No. 22 Wing in the Belgian Congo

The Belgian Congo declared its independence from Belgium in June 1960. This was followed by a period of internal power struggles and political instability. This, known as the Congo Crisis, ended with Joseph Mobutu taking power in November 1965. During the Congo Crisis the United Nations took part by introducing peacekeeping forces. Swedish military units were included among these. In response to a request from the United Nations asking if Sweden could contribute with an aviation unit, the answer was positive. Accordingly, on September 30th 1961 five J 29B aircraft from No. 8 Wing at Barkarby, near Stockholm, set off on a 12,000 km journey to the Congo. They landed at Leopoldville (now known as Kinshasa) in the Congo on October 4th. Supplementing these aircraft and pilots, technical personnel, material and maintenance equipment were also transported there, with the aid of American military transport aircraft. A few days later their base was moved to Luluabourg. On Sunday October 29th the Swedish unit, now known as No. 22 Wing, carried out its first armed mission. As the aircraft usually took off heavily loaded for ground attack profiles, and carried maximum fuel, in drop tanks, they needed long runways, especially at the high altitudes of their air bases. They therefore relocated to Kamina, where there were 2.6 and 2.8 km long runways. This is where No. 22 Wing remained for the rest of its time in the Congo. Dedicated reconnaissance aircraft were also needed, so that at the beginning of October 1962 two S 29C aircraft arrived at the Kamina base. On Tuesday January 15th 1963 No. 22 Wing performed its final mission in anger. The unit continued as a peaceful force until the middle of April when two S 29C and two J 29B took off to fly home to Sweden. Other aircraft continued to fly supervisory missions until the autumn of 1963 when the remaining aircraft were destroyed at Kamina, as they were obsolete and anyway it would have cost too much to fly them back to Sweden. The official disbandment of No, 22 Wing took place on September 11th, 1963.