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50 years going strong – the history of JG 71

After the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in the year 1949 and the resolution of 1955 for setting up German Armed Forces again, the new German Luftwaffe was looking for a new modern fighter aircraft in the end of the 5oth.

The first jet fighters came from Canada when the Canadian Government donated 75 Canadian build Sabre Mk.5 to the new founded German Air Force. Later on 225 more Sabres of the improved Canadair Sabre Mk.6 version were ordered to equip the Jagdgeschwader 71 based at Ahlhorn, the JG 72 at that time based at Leck and the JG 73 based at Oldenburg.
The Jagdgeschwader 71 was formed with 50 Canadair Sabre Mk.6 and some T-33s on 6th June 1959 at the former RAF base RAF Alhorn. The first Commander of that Wing was the high ranking WW II fighter pilot of Major Erich "Bubi" Hartmann. He introduced the famous “tulip” paintings on the nose and tail of the Sabres and T-33s, which he used to have on his Messerschmidt Bf 109 in WW II.
In 1961 the Wing transferred from Alhorn to the base at Wittmund where it is still based today.  On 21 April 1961, 43 years after the death of the world legendary “Red Baron” Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen the JG 71 was given the traditional name “Richthofen”  by the than Federal President Heinrich Lübke.
From May 1963 on the F-104 Starfighter was flown in Wittmund until the F-4F took over the duties in 1974. From 1973 until 1975 175 F-4F, the German version of the USAF F-4E, were introduced as fighter and fighter bomber aircraft and assigned the German serials 37+01 to 38+75.  The deliveries began on September 5, 1973, and ended with the delivery of 38+75 in April of 1976. The Phantom was used for air policing at the two fighter wings JG71 'Richthofen' at Wittmund and JG74 at Neuburg.
In the beginning of the new century the introducing of the Eurofighter, the successor for the Phantom was finally in sight. So the German Air Force could start to retire a part of the Phantom fleet more than 15 years later as originally planned. The Phantom will now soldier on at Wittmund until it will be finally replaced by the Eurofighter in 2012.

For the 50th anniversary of the JG 71 has painted the F-4F 37+03 with a splendid black-red-silver special livery designed by the airbrush artist Louis de Chateau. It was presented to the public on the first June weekend with a ‘Spottersday’ on 05.06.2009 and a familyday on 06.06.2009. The F-4 sports the famous red Fokker DR.1 triplane on the right tail and the silhouette of the ‘Red Baron’ in front of the Fokker on the left tail.

By Jens Schymura, Marcus Fülber and Holger Stüben

F-4F 37+03 detail left side
50 years of JG 71
F-4F 37+03 left side front view
Left side
F-4F 37+03 left side view
37+03 left side
F-4F 37+03 right side back view
37+03 right side
F-4F 37+03 right side front view
Right side 37+03
F-4F 37+03 tail detail left side
Left side tail detail
F-4F 37+03 tail detail right side
Detail right side tail
painted squadron badge left side
Left side intake
Starfighter and Sabre silhouettes
Detail of 37+03
The name of Manfred von Richthofen on the left fuel tank
Detail of left side fuel tank

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