The Belgian Air Force has stood down its A109BAi solo display, with its final ever performance taking place at Belgian Air Force Days 2023.
The team announced shortly before the show that their performance on Sunday 10th September 2023 would be their final public display. The aircraft, which already wears a special paint scheme known as “Razzle Blades”, received temporary Belgian Air Force Day markings on the tail fin to mark the occasion. The display has been a firm fixture at European airshows for many years, but only performed at two major airshows and a smattering of smaller events in 2023.
Earlier this year, Belgium launched a programme to find a replacement for its ten A109s and eight NH90s with fifteen new helicopters, with deliveries begining before the end of the year. Although these new helicopters has not yet been formally selected, the leading candidates all offer high production rates and rapid delivery schedules, meaning the end is likely near for the A109 in Belgian service.
Disbanding the A109 Display Team is the first stage of a substantial winding down of the Belgian Air Force’s airshow commitments. Although the Belgian Air Force has been a stable and reliable contributor to European airshows for many years, This is Flight understands that the withdrawal of A109 solo displays will be followed next year by the end of their national aerobatic team, the Red Devils, as their SF.260s are due for retirement. It has also been stated by well-connected sources such as Aviation Photocrew that the highly-acclaimed F-16AM Fighting Falcon solo display will perform a farewell season in 2024 ahead of the F-16’s retirement from Belgian service. This could also bring about the end of their unofficial four-ship F-16 display team, the Thunder Tigers, within the next couple of seasons.
Belgium typically hosts just one major airshow per year, but its display teams are frequent visitors to events across Europe – especially in the UK and France – and their loss will be felt far beyond Belgium’s borders.