report by : Danny Bonny – Koen Wullus & Thierry Letellier
From April 9 to 20, 2018 Leeuwarden Air Base, the Netherlands, hosted another edition of exercise Frisian Flag, one of the largest international live-fly fighter exercises in Europe. For two weeks fighter aircraft from NATO Allies worked together with the Royal Netherlands Air Force executing a large variety of air missions. The Frisian Flag 2018 included Dutch F-16AM, Polish F-16C/D and MiG-29, U.S. ANG F-15C/D, German Eurofighter Typhoon, Spanish EF-18, French Rafale B/C and Mirage 2000D combat aircraft.
Integrated into exercise to Frisian Flag, the exercise EART 2018 (European Air Refueling Training) was held at Eindhoven Air Base, April 9-20. The EART is a multinational Air-to-Air Refuelling training that offers the opportunity to foster the exchange of information and procedures among tanker and fighter crew and to facilitate certification process between tanker and receiver aircraft. Confrmed aircraft include the RNLAF KDC-10, the GAF A310 MRTT, the FAF C-135FR and the USAF KC-135 Stratotanker. The training area will be controlled by French and NATO AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft. They will operate from their home bases.
Exercise Frisian Flag (FF) and European Air Refuelling Training (EART) have run concurrently for a number of years now, with both very much benefiting from the other. Modern fighter operations rely heavily on air-to-air refuelling (AAR), and it is of primary importance that both the ‘tanker’ and fighter crews practice the art of AAR on a regular basis. EART and Frisian Flag provide the ideal scenario for that; two exercises, running side by side over a two week period with the joint aim of maximising NATO’s fighter operations.
Participating Frisian Flag aircraft were assigned to either ‘Blue’ (friendly) or ‘Red’ (enemy) forces, with many varied aspects of current air operations flown during missions, under a high-threat environment. Ground-based air defence units in the Marnewaard training Organised by 322 Tactical Training, Evaluation and Standardization Squadron (TACTESS) at Leeuwarden Air Base, the core aim of Frisian Flag is one of multi-national co-operation.
Conducting multi-national fighter exercises is necessary to increase the sustainment of effective execution of each nation’s air defence operations and missions. During Frisian Flag, the Movement Co-ordination Centre Europe (MCCE), which is base at Eindhoven, deployed an AAR expert to Leeuwarden to act as a liaison between Frisian Flag and EART for AAR tasking.
The aim of such an exercise still stays the preparation of the crews and personnel of the various Air Forces to an eventual active participation (as a coalition member) in the different conflicts. Operating together also requires training together, so Frisian Flag offered mission scenarios close to operational reality commitments. Globalairpower would like to thank all the staff involved in the Frisian Flag 2018 Media Day for their assistance in completing this article.