Base Aérienne 113 Saint-Dizier
On 11 august 1910 a French military aircraft landed very close to the city and since 1913 an Armée de l’Air aerodrome was established on that place and it has been in use ever since. The base is located 4 kilometers west of Saint-Dizier city in the Haute-Marne department of the Champagne-Ardenne region in the northeast of France. Some of the pre-World War II aircraft which were based here were the Blériot Aéronautique, Morane-Saulnier, Stampe, de Haviland Tiger Moth and Dewoitine D.520s. Saint-Dizier was seized by the Germans in June 1940 during the Battle of France and it was used as a Luftwaffe military airfield during the occupation. Known Luftwaffe units assigned were:
|Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG54)||from March until April 1941||Messerschmitt Bf 109E|
|Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 (NJG4)||from February 1942 until January 194||Messerschmitt Bf 110 and Dornier Do 27|
|Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG27)||from September until November 1943||Messerschmitt Bf 109G|
|Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG1)||from March until May 1944||Messerschmitt Bf 110|
|Nachtjagdgeschwader 5 (NJG5)||from May until August 1944||Messerschmitt Bf 110|
|Kampfgeschwader 101 (KG101)||from June until July 1944||Junkers Ju 88 and Mistel|
|Jagdgeschwader 301 (JG301)||June 1944||Messerschmitt Bf 109G|
NJG1, NJG4 and NJG5 were night interceptors units which attacked Royal Air Force bomber attacks. JG27 and JG301 were day interceptor units that engaged American heavy bomber units over occupied France. JG54 flew missions over England during the Battle of Britain. Largely due to its use as a base for Bf 109 interceptors, Saint-Dizier was attacked by B-26 Marauder medium bombers and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. Boeing B-17 Flying Fortressess and Consolidated B-24 Liberators attacked the base when they were within interception range of the Luftwaffe aircraft assigned to the base. The attacks were timed to have the maximum effect possible to keep the interceptors pinned down on their return to England.
During the liberation of France, the airfield was seized by allied forces in September 1944 and taken over by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). The IX Engineer Command repaired the war-damaged base and it was designated by the Americans as Saint-Dizier Airfield or Advanced Landing Ground A-64. On 9 October 1944 it was turned over to the Ninth Air Force for operational use for fighter and reconnaissance units, as well as for command and control. Known USAAF units assigned were:
|HQ - 100th Fighter Wing||from September until December 1944|
|27th Fighter Group||from February until March 1945||P-47 Thunderbolt|
|367th Fighter Group||from February until May 1945||P-47 Thunderbolt|
|405th Fighter Group||from September 1944 until February 1945||P-47 Thunderbolt|
|10th Reconnaissance Group||from September until November 1944||various reconnaissance aircraft|
When the war ended in May 1945 the Americans began to withdraw their aircraft and personnel. The control of the airfield was turned over to the French authorities on 5 July 1945.
The war had left Saint-Dizier in ruins, the hangars and mechanical shops were devastated and there was also a huge quantity of unexploded munitions littering the ground. The American combat engineers had carried out considerable repair work on the runway and constructed temporary structures for repair and maintenance of aircraft. A new 2.400 meter long runway was laid down and also the parking ramp was torn up and laid with new concrete. Large modern aircraft hangars were erected as well as a new station area and the aircraft dispersal areas were also renewed. To the north of the runway a second dispersal area was built to accommodate a second full aircraft squadron. This whole reconstruction was completed in 1956.
In 1973 EC 1/7 Provence became the first Armée de Láir (French Air Force) unit to be equipped with the Sepecat Jaguar and relocated to Sint-Dizier. This squadron engaged in combat missions in Mauritania (Operation Lamantin), Chad (Operation Manta), Gulf War (Operation Daguet) and in Bosnia. Since 2006 the Dassault Rafale was assigned to Saint-Dizier, becoming the first French Air Force base operating this multi-role fighter aircraft.
At the end of the 1970s the French Air Force and Navy were seeking to replace their current fleet of aircraft and entered into an arrangement with Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom to produce the Eurofighter Typhoon. Due to disagreements France made the decision to set up its own development program. The French company Dassault Aviation developed the Dassault Rafale, a twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft. The Rafale is equipped with a wide range of weapons and is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. The first flight of a Rafale took place in July 1986.
With the delivery of 20 Rafales in 2006, EC 1/7 was responsible for training Rafale pilots until 1 October 2010 when this task was transferred to Escadron de Transformation (ETR) 2/92 Aquitaine after its formation at Saint-Dizier. Escadron de Transformation means Transformation Squadron. On 1 September 2016 ETR 2/92 was redesignated as ETR 3/4 Aquitaine. ETR 3/4 is now operating the dual-seat Rafale B, the single-seat Rafale C as well as the naval version, Rafale M. Since its formation in 2010 the squadron has trained more than 200 pilots and tens of weapon systems officers for the Air Force as well as for the Navy. The main role of this squadron is to train pilots and navigators who have just earned their wings as well as more experienced crews converting to the Rafale. The squadron also trains foreign pilots on the Rafale like Greece and Croatian crews.
The other two squadrons based at Saint-Dizier are Escadron de Chasse (EC) 1/4 Gascogne and EC 2/4 La Fayette. Escadron de Chasse means Fighter Squadron. Both squadrons are equipped with the Rafale B and consists of multiple Escadrilles. EC 1/4 consists of Escadrilles BR66, SAL28, SPA37 and SPA79. EC 2/4 consists of escadrilles N124, SPA81, SPA96 and SPA167.
Saint-Dizier is also responsible for the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA), which means that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week Rafale aircraft are armed with live air to air missiles to intercept unidentified aircraft in French airspace to keep the French airspace safe. The air to air missiles carried by the Rafale are Mica missiles. The Mica is a multi-target, all weather, fire-and-forget short and medium-range missile system.
In January 2021, French Minister of Defense Florence Parly paid a visit to the factory of Dassault Aviation to finalize a contract for 12 new Rafale F4s for the Air Force, this as a replacement of the aircraft sold to Greece. Also 14 grounded Rafales will be modernized between 2022 and 2024. At this moment there are 134 Rafales active within the Air Force and Navy. The Air Force operates 55 Rafale B and 37 Rafale Cs and the Navy operates 42 Rafale Ms.
The authors of Lowpass Aviation.com would like to thank all the involved personnel of the French Air and Space Force for their hospitality, time and help during our visit at Base Aérienne 113 Saint Dizier.