AIR DAY 2010  -  NAS Nordholz / Germany

On June the 20th 2010 an era ended on the Airbase of the Naval Air Wing 3 Count Zeppelin. At exactly 1400 Zulu (means 16:00h local time) the very last operational Breguet BR 1150 ATLANTIC from the German Navy landed and was officially decommissioned. The ceremony for this event was open to the public. An open day was held to say good-bye to the twin engined long-range patrol aircraft. After more than 40 years of service within the German Navy the weapon system ATLANTIC went into a well-deserved retirement. Actually this aircraft was never in the blaze of publicity, which was caused by the fact that her operating area was on the sea but also due to her remarkable reliability. She never caused negative headlines in the news. Another reason was also shown in the name the local public gave her: silent giant. Big political initiated movements against aircraft noise were not really expected with this relatively quiet aircraft. Nevertheless the Br 1150 took a big part in the safety and security of the Federal Republic of Germany for almost 45 years.

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The festivities also included a small but fine flying display, which was repeated in the afternoon. Thereby the NAW 3 showed all of its equipment. Beside the Br 1150 there was also a Dornier Do-228 as well as a Westland Lynx Mk.88 Navy helicopter. As a very special highlight the successor of the ATLANTIC, the Lockheed P-3C ORION was seen in the flying display. This event was particularly admired by the countless enthusiasts who had journeyed from all over Europe, as it was quite rare that the ATLANTIC was seen in flying displays; (if it showed up in the public the Br 1150 was mainly exhibited in the static display). A particular highlight of the show was the para-drop of Special Forces of the German Navy from a Lockheed P-3C ORION (yes, they jumped out of a P-3C). Another one was the formation flight of an ATLANTIC together with an ORION as well as a Dornier Do-28 SKYSERVANT which belongs to the Reservist Association from Uetersen.

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In the case of civilian aircraft displays one could see a nice formation consisting of a Dornier Do-27, two Piaggio P.149 and one Piper L-17, which are all part of the local aero club. The EADS company took part with a few of their rare exhibits. As a very welcome one could see the bright red coloured Messerschmitt Me 163, (this particular replica is a glider only no rocket engine is installed), towed by a Dornier Do-27. After being released from the towing aircraft, this famous German design glided down in circles to the ground. A very special flying display was shown by the North American OV-10B BRONCO coming from the Mus‚e Europ‚en de lAviation de Chasse from Montelimar / France. The German Luftwaffe owned 18 of this light combat aircraft, which were used for target towing purposes only (this is the reason for the bright orange colour scheme). The French BRONCO is restored to almost perfect conditions and is not only a welcomed guest on European airshows due its rarity but also because of its incredible manoeuvrability.

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In the static display one could see the obligatory aircraft of the German Luftwaffe (Panavia Tornado IDS, Eurofighter EF-2000, McDonnell Douglas F-4F PHANTOM II, etc.) but also a few real highlights like a RAF Vickers VC-10 Tanker (will be withdrawn from service in the near future) as well as a Mil Mi-14 PL (NATO Code: HAZE) from the Polish Navy (Marynarka Wojenna Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej). The later was developed from the Mi-8 (NATO Code: HIP) and is fully buoyant. The former Peoples Navy of the GDR flew 9 aircraft of this type in the ASW role till the German reunification. More guests came from the US Air Force and the US Navy –respectively- one Lockheed P-3C ORION and one Lockheed C-130 J HERCULES of the 86th AW coming from the Ramstein AFB were to be seen in the static. Unfortunately the ORION was a bit hidden behind another Lockheed P-3C from the Norwegian NAVY.

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For the farewell of the German ATLANTIC the NATO partners France and Italy sent one of their own aircraft of this type, which gave one an interesting comparison. Only the French AERONAVALE has the most modern type of the Br 1150, the ATLANTIQUE II (this type used instead of the original designation ATLANTIC the French version Atlantique). The ATLANTIQUE is based the well-proven fuselage but has modern avionics, a state-of-the-art navigation system as well as sophisticated data link and communication systems implemented. Additionally she is able to carry a wide range of weapon load (e.g. the ASM39 EXCOCET). The most significant (external) difference is the missing drop-shaped sensor pod on the tail unit. All together 28 2nd generation ATLANTIQUE replaced the ATLANTIC within the AERONAVAL at the end of the 1980s. Another further development, the ATLANTIQUE 3 was cancelled at the prototype stage due to a lack of orders.

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The Breguet (SECBAT) Br 1150 ATLANTIC goes back on a NATO specification from 1956. At this time NATO countries were looking for a replacement for the aged Lockheed P-2V NEPTUNE. From the beginning the plan was to create a multi national solution, which should provide the NATO countries Navies with a common weapon system. Nevertheless the USA as well as Great Britain went their own ways even before the whole development started. Finally the Federal Republic of Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium continued with this concept and founded a consortium named SECBAT (which was on first hand joint venture between the companies Sud Aviation and Aviation Louis Breguet) in 1959. From the German side the experienced company Dornier participated as well as the company Fokker for the Dutch part. Already on the 21st of October 1961 the prototype of the twin engine Sea Reconnaissance Aircraft took of for its maiden flight. The German Navy took over their first aircraft (from a total order of 20 aircraft) at the beginning of 1966, which was used in the ASW role exclusively. Until today the Br 1150 has logged more than 200,000 flying hours, and this with a total loss of only one aircraft (1978, destroyed by fire after belly landing, the crew survived with minor injuries).

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The BR 1150 is powered by two Rolls-Royce RTY.20 Tyne-Mk-21 turboprops, each rated at 5600 sHP, which gave her a V-max of 400+ mph. On a mission of course the cruising speed was far less (between 280 and 340 mph) and definitely far more economical. The range of the Br 1150 was absolutely impressive – it could stay airborne for 4300 nautical miles (4950 miles) without air refuelling (of course depending on the mission profile, weather conditions, speed, etc) which is equivalent to almost 20 hours of flying time. Beside its ASW role (MPA) the Br 1150 was also used in a SIGINT variant (SIGINT = SIGnal INTelligence). For this purpose 5 MPA aircraft were modified. Beside the German Federal Navy (MARINE) and the French AERONAVALE the navies of the Netherlands as well as Italy and Pakistan also purchased the ATLANTIC. The Dutch Navy purchased 9 aircraft, which were stationed on the Valkenburg Navy Base. After 3 fatal (unsettled ) accidents in the North Sea the complete Dutch ATLANTIC fleet was grounded and almost immediately replaced by Lockheed P-3C ORION. Exactly the same ORION is now to replace the Federal Navy Br 1150 in the ASW role (the whole process started in 2006). Only the SIGINT aircraft continued to serve until now.

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With the beginning of the 1990s one was looking for a successor for the aging ATLANTIC fleet. Due to the fall of the Berlin wall and the resulting disarmament there was no will and definitely no money available for purchasing a brand new replacement. There were even considerations in Germany, that the complete maritime surveillance should be outsourced (and done by the Dutch Navy for instance). This was one of the reasons, why the development of the designated successor, the ATLANTIQUE 3 was never followed up. Another potential candidate, the Lockheed P-7 (heavely modified version of the P-3) was cancelled due to the enormous cost increase. With the coming of the new millennium it became clear to the Federal Government that Germany will take more and more responsibility within the International community. With this in mind it became clear that the ageing ATLANTIC fleet requires urgent replacement. The simple question was: with what? At the current stage there was not a single modern (western) design in development. Until the introduction of ground controlled drones (UAV) one had to purchase eight used Lockheed P-3C ORION from the Dutch Navy as an interim solution. These aircraft have been overhauled and upgraded and were delivered to the MARINE from 2006 on. Nevertheless they are used in the ASW role only, the SIGINT role is not covered by any Federal Navy aircraft from now on.

The very last mission capable aircraft, with the identification 61 + 03 was officially disbanded by the Commanding Officer of the NAW 3 Count Zeppelin,  Commander Beer on the 20th of June 2010. With the official ceremony another chapter of German Naval Aviation ended after 45 years.

Robert Kysela / CHK6

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