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03.003 Fighter Squadron "Ardennes"
Escadron de Chasse 03-003 "Ardennes"
Squadron Emblem
Active October 1943 - present
Country France France
Branch French-roundel.svg French Air Force
Garrison/HQ Nancy – Ochey Air Base
Motto(s) "Ne Recule Ni Ne Dévie"
(Never retreat or deviate)
Website Official Website (in French)
Aircraft flown
Fighter Mirage 2000D

03.003 Fighter Squadron "Ardennes" (French: Escadron de Chasse 03-003 "Ardennes") or EC 3/3 is a squadron of the French Air Force currently based at Nancy – Ochey Air Base (ICAO: LFSO) and is equipped with the two-seat Dassault Mirage 2000D all-weather attack aircraft.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Origin[edit | edit source]

Rayak air strip in Lebanon

The 'Ardennes' Fighter Group can trace its beginnings to Rayak, Lebanon, May 1943 - February 1944. The group resulted from negotiations over the summer of 1943 between the Free French Air Force commander for the Middle-East General Valin and Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder, AOC RAF Middle East Command, to set up a fighter group using Hurricane IIC to patrol the coast of Syria and Palestine.

After being officially created on 1 January 1944, the Ardennes fighter group moved to Acre to receive its first Hurricane IIC from the British. Operational patrols started as of 2 February of that year. Located in Acre the Ardennes fighter group doubled up as No. 261 Squadron RAF.[citation needed]

At the end of April 1944 the group was ordered to make for French North Africa

The Coastal Command[edit | edit source]

North Africa, May to September 1944

On 2 May a dozen Hurricanes flew to Ismaïlia air field in Cairo and returned their aircraft to the British before departing for Oran in Algeria with a British convoy on 13 May 1944. The group then moved to Bône Bône les Salines airfuekd where the II/3 "Dauphiné" figfhter group was stationed. The group is provisionally attached to Bône Fighter Command and takes over the coastal patrol duties of II/3 group.

The group received its first P-47s during the first half of July 1944 only to have them transferred to I/4 Navarre group while III/3 Ardennes replaces I/4 group coastal patrol duties from Réghaïa air base operating P-49s. On 15 July they are replaced at Bône by III/6 group and from 17 July they are attached temporarily to the USAF 338th Wing operating under the Mediterranean Allied Coastal Air Force or "MACAF"

Mechanics preparing a P-47 for the front

On 18 August 1944 the group receives word that they will receive 25 P-47s and that they will make for France together with the other groups attached to the 3rd Fighter Squadron. They disembarked in Marseille on 20 September and were stationed at Salon de provence from 24 September 1944.

The Tactical Command[edit | edit source]

France, October 1944 to May 1945 At Salon, III/3 group is initially attached to 3rd Squadron together with I/5 and III/6 fighter groups. From 31 October the group is operational with new aircraft and carry out reconnaissance and straffing missions in support of the allied offensive to free Alsace.

Luxeuil air strip

The group is moved to Luxeuil on 2 January, but has to move to Dole to enable repairs on Luxeuil from February to May.

Crew before their last mission

Back at Luxeuil the group provided air support for the French First Army progressing through Austria and along the Danube. From 9 April the group relocates to Wintzenheim near Colmar to be closer to the front line where the participate in allied bombings of Stuttgart and V1 launch sites.

Post War[edit | edit source]

Niedermendig, Germany, May 1945 - March 1946 The group is stationed near Koblenz but is disbanded on 1 March 1946

Disbanding ceremony of the Group, 11 April 1946

IV/4 "Ardennes" fighter squadron on Vampire.[edit | edit source]

Friedrichschafen, Germany, January to October 1950

Ardennes squadron comes back to life in January 1950 with the reorganization of the French Air Force and is initially stationed in Friedrichshafen together with:

  • I/4 "Dauphiné",
  • II/4 "Lafayette"
  • III/4 "Flandres"

The squadron is equipped with Vampire marked 4A (for Ardennes) - A à Z. On 1 October 1950 the squadron is again disbanded.

III/3 "Ardennes" fighter squadron on F-84.[edit | edit source]

Reims, France, January 1953 to November 1957

III/3 "Ardennes" was recreated on 1 January 1953 and together with I/3 "Navarre" et II/3 "Champagne" made up the 3rd Squadron of the 3rd Air Brigade based at Rheims. Flying 25 F-84G its mission is to train pilotes for fighter-bomber operations. In 1955 the first F-84F "Thunderstreak"s arrive with the whole squadron converting to F-84 by 2 July 1956.

Rising tension in Egypt result in the squadron moving to RAF Station Akrotiri in Cyprus from 21 August 1956.

Suez canal crisis[edit | edit source]

Akrotiri, Cyprus, September 1956 to March 1957

III/3 in Akrotiri consisting of 52 pilots and 36 aircraft carried out its first operations on 31 October 1956 before the cease fire of 7 November 1956. The squadron remained in RAF Akrotiri as the only French fighter wing until March 1957. Only 8 months after its return to reims it is once again disbanded.

Israeli Mirage Vs[edit | edit source]

Nancy – Ochey Air Base, France, June 1974 to March 1977

The squadron is created again on 1 June 1974 as 3/3 Squadron based in Nancy – Ochey Air Base and is equipped with 16 Mirages 5J ordered by Israel but not delivered due to an embargo. From December 1975 to February 1976 six pilots were detached to Zaire.

Jaguar.[edit | edit source]

Nancy – Ochey Air Base, March 1977 to May 1987

As of November 1976, 3/3 starts its transformation to Jaguar , the first aircraft (A29) is delivered on 25 February and by October has 11 aircraft which are to be specialized in radar detection and destruction using the anglo-french AS-37 Martel missile.

Mirage IIIE[edit | edit source]

Nancy – Ochey Air Base, France, May 1987 to June 1994

3/3 starts its migration to Mirage IIIE from April 1987 with the first Mirage IIIE n°554 « 3-XA » arriving on 1 July 1987. By January 1988 the squadron has 15 planes carrying the supersonic AS-30L missile or AS-37 Martel. In 1994 the Mirage IIIE is withdrawn and replaced by Mirage 2000D.

Surgical strikes Mirage 2000D.[edit | edit source]

Nancy – Ochey Air Base, June 1994 to present

Special livery for the 60th anniversary of 3/3 squadron

Mirage 2000D 603 at Kandahar, 2010

3/3 squadron Mirage 2000D over Sedan

Mirage 2000D n°617 is the first aircraft delivered on 30 May 1994. The Mirage 2000D represents a quantum leap and requires significant training between April and December 1994. The last 2000D (n°665) was delivered on 23 July 1999

From 1994 to 1996, 3/3 is deployed to Cervia in Italy to participate in Operation Deny Flight and Deliberate Force operations in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Subsequent missions are carried out in:

Constituent wings[edit | edit source]

  • 1st fighter wing III/3 Hure Barre bleue
  • 2nd fighter wing III/3 Hure Barre rouge
  • BR.44 wing Hure Barre verte

Stations/Airfields[edit | edit source]

Aircraft[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Other links[edit | edit source]

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