NAMFI: Speed and Precision
Séquence de tir d'un missile "I-Hawk" en Crète. © L.Schmitz.
The heat on the site was unbearable and the only shade available within hundreds meters around was under the missile launcher. We had to wait for hours before all systems were ready. After consulting the security documents, I authorized the team to rest under the launcher in a relative freshness. That was when an American major arrived. The evaluator was a strict looking giant of nearly two meters tall. I expected a severe reprimand and actually, he ordered us out of there immediately. My men emerged from the shadow with a repented expression on their face and an appropriate story to soften the evaluator. But to everyone's surprise, he exhibited a glass jar and he disappeared under the launcher. A moment later he went out, laughing. A huge scorpion had been taken prisoner in the jar... The major, who turned out to be a native from Louisiana, insisted on speaking French. But his accent was so atrocious that we did not understand anything. Out of politeness, I said ’yes’ from time to time, hoping that it fell well into the conversation. After a few minutes he took two umbrellas out of his jeep, tapped me on the shoulder and left us smiling. We all bid him farewell with great signs.
That evening we discovered that the our team had received an outstanding rating, ‘Excellent - 100%’. Everybody was not so lucky. A radar repairman lost points because he had bitten his pencil: ‘Misuse - lead pencils are not edible!’ Another was so stressed that he drummed with his fingers on the radar console: ‘Misuse - a radar display is not a drum’... On the third day, the gods of the Hawk were with us. After a fast preparation the missile was launched against its target, an unmanned aircraft flying over the Mediterranean. The telemetry indicated a Kill. The missile, of which the explosive charge had been disabled, missed the UAV by six feet only (two meters). Such a result was rarely achieved. The Hawk had not been designed to collide with the target. Its warhead was so effective that any target situated at a distance of less than 300 meters was considered destroyed! The final result of the unit was 95.25%. A score which confirmed the Alpha battery reputation as one of the best of the Belgian Hawk batteries. As the firing campaign had been done within a very short period and as the C-130 would not come back before the end of the week, there was nothing else to do for the team than to celebrate its good score. The traditional ‘Missile Away Party’ held at a local restaurant was also a complete success: it seemed that the tables were littered with bottles of Ouzo. I can’t confirm this, as I didn’t remember anything... The following days were spent on the beach and the nights in several local bars. We found out that at this period of the year, the tourist town of Chania was invaded by female English students in search of sun and adventures...
The TacEval (Tactical Evaluation) meant war! Well, almost. For one week, the whole battalion hosted a detachment of foreign evaluators. The latter provoked ‘incidents’ in a simulated secret scenario. In all cases, at the end of the first day the enemy ‘Red Land’ threatened to attack and the Hawk batteries had to leave their sites to avoid a pre-emptive strike. The movement took place at night and under wartime conditions. Everything was permitted, provided that the security of the men was guaranteed. After the fighting (after the end of the world by nuclear strikes), the battalion received a qualification more or less good according to its ability to shoot down enemy planes, in whatever circumstances. The TacEval was prepared for many months. The Commander of the battalion required perfection! As the Alpha battery was anyway the best, our commander adopted a different philosophy: "To be the best is not the important thing. The important thing is that they think that we are the best...” This implied a certain arrogance that suited us perfectly.
La console principale du BCC du 43A à Brakel. © Collection M.Wyffels.
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