Baltic Air Policing
Hellenic Air Force


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The famous Sanicole airshow at the Leopoldsburg airfield in Belgium is one of the biggest and longest running airshows in Europe. Every year the dedicated team behind the show attracts some of the best airshow performers in the world. After a year of absence due to the covid pandemic, the 2021 show took place covering all the health and safety measures necessary to get the GO from the government. On Friday evening, the sunset show took place while the big airshow was on Sunday. The aircraft operated from the Kleine-Brogel air base close-by, where a spotters day was organized on Saturday.

At Kleine-Brogel, a special Tiger Meet dedicated to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the NATO Tiger Association took place. XTM2021 was originally planned as the Full 2021 Nato Tiger Meet, but with the postponement of NTM 2020 to 2021 due to the global Covid Pandemic, it was scaled down to a limited Meet concentrated around the 60th Anniversary of the NATO Tiger Association and the 70th Anniversary of 31 Squadron. The XTM2021 attracted some very nice Tiger-painted aircraft, that also participated the Sanicole airshow with a large Tiger formation on Sunday.

After a visiting the Athens Flying Week, the Skyvan flew to Zwartberg Airfield in Belgium, the place we operated from for the Sanicole photo mission. The first flight took us over the border to the Netherlands, where we photographed the Hawker Hunter together with two F-16’s from Volkel. The home team of Kleine-Brogel, the famous Thunder Tigers flew a nice four-ship F-16 formation. The striking XTM painted F-16 got nicely photographed from all sides.
On the Thursday before the show, we welcomed the first arrivals into Kleine-Brogel. From Italy we had the M-346 Master and the RSV C-27 Spartan. The Hellenic Air Force ‘Zeus’ F-16 demonstration team were next. They were not the only F-16s, as we were also joined by the Polish F-16 display team with their two F-16C.
More fast jets came by with the two F-18C from the Finnish Air Force, which showed us the most perfect break along our Skyvan. The Sanicole airshow had some nice Gripens at the show. The Hungarian Air Force came with two Gripens, while the Czech Air Force with a single jet. Later in the week, a joined formation took place with all Gripens, showing us the close ties the squadrons have in the Gripen community.

The Czech Air Force visited the airshow in great numbers. Beside the Gripen, the Sokol Rescue helicopter performed an outstanding show. One of the most striking paint schemes was the Czech Hind which commemorated the rich history of the base. The Hind was complemented by a Mi-17 Hip and they performed a nice duo-display at the show.

One of the rarest warbirds flying around in Europe is the Bagdad Fury. Based in Belgium, it was one of the highlights at the 2021 Sanicole airshow.

On Friday we had another busy flying day. The Austrian Air Force gave us an outstanding formation performance by two Eurofighters. The German Air Force also visited the XTM event with two Eurofighters of which one was adorned in a striking blue Tiger scheme. The eyes of the Tiger on top of the wings were shown nicely by the flying crew.
The Portuguese Air Force arrived with two F-16s, unfortunately the weather was very bad, limiting the photographic opportunities, next time more luck. The German Army visited the show with a fully equipped NH90 helicopter. The Belgian Air Force NH90 was also visiting the show performing a SAR demonstration.
The Belgian Air Force visited Kleine-Brogel for the very last time with the C-130H Hercules. After 50 years of service, the type is replaced by the more modern A-400M. To mark the occasion, the CH-01 was painted-up, highlighting the rich history of the type.

One of the absolute highlights visiting the XTM was the French Navy E-2 Hawkeye. An aircraft type rarely seen at events, but what an amazing performance they gave us, not once but twice! The crew flew the Hawkeye very sporty, giving our photographers the time of their lives. The Navy logo on top of the large radome, and the special tail were the icing on the cake.

Next to the Hawkeye, the French Navy also participated with two Rafale’s. They were both painted up with a nice Tiger tail, and gave us an awesome show.

At the local Zwartberg Airfield, a number of nice aircraft can be found. While making the short hop to the Sanicole airshow, a Pilatus formation was set up with the PC-7 and the PC-12. In the evening we could enjoy the fabulous sunset show, ending a beautiful day in style.

On Saturday, the weather was far from perfect with an overcast sky. We had a short meeting with the Italian Air Force EF2000 after his display practice. While the beautiful camouflaged Dutch Hawker Hunter came by one more time.

Another rarity was the Danish Air Force Baby Blue Team flying five T-17s. The lead aircraft was adorned in a grey/dayglo heritage scheme, which gave us a little more color in the pictures. Belgian Aerobatic pilot Stijn Dejaeghere gave us a nice show behind the Skyvan with his smoke-equipped T-6 Harvard.

On Sunday we had the luck to see some more Tigers, and get the E-2 Hawkeye in great sunshine this time.

Monday is departure day after the show. First up was the impressive Netherlands Air Force CH-47D Chinook, which was one of the very last flights of this bird, as the older Chinooks get replaced by the newer CH-47F models. We got some more helicopter action with the German NH90 and the Czech Sokol.

The Belgian Air Force came by with the special colored C-130. And the A.109 display team spared us some flares to get some nice pictures both beside and behind the Skyvan. The German Eurofighters came by once more, and the Czech/Hungarian Gripens flew a nice three-ship formation.

The Sanicole airshow is our home show, and in 2021 it concluded our flying season. Despite the many airshow cancellations we were very happy to return to the skies in 2021. A new airshow was added to our season, the Gdynia Airshow in Poland, and it was great to return to the much warmer Athens Airshow. We are looking forward to next year and hope everything is becoming normal again. Thanks to all the people behind the airshows, the fantastic crews and the happy photographers for making this another exceptional season!

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