349 (Belgian) Squadron was founded in November 1942 as a Belgian unit within the British Royal Air Force.
Its first missions were flown from Ikeja (Nigeria) with the P-40 Tomahawk, in preparation for an expected invasion of the German African Corps in Central Africa. In June 1943 the young squadron moved to RAF Wittering in the United Kingdom to continue the fight from there. Equipped with the iconic Supermarine Spitfire, the 349th Squadron participates in virtually all operations to liberate Western Europe, of which the best known is undoubtedly Operation Overlord (the landing of allied forces in Normandy) on 6 June 1944. During the Second World War the unit carries out hundreds of shipments, flying from a whopping 26 different locations, achieving 15 air victories.
In 1946, command of the squadron is transferred to the young, newly established Belgian Air Force and moves from Germany to the Belgian Beauvechain as part of the 1st Fighter Wing, and is part of the integrated air defense system of NATO. During 50 years of operations, 349 flies with 6 different aircraft: the Spitfire, Gloster Meteor, Hawker Hunter, Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck, Lockheed F-104 and the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon.
With this last aircraft, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the squadron will be equipped in 1979 as the first operational F-16 unit within NATO. After being part of the 1st Fighter Wing for half a century, it moved to Kleine Brogel in 1996 to join the 10th Tactical Wing. In 1998 it is again the first Belgian unit to be equipped with the F-16 Mid Life Update.
Even after the end of the Cold War, the 349th Squadron is on standby 24/7, and takes part in all the air operations that the Belgian Air Force has carried out in the past 25 years.
In the 1990s it is part of the Belgian-Dutch Deployable Air Task Force, where it participates from Italy in missions to support security and peace during the Yugoslav Civil War and the Kosovo conflict. At the beginning of the century it is part of the first Baltic Air Patrol Detachment, which from 2004 takes over the air defense of the Baltic States from Lithuania. A year later, it deployed outside Europe for the first time since the Second World War, more specifically from the Afghan capital Kabul, to support and secure the first free elections in the country since the 1980s. 3 Years later, in 2008, it flies again from Afghanistan. This time from Kandahar, in support of the ISAF peacekeeping force. After more than 5000 operational flights, the detachment returns to Belgium 6 years later in 2014.