[ Baden Soellingen ]


In the mid-fifties, studies were undertaken on a possible replacement of the Sabre aircraft. Technological development had resulted in higher performance aircraft and it was felt that the European NATO partners were able to provide the necessary air defence forces. In the late fifties, Allied Command Europe had an increased requirement for tactical airforces and proposed that No. 1 Air Division be converted to the strike and reconnaissance role. In 1959, the Canadian Government decided to re-equip the eight Sabre Squadrons in No. 1 Air Division with a strike/reconnaissance version of the F-104 aircraft. Aircrews began conversion training on the F-104 with the USAF in 1960 and the CF-104s from Canadair Montreal, in 1961.

With the disbandment of the Sabre squadrons early in the spring of 1963, flying activities at No 4 Fighter Wing all but ceased. Many personnel were repatriated back to Canada while others came to take their place and help prepare the Wing for the new role and the new operation. As the last of the Sabres were being ferried to England for scrapping, the first CF-104 aircraft arrived at 4 Wing on the 19th of March 1963, and the fleet steadily increased in strength throughout the spring and summer months. There was no exciting Leap Frog operation this time. Instead the aircraft arrived via Hercules aircraft, stripped of their wings and tail section. Each aircraft, after arrival, had to be re-assembled and test flown before being handed over to the squadrons for flying training.

The first pilots who were to form the nucleus of the "new" No 4 Fighter Wing arrived in late May 1963. They were a part of the recently reformed 444 (Cobra) Squadron under the leadership of W/C K.J. Thorneycroft and they began flying in June 1963. To prepare them for the new role these pilots, like all pilots to follow, had just completed nearly a year of training in Canada on both the Sabre MarkV and the CF-104 aircraft. Generally they were older and more experienced than the pilots of the Sabre Squadrons. The CF- 104 was a new aircraft and much more sophisticated than the older generations of RCAF jet aircraft. The role and the operational procedures were also new. Nearly all the pilots arrived accompanied by their families. It was only in the later years that "pipe-line" pilots began arriving at 4 Wing. Although relatively young, many of them were already married, and if not, the majority of them soon gave up their bachelor hood.'

In July 1963, 422 (Tomahawk) Squadron was reactivated in the Strike/Reconnaissance role and on 27 July1963 the Commanding Officer, W/C W. Bliss, flew the squadron's first CF- 104 sortie in Europe. The Wing, now with a complement of two squadrons of pilots, men and aircraft, began the task of becoming combat ready.

The pilots had to adjust to very different geographical and climatic flying conditions from those in Canada, besides establishing Squadron and Wing Standard Operating Procedures. To reach combat ready status, the pilot had to demonstrate his proficiency in flying to a predetermined target at low altitude, both by visual reference with the ground and on radar, "under the bag". There were also many examinations pertaining to the pilot's knowledge of the aircraft, low level procedures in Europe, mission knowledge, and weapons system. Finally, a high degree of bombing accuracy had to be demonstrated by each pilot in all possible modes of delivery for the weapons utilized. This was done by dropping practice bombs on one or more of the many practice bombing ranges in Europe. The entire training program was an immense undertaking and required many months of diligent application by the squadrons and all of the supporting services throughout the Wing. The many difficulties which arose were gradually resolved and as the weeks and months progressed, the Wing once more become an efficient fighting unit.

Additionally, each pilot under went training on both the T-33 aircraft and the CF-104 simulator which was initially carried out at 2 Wing. It was not until 20 November 1963 that the CF-104 simulator was in operation at 4 Wing. By November, combat ready training had progressed to the point where the squadrons could partake in some other forms of training and both squadrons sent pilots to take part in an Escape and Evasion exercise in France.

In January of 1964 the Squadron's role and designation were changed from Strike/Reconnaissance to Strike/Attack- This resulted in a revised training programme.

Having been reformed in 2 Wing, 421 (Red Indian) Squadron moved here on February 5, 1964. Their boss, W/C J.B. Lawrence, joined them later that month.

Now, with three fully equipped squadrons, emphasis was placed on increasing the operational efficiency of the Wing as a whole. During the spring and summer of 1964 the construction of the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) area was completed and as a result, security became of prime importance. As the Air Force Police Section was expanded and sentry dogs were acquired and carefully trained, even regular visitors to the QRA assumed a new air of caution. On the 16th of March 1964 the Operations Center commenced operating on a twenty-four hour basis providing command and control throughout the Wing during alerts; later it proved the vital link between the QRA and higher headquarters. The Wing was subjected to frequent base exercises such as Alerts, Quick Trains and Capability Inspections. Finally, on the 11th of June 1964, No 4 Fighter Wing had its first formal Tactical Evaluation. The Tac Eval, conducted by the Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force was successful, and the Wing settled down to a program of maintaining its combat ready status.

After the Tac Eval, the Wing was required to maintain the QRA at a high state of Operational Readiness. This meant that crews and aircraft were on stand-by twenty-four hours a day for an immediate response to the outbreak of hostilities.

The Wing's primary function, aside from providing crews and aircraft for Quick Reaction Alert, was to maintain a sufficient number of combat ready pilots and aircraft to be used in the event of a Wing Alert. To accomplish this the Squadrons established a daily flying program consisting of low level navigation, bombing, forward air control, and low-level night navigation missions. The pilots were also expected to fly 24 instrument proficiency missions a year in the T-33 aircraft. Eighteen simulator missions per year in the Operational Flight Tactical Trainer were required to practice such things as emergency procedures, radar navigation, radar bombing, and instrument flying.

Besides daily monitoring of the flying program by supervisory personnel, a total of twelve written examinations, two CF- 104 dual aircraft check rides, a T-33 aircraft instrument rating ride, and four qualifying bombing missions had to be completed annually. Also, throughout the year, a continuous ground school program was maintained covering such subjects as intelligence, aircraft systems, weapons systems and flight safety.

1964 saw many changes at 4 Wing. The continuous increase in personnel caused domestic problems, such as insufficient housing, inadequate NPF outlets and the lack of proper school facilities. These problems, like those on the operational side, were resolved one by one. Many projects were initiated to relieve the over crowding of the South Dispersal. These consisted of moving hangars, construction of a concrete flight line, new maintenance buildings, plus the installation of high intensity runway lights on the airfield. Also during 1964, a nine hole golf course was built to provide another recreational outlet.

Very few major changes occurred in 1965. There was however, one significant change for the Wing, as well as for all members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian nation as a whole. The 15th of February 1965 saw the last lowering of the Air Force Roundel and Union Jack, and the raising of the new Canadian Flag.

The Wing's main problem in '65 were the many complaints originating from the increased noise caused by low-flying aircraft and sonic booms. To counter this onslaught of complaints, articles in local papers and television appearances were increased. There were also many visits to the Wing by local civilian groups to further educate the population as to the role of the Canadian Air Force in Europe and the requirements for these noisy low-level high speed flights.

The summer of 1966 was a test of endurance for the entire Wing. In July, two squadrons from 3 Wing deployed here with their aircraft support personnel. Runway repairs at Zweibrucken required the two squadrons to operate from 4 Wing for a total of two weeks. Fall saw the departure of the two 3 Wing squadrons and the atmosphere relaxed. For the first time, two CF-104's were flown to Norway and north of the Arctic Circle. In September S/L Deacon and F/L Clayton landed at Bodo, Norway. This marked the beginning of many 104 trips to Norway and eventually led to exchanges with squadrons of that country.

By this time the CF-104 had been in operation for three years at 4 Wing and the flying time and experience of each pilot was increasing. Several pilots were approaching the coveted 1000 hour mark in the CF- 104 Starfighter. In late September 1966 S/L Spencer and several other 4 Wing pilots attained this goal. Naturally, appropriate ceremonies were held.

The end of a separate era occurred in October when the C-4S Expeditor was deleted from the Wing's aircraft inventory. The extra air transport workload was absorbed by 109 KU Flight and their DC3's. The passing on of the C-4S was like the passing on of a true friend for some.

The high rate of CF-104 losses at 4 Wing and other Starfighter bases (foreign nations included) came under study in late 1966. The cause was thought to be mainly the low-level role and the fact that the 104 had back up-systems for everything except its one engine. The Spectrometric Oil Analysis Program (SOAP test) was initiated in November as a result of this study. It was a preventative maintenance program aimed at detecting excessive wear and possible engine deterioration, thus preventing loss of valuable equipment and possibly human lives.

1967 Centennial Year! A year with special meaning for all Canadians, and 4 Wingers were no exception. Many parades, functions and flypasts were held to celebrate one hundred years of confederation, growth and expansion.

Unfortunately for 4 Wing, however, this was not to be a year of growth and expansion. 444 Strike/Attack Squadron's last sorties were flown on 30 March, 1967 in a formation flypast over the Chateau at Metz, France. The squadron was officially disbanded on 1 April 1967. A farewell function was held in the Officers' Mess with the Commander of No 1 Air Division, A/V/M Lane, in attendance. The Wing had lost a squadron but the two remaining squadrons each received two additional aircraft.

The centennial activities and the loss of one squadron did not impair the operational efficiency of the Wing. This was demonstrated during the annual Tac Eval held on the 23rd and 24th of May, when the Wing acquired an overall rating of 1, the highest rating possible. Also in May, the new Color Reproduction Center in Wing Mission Planning began operation. This proved to be an invaluable aid for rapidly reproducing training route maps complete with radar predictions.

Excellent weather in 1967 allowed the squadrons to fly maximum hours and those hours had to be supported by the Wing's support agencies. The amount of work this involved is evident by the large number of achievements in the year; during March and April 1967, the refueling section dispensed over one million gallons of fuel each month. This was a record high in the monthly output of the section and is especially significant in that during the month of April, only two squadrons were flying. Coinciding with the high number of hours flown, the Air Traffic Control Section recorded 6,408 aircraft movements. These figures were the highest monthly and yearly totals since 1958.

The AFCENT Tactical Weapons meet was held again in June and this time the Canadian Team out did itself. The RCAF was the top national team at the meet with F/L McCallum winning the Visual Ladd Trophy.

During the period 1-10 August the Squadrons exchanged with the 91st Tactical Fighter Squadron USAFE, at Bentwaters, England.

From mid-April through to 20 September, 1967, the 1 Wing WIF Section (Wing Instrument Flight) deployed here with three aircraft and three pilots. This was necessary because of the limited facilities at Lahr during the move of 1 Wing from Marville to Lahr. The Wing Instrument Flight at 4 Wing was reduced in October to three aircraft with a proportional decrease in pilots and ground crew. WlF maintained its high standard of operations and completed the year without any ground or air accidents.

The possibility of a pilot ejecting from, or force landing an aircraft was always there and consequently there was a need for many rescue personnel to be familiar with the proper technique for rescuing aircrew from crashed aircraft. With this in mind, on the 27th of September, 74 Fire Chiefs from the district of Karlsruhe visited the Wing. MI were given instruction on aircrew rescue from both the CF-104 and the T-33 aircraft.

The opening of our sister Wing at Lahr presented a grand opportunity for a flypast to mark the occasion. On the 7th of October, six 421 Squadron pilots participated in a giant 36 aircraft flypast at the official opening of the No 1 Wing Lahr Airbase. The two Recce Squadrons, Air Transport Command and 109 KU Flight were relocated there. This resulted in a much easier utilization of transport aircraft by all 4 Wingers.

Much to the relief of everyone, the 16th of December marked the beginning of the new PBX automatic dial telephone system at 4Wing. It was now possible to dial anywhere on the Wing as well as direct dial any of the other Wings or Air Division Headquarters.

Air accidents and air incidents continued in '67 with the loss of three aircraft and two pilots. A fourth aircraft returned to base after having been extensively damaged in a collision with a construction crane while on a low-level navigation mission.

1968 was a quiet year. The Operations Center continued to be manned on a 24-hour basis and along with QRA, maintained a state of readiness in the Strike/Attack Role. The Wing was prepared to meet its commitment and this was demonstrated during the annual Tac Eval on the 27th and 28th of February, 1968. The Wing again received a 1 rating in all areas.

In the fall of '68 the Wing welcomed back an ex-4 Winger. This time however, he came in the form of a Colonel prepared for the duties of 4 Wing Commanding Officer. On the 23rd of October, 1969, Col C. Allison handed the Wing over to Col F.J. Kaufman.

The flying activities ground to a halt in early March, 1969 as the Squadrons deployed to 3 Wing as part of operation "Tight Squeeze". During this time, the runway at 4 Wing was resurfaced and taxiway extensions were constructed at each end of the runway. Throughout the operation, the taxiway was used as an emergency runway and the pilots flew from 3 Wing via Dak for "Q". All training flights were flown from 3 Wing and the squadrons remained there until the renovations at 4 Wing were completed on 9 June 1969.

4 Wing's final year 1970, saw major changes taking place almost immediately. After having to spend over three months in 3 Wing during Operation "Tight Squeeze", it was 4 Wing's turn to host them. This was not to be a temporary deployment however; when they did come, it would be permanent. With the closing of 3 Wing, 427 ST/A Squadron flew to 4 Wing on the 16th of June 69. They arrived, literally, in manes and tails after having dazzled the residents of their new homes, with a precision 16 plane formation flypast. They were welcomed by the Base Commander and the two Indian Squadrons and set immediately to the task of setting up house in the South Dispersal. A few difficulties were encountered settling in, but in a short time 427 became an integral part of the Wing.

The final year was to be directed by a new Commander of No 1 Air Division. MGen R.J. Lane made his farewell visit to 4 Wing on 20 June 69. On departure he was given a parade with a flypast, a station tour, and of course the traditional Mess Dinner. The new Commander, MGen D.D. Laubman made his first inspection visit of Wing on 9 July 1969.

August, September and early October of 1969 were work filled months around the Wing. The weather was good and all squadrons made the most of it. Nine alerts were held during this period as the TAC EVAL was due in mid-October. By the time the TAC EVAL team arrived the Wing was in top form and achieved a 1 rating for the third consecutive year.

October 1969 also brought some bad news to the Wing. At this time it was announced that both 422 and 427 squadrons would be disbanded in July 1970. In their place would be 421, 439 and 441 squadrons. This announcement meant that a large number of people at the Wing would be going home, many before their normal tour had expired. As a result everyone began anxiously awaiting the news as to whether they would be remaining in Europe or returning to Canada.

The reactivation of a newspaper for the Wing was the highlight of December. The first issue of "The Schwarzwalder" was published on the eighteenth of the month and was received with great enthusiasm. Just prior to Christmas the list was released stating who was to stay in Europe and who was to return to Canada. Unfortunately, none of the people leaving knew what their new posting would be and would not find out for some time to come. Many were to remain on the Wing working in a FIGMO capacity for the manpower pool. This was an organization set up to provide personnel for extra duties around the Wing.

March was marked by the arrival in the Armed Forces of the Boeing 707 and by the arrival at 4 Wing of a Phantom visitor who barged onto the base unannounced. A USAF F-4 from Ramstein with multiple emergencies landed short of the runway and bounced along for 2,000 feet after the occupant of the rear seat had ejected.

The beginning of April 1969 marked the end of the fiscal year, the end of skiing and the end of American dollars on the Wing. After many years of using U.S. currency, the Wing changed to Deutsche marks. This was done for "the advantage of servicemen, since there would only be one rate of exchange to pay" and it provided a topic for many hours of idle bar talk.

In May, the packing began to get hectic and signs of change began to appear more regularly around the Wing. It was announced that "The Schwarzwalder" would cease to be published in June, as would all other Canadian Forces newspapers in Europe. They would be replaced by "Der Kanadicr" which would cover the events throughout the new Canadian Forces Base Europe [CFB(E)]. It was also announced that the old black and white AF4 license plates were to be gradually replaced by a new red and white plate stating " CANADA" with a number and two small maple leaves.

On Monday, May 11, the Wing was greeted with a 3.7 inch rainfall which resulted in many flooded streets. This brought to mind previous weather which had brought a record I2 inches of snow in December 1969 and a fantastic 43 inches of snow which fell during the Winter Carnival in February I969.

It was at about this time that the new green uniforms began finding their way onto the Wing in large numbers. The Army had also arrived, and begun to build their new home in the North Dispersal, much to the dismay of the pilots.

As May drew to a close and June began, the pace of packing, last minute buying and shipping began to reach great proportions as many personnel prepared to return to Canada. A massive Hercules airlift was to take most possessions home while the new Boeing 707's were destined to relieve most people of that everlasting Yukon trip to Trenton.

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[ Baden Remembered | Forty Years ]