History of Albacete-Los Llanos Airfield

By Piet Luijken

The Airport of Albacete-Los Llanos was created in 1928 for use by the Escuela Civil de Pilotos (Civil Pilots School) by the Compañía Española de Aviación (Spanish Aviation Company). This school opened on April 27 1929 and military naval pilots were trained here on AVRO 505J and Bristol F.2B aircraft. However, in 1932 the school suspended all activities, but the airport maintained all its facilities and equipment.

At the start of the 1936 Spanish Civil War, airmen Lieutenant Captain Padilla and Pina made several flights, using aircraft of this school. On July 25 of that year, the airfield was occupied by the Republican Army and turned it into being an important basis for the Aviation Department of the Republicans. During the war, on 29 March 1939, the airfield was occupied by aircraft of the Nationalists. After the war, on 15 August 1939, the Spanish Air Force took over control of the airport and the 13th Squadron was based here with 20 Tupolev SB-2 Katiuska Strategic Bombers under Commander D. Rafael Lorente Solá. In January 1940, it was transformed into the 13 Regiment, taken under command by commander D. Román Rodríguez Arango. In celebrating the close ties between the airport and the city of Albacete, this city handed its banner to the 13 Regiment on 1 August 1943. In 1946 all Katiuska aircraft were decommissioned. After a small reorganisation of the Spanish Air Force the unit changed in 1957 into Ala 26 de Bombardeo Ligero (26th Bombardment Wing Light). The wing was active during the Ifni-Sahara campaign 1957-1958.

In 1962, its bombing mission was changed into an transport mission when Ala 26 Was transformed into 37 transport, equipped with 25 DC-3 aircraft. Another name change occurred in 1967 due to an reorganization and the newly formed Grupo 37 reported directly to the Jefatura de la Aviación de Transporte (Chief of Aviation Transportation). This lasted until 1974 when the base was again reconfigured for operational use.

Due to its central position in the mainland of Spain, Ala 14 was commissioned on Albacete-Los Llanos to be equipped with the new Mirage F-1CE fighters. The first was arrived directly from Mont-de-Marsan, France on 18 June 1975. Present were the Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Defense, the Commander of the Air Force Defense Command and the provincial and local authorities. On 28 March 1977, HM King JUAN CARLOS I made an official visit to Ala 14. On 27 June 27 1987 the Ala 14 reached 75,000 flight hours in Mirage F-1 aircraft. As the badge of Esc 142 pictures a lion, it became a member of the NATO Tiger Community in 1986 and consequently organized a Tiger Meet in 1992. With the years, the Mirage F1 became more and more outdated so an improvement and modernization program was started. In 1996, the first modernized Mirage F-1M arrived while the last one was delivered in 2001. In 2002, the new fighter was tested during an operational exercise as Ala 14 turned up as a participant in the exercise Cope Thunder in Alaska, USA to develop air operations with other countries (U.S., France, Japan).

Since 2003, the TLP was looking for a new basis with improved weather conditions and with less flight restrictions. Belgium demanded his transfer from the then present Florennes Air Force Base to another country due to problems of air traffic congestion while the TLP demanded this transfer due to unstable weather conditions. In 2007 TLP announced its new location to be Albacete-Los Llanos, Spain. For its part, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved on 26 October 2006 the technical agreement on the relocation plans and the general rules governing the establishment of the Tactical Leadership Program of the Allied Command Operations in Spain. They proposed Alabacete-Los Llanos AFB to host the program from 2009, based on their conditions of lower air traffic congestion, the greater range of facilities and the betert weather conditions. Along with the Spanish candidacy, other candidates were proposed in Canada and Turkey. The study group recommended accepting the Spanish offer, which was ratified by the other member nations of the Program. Also part of the agreement were plans, next to the TLP, to create an annual exercise with a simulated air conflict (ACE-Flag), which requires an even greater air capacity. For housing the TLP, an investment of around 20.7 million euros was needed of which 15.5 millions will be destined to infrastructures while more than 5 million euros will be destined to equipment. All this expenses will be paid proportionally by all the nations participating in this program.

(Source: EdA and TLP)