French Tigers leaving Cambrai Air Base
On a rainy 31 March 2011, Recce Reports visited Cambrai-Epinoy Airbase in the French ‘Pas de Calais’ region to witness the Mirages of EC 01.012 in action once more. Due to defense budget cuts Base Aérienne 103 ‘René Mouchotte’ was planned to be disbanded in 2012. The closure of this legendary airbase also marked the end of EC 01.012, which was the only remaining flying wing at Cambrai AB since the disbandment of EC 02.012 ‘Picardie’ in 2009.
History Cambrai AB
Although German forces started to use an airstrip near the city of Epinoy in 1914 and stationed a fighter squadron with the Albatross DIII aircraft there in 1916, it was not until 1940 that the real airbase in Cambrai was built by the German Luftwaffe . In August 1944, after the liberation of France, the United States Air Force stationed P-47D Thunderbolt and B-26 Marauder aircraft at the airbase and the Royal Air Force started using the base for their Mosquito squadrons.
At the end of 1946, the allied forces left Cambrai and the base was decommissioned.
In 1952 the French reopened the base and named it Air Base 103. In July 1953 EC 01.012 ‘Cambresis’ moved to Cambrai-Epinoy with the MD-450 Ouragan. Ever since that moment Cambrai Air Base played an important role in the French defense structure and in protecting French airspace. For this objective two aircraft were kept on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) 24/7. EC 01.012 also supported QRA deployments in France with two aircraft at BA 110 Creil, two aircraft at BA 118 Mont de Marsan and an overseas deployment with three aircraft based at N’Djamena in Chad.
EC 01.012 ‘Cambrésis’
L’Escadron de Chasse 1/12 ‘Cambresis’ was founded at BA118 Mont-de-Marsan in May 1952. It was formed by joining SPA 162 ‘Le Tigre’ and SPA 89 ‘La Guêpe’. On the 1st of July 1953, 1/12 was officially assigned to the 12th Wing at Cambrai-Epinoy Air Base. In 1955, the Dassault MD 454 Mystère IV replaced the MD450, and in 1959 the first Dassault ‘Super Mystère’ B.2 arrived at Cambrai. In 1978, the Mirage F1C became fully operational, replacing the Super Mystère. From 1992 on, the Mirage F1s were replaced by Mirage 2000Cs. Finally, on 30 April 30 2012, L’Escadron de Chasse 1/12 ‘Cambrésis’ was disbanded during a ceremony at BA 103.
EC 1/12 was one of the founders of the NATO Tiger Meet exercise. On 19 and 20 July 1961, the first Tiger Meet ever was organized at RAF Woodbrige, UK. Participants were USAF’s 79th TFS with their F-100 Super Sabre, RAF 74 Squadron with the Lightning and EC 1/12 with their Super Mystère. Since the first meet in 1961, a Tiger Meet was organized almost every year in one of the participating countries. Cambrai AB organized 7 Tiger Meets, the final one in May 2011. EC 1/12 won the Tiger Meet four times: in 1992, 2001, 2006 and 2009. With the disbanding of EC 1/12, the last of the three founding members of the NATO Tiger Association disappeared.