the ban on flying over the former Yugoslavia (CAP-Combat Air Patrol) and to provide air support to NATO units deployed on the ground if necessary. From March 1999, start of Operation Allied Forces, also CAP and bombing missions in Kosovo.

2 Sqn F-16 during air refueling 2 Sqn F-16 during air refueling - © Copyright
2 Sqn F-16 on take-off 2 Sqn F-16 on take-off - © Copyright
2 Sqn F-16 above the Ardennes 2 Sqn F-16 above the Ardennes - © Copyright
 2 Sqn F-16 special 75th anniversary painting - © Copyright

Due to another restructuration of the Air Force 2 Sqn is disbanded on avril 20, 2001. Its pilots are integrated within 350 Sqn, having arrived at Florennes and taking over 2 Sqn buildings.

The squadron pennant is handed over by Base Commander Colonel M. Audrit to General M. Mandl, commanding the Tactical Air Force. Most thought that the history of La Comète was over...

 Drone MQ-9B - © Copyright

But...surprise !

In April 2023 it is said that 2 Sqn rises from its ashes in a new role, albeit still with the Comet insignia. A new squadron equipped with MQ-9B drones takes over the badge and its traditions. ...will be continued.

 Comete with 3 ray's - © Copyright

La Comète :

The head of la Comète is a five pointed red star. The tail with the same colour has had 5 – 6 fine ray's successively (Nieuport Maurice “Teddy” Franchomme), 4 wider ray's (Spad-Nieuport 29-Avia BH 21- Fairey Firefly - Gladiator) which it will keep till 1940.

 2 Sqn badge - © Copyright

After the war 2 Sqn takes over the insignia with 3 arms (Spitfire - F-84 G/F - Mirage 5 – F-16). The whole is edged with a golden border.

Motto: “ Ut Fulgur Sulca Aethera ”, “ As a lightning through the airs ”