report by: Thierry Letellier
During 2013 the Royal Netherlands Air Force, also known as the Koninklijke Luchtmacht are celebrating 100 years of military aviation in the Netherlands. The celebrations are expected during the annual KLu Open Dagen which is expected to be held at Volkel Air Base near Uden. The annual Open Dagen is a free to enter airshow designed to show the public their air force together whilst acting as a valuable recruitment tool. In April 1913, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands signed an order for an aviation department to be formed within the Dutch Army, to be known as the Luchtvaartafdeling.
At the beginning of hostilities in Europe the Netherlands intended to remain neutral and as a result were ill-prepared for the German Invasion. Surviving Dutch units fled to the UK and fought alongside the RAF for the majority of the war. In addition, an independent branch of the Dutch Military in the Dutch Indies continued to fight until they were overwhelmed by the Japanese; many surviving units joined the Australian military. In 1944, the Directoraat der Nederlandse Luchtstrijdkrachten (DNLSK) was formed in London creating the first independent Dutch Air Force separate from the Army.
In March 1953, following a decision by the then Queen Juliana, the DNLSK were renamed and became the modern KLu. Since then, the KLu has gone from strength to strength operating some of the most iconic aircraft types within NATO including the Gloster Meteor, F-84 Thunderjet, F-104 Starfighter and F-16 Fighting Falcon. The KLu continue to perform on the world stage and are currently deployed to Afghanistan.
Due to the 100th anniversary, expectations were high for the 2013 Open Dagen. The Saturday show saw some extremes of weather which certainly did it’s best to provide a challenge. The day started with overcast skies which quickly gave way to a relatively short period of extremely heavy rain. The Solo Turk put on a very brave display in monsoon conditions whilst the crowd ran for cover. Soon the rain abated and gave way to sunshine and blue skies. The static line up had a number of very special participants. Representing neighbouring Germany, the Luftwaffe sent a pair of Typhoons which were accompanied by the beautiful blue and gold ‘Phantom Pharewell’ F-4F. In addition, the Greek Air Force sent two examples of the rarest aircraft on the European airshow scene, the A-7 Corsair II. Not to be outclassed, the home team displayed the specially painted F-16s from 322Sqn and 323Sqn.
The flying display consisted of no less than eight fast jet displays of various shapes and sizes. All the fighters used flares bar the superbly noisy Viggen and brilliantly dynamic Mirage 2000N “Ramex Delta” duo. Of the fast jet displays, the Viggen and Ramex Delta displays stood out as high quality acts. Sadly, the Polish Su-22 demo display seems significantly dumbed down compared to the 2012 display with a shorter, slower display and significantly fewer flares being used, a sign of the times? The European display teams were well represented with the presence of the Patrouille de France, Frecce Tricolori, Patrouille Suisse and the Red Arrows. Of the modern international solo displays, by far the most surprising was a rare display by a C-130J-30 from the Royal Danish Air Force. In addition, a much more subdued display than previous years was performed by the tiger tailed Czech Mi-24 Hind whilst a royal blue Hind sat in static.
As this was a 100 year celebration, the history of the KLu was also displayed to the crowd. The lunchtime segment consisted of a number of formation displays by warbirds and transport aircraft that have been operated over the years by the different incarnations of the KLu. In order to mark the close relationship between the KLu and RAF, the BBMF flew one of their Spitfires in a formation display with the Royal Netherlands Historic Flights Spitfire. The finale to the flying display was a historic formation celebrating early jet aircraft in the Netherlands. Joining the Klu display F-16 was the Dutch Hawker Hunter and Classic Air Force Meteor T7 for a unique flypast. The highlight of any Open Dagen is the air power demo sequence. This year taking part were 10 F-16AM , a KDC-10, C-130H-30, 2 AH-64Ds and 2 CH-47Ds. The sequence involves lots of passes by all aircraft, plenty of explosions and plenty of flares.
Open Dagen 2013 was a huge success with a crowd of 220,000 visitors over the two days! And Open Dagen 2014 is from now expected to Gilze-rijen.