UK Aviation Events

MAY 01 2012
Military Aviation >> Exercise Frisian Flag 2012

Frisian Flag's sorties cover everything from air defence (during which intruders into restricted airspace are intercepted) through to close air support (ground attack in support of troops, known as CAS) missions. This yearís Flag was no different and the exercise didnít just involve aircraft either, with anti-aircraft artillery provided by Patriot missile batteries.

Then there was the Royal Netherlands Army, providing the Forward Air Controllers whose task it is to present pilots with information about potential threats and targets on the ground.

Almost all the participating aircraft operated from Leeuwarden and, as mentioned in the introduction, the sheer amount of aircraft involved was staggering. To give you an idea - six Eurofighter Typhoons from the German Air Force, ten F-16s from the Norwegian Air Force, five F-16s from the Belgian Air Force, seven F-16s from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, six F-16s from the Polish Air Force, six F-18C Hornets from the Finnish Air Force, eight Swedish Air Force Saab Gripens and six Royal Air Force Typhoons.

Then came a number of E-3 AWACS, KDC-10 tankers, Dutch AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, Cougar support helicopters and C-130 transport aircraft. Not all of these aircraft were in the sky at once, but 40+ aircraft did depart during one mass launch. A very impressive sight!

The exercise itself was held in Dutch, Danish and German airspace, with most of it taking place above the different seas in the region.

A little history about Leeuwarden Air Base for those of you who have not visited before. Leeuwarden started life in 1938 as a civilian airfield, but that changed however, when, in 1940, the Germans invaded the Netherlands. From that time on, the airfield became a military base for the German Luftwaffe, until 1944, when it was used to conduct civilian flights to and from Schiphol Airport. Finally, in 1949, it became what it still is now, an air base for the Royal Netherlands Air Force. A lot of Dutch aviation history has been stationed at Leeuwarden and, in terms of the jet age, it started with the Gloster Meteor, then the Hawker Hunter, followed by the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and now the Lockheed Martin F-16.

Leeuwarden has two spots where you can watch aircraft both take off and land. One is just outside a small town called Marssum and the other is close to a small town called Jelsum. If you ever want to visit Leeuwarden Air Base I suggest you go to the Marssum side as they have now built a special hill, with benches, where you can watch the different aircraft as they come and go.

With so many aircraft in attendance for Frisian Flag, many aviation enthusiasts were drawn to pay Leeuwarden a visit. I attended two days of the exercise and in many ways my time there summed up just what attracts people to visit bases like Leeuwarden to simply see aircraft take-off and land.

There are of course different reasons, some just want to note all the registrations of the aircraft and their arrival and departure times, others want to take photos and some just love the sound of jets!

You will be amazed at how many nationalities were present to watch; Austrian, German, British, Finnish, Danish, French, Dutch, Spanish and I even spoke to people from the United States! It's great to see how aviation connects and binds people.

Yes, we do all have different opinions on aircraft and which is oneís favourite aircraft, but we all have one thing in common; which is our love and passion for aviation. People always share their aviation related stories and have a laugh or two while it's quiet on base, and Frisian Flag 2012 was just like that.

One final good thing is that this exercise is held every year, so for next year keep an eye out on the aviation forums or go to www.luchtmacht.nl where you can find information about upcoming exercises, including Frisian Flag 2013. I'm pretty sure that you'll have a great time, even if it is without the thrills and spills of an airshow.

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