report by: Koen Wullus
Between April 1st and 12th the KLu (Royal Netherlands Air Force) organized a new edition of the ‘Frisian Flag’ exercise. Air assets from six NATO and Partnership for Peace nations gathered at Leeuwarden airbase to participate in this exercise in order to train close collaboration in possible future conflicts. Fighter pilots from different countries trained complex missions in an international context during exercise Frisian Flag 2019. Around 50 aircraft took off twice a day from Leeuwarden airbase. During the exercise, air-air-refueling was performed by tanker aircraft at Eindhoven airbase.
This program of practical bilateral collaboration started in 1994 and has for aim the building of a partnership between the traditional NATO countries and a number of individual countries, Switzerland joined in 1996. The exercise takes place not only in Dutch airspace, but also in that of Germany and Denmark. This requires close cooperation between the airspace control authorities of the 3 countries. The combat management is in the hands of the Dutch and German Control and Reporting Center (CRC).The fleet of Dutch F16AM/BMs is split over two operational bases, Leeuwarden and Volkel, and a number of aircraft of this last base were on temporary deployment at Leeuwarden for the exercise. The F16 entered service in the Netherlands in 1979 and is celebrating its 40th Anniversary of operational use in 2019.
Apart from the locals the largest detachment for this exercise came from the United States Air Force. The 148th Wing – 179th Fighter Squadron ‘Bulldogs’ based at Duluth International Airport in Minnesota deployed 10 of its Lockheed-Martin F16C Fighting Falcons especially for the exercise to Leeuwarden. The Polish Air Force deployed 8 Lockheed-Martin F16C/D Fighting Falcons from 31.Baza Lotnicza Taktycznego Poznan/Krzesiny. One of the units at 31.BLT is the 6. Eskadra Lotnicwa Tactycznego (6.elt) ‘Tigers’ and this was very clearly visible as they brought over their specially painted ‘Tiger’ bird. The Polish F16s were all equipped with the Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT) to increase their range.
the German Luftwaffe who deployed a number of Eurofighter Typhoons coming from Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 31 (TLG31) based at Nörvenich. The Typhoon has become the standard fighter of the Luftwaffe in recent years and was developed jointly with the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain. A total of four Dassault Mirage 2000D from Escadron de Chasse 3 based at Base Aérienne 133 Nancy-Ochey deployed to Leeuwarden. The Mirage 2000D is the conventional attack version of the Mirage 2000-family and was developed from the 2000N nuclear attack variant. It made its first flight in 1991 and a total of 86 2000Ds were delivered to the Armée de l’Air.
For Frisian Flag 2019 the Swiss Air Force deployed four McDonnell Douglas F/A18C Hornets from Fliegerstaffel 11 based at Meiringen. Also this unit is part of the NATO Tiger community and brought over their specially painted ‘Tiger-bird’ to Leeuwarden. The Frisian Flag “exercise director”, Lieutenant Colonel Ronald van der Jagt indicated that for this exercise the number of people at the airbase has doubled during these 2 weeks. The planning for FrisianFlag 2020 starts already 1 week after the end of the exercise. On the first day of the exercise, Monday April 1, 2019, a media day was organized at Leeuwarden airbase. Globalairpower had the great honor to participate to this event.