The Belgian Air Force was founded in 1909 as a branch of the Belgian Army. King Albert’s interest in the military use of airplanes was a main impetus for its formation.
In Spring of 1911, the new air force established its military aviation school with five pilots, two mechanics, and a woodworker. It received its first airplane via a circuitous route; Baron Caters gave an airplane to King Albert, who in turn presented it to the school.
On September 12, 1912, pilot Lieutenant Nelis and observer Sous Lieutenant Stellingwerff were the first Europeans to fire a machine gun from an airplane; while Nelis brought the aircraft low, Stellingwerff put some bullets through a sheet staked out on the ground. They were disciplined for their efforts.
On January 18, 1916, the decision was made to form a dedicated fighter squadron. On February 22, 1916, Escadrille I became the 1ère Escadrille de Chasse. It consisted of newly-supplied Nieuport 10s and one obsolete Farman two-seater. During the interbellum, the Belgian Air Force flew with Breguet 19. Some efforts were made to acquire aircraft from local production, as by Stampe et Vertongen and Renard.
At the start of World War II, the Army Air Force had three active Air Force Regiments. Planes which were used by those regiments were the Renard R-31 and R-32, the Fiat CR.42, the Hawker Hurricane, the Gloster Gladiator, the Fairey Fox, and the Fairey Battle. These were massacred by the much superior German Luftwaffe in the German invasion of May 1940.