This years Frisian Flag exercise took place from the 1st – 12th April 2019 at Leeuwarden Airbase in the Netherlands and Jeroen van Holland was there for Global Aviation Resource. Images by Jeroen van Holland and Kevin Wills.
During the two weeks of Frisian Flag 2019, approximately 50 aircraft from six different nations flew together in two waves every day. Missions are planned, led and evaluated by a different participant each day, ensuring that all six participating nations receive enough training and are properly challenged on all facets of the exercise.
Frisian Flag is consistently popular amongst the many countries throughout Europe who participate on a regular basis, with many returning every year.
This year the United States Air Force sent 10 F-16C Fighting Falcons from the Minnesota ANG’s 148 Fighter Wing. Based in Duluth, this unit was a special guest for this exercise.
In addition to the Dutch F-16s from Leeuwarden and Volkel Airbases and the above mentioned Minnesota ANG unit, four additional coalition partners flew to Leeuwarden for Frisian Flag 2019, making the complete line up as follows:
– Germany | EF2000 Eurofighter Typhoon | JBG31 | Nörvenich AB
– USA | F-16C | 148 FW | Duluth
– Netherlands | F-16C | Leeuwarden and Volkel AB
– Poland | F-16C | 31 BLT Poznan
– Switzerland | F/A-18C Hornet | Staffel 11 Meiringen AB
– France | Mirage 2000D | EC-003 Nancy
The organisation of the exercise is in the hands of Leeuwarden’s 322 squadron. This squadron is tasked with the role of TACTES (Tactical Training Evaluation and Standardisation); ensuring operational F-16 standardisation on both a National and International level.
Frisian Flag is similar to its big brother, Red Flag, which is, of course, hosted in Nevada at Nellis AFB. At Leeuwarden the participants are also split in to two groups, the red team and the blue team, each flying different types of mission to protect other aircraft in air defence scenarios or to eliminate static and mobile ground and sea targets.
Frisian Flag and the European Air Refuelling Training (EART) have run concurrently for a number of years now, with each exercise very much benefiting from the other. Five Tankers from the Netherlands, UK, France, USA and Germany were based at Eindhoven airbase during this Frisian Flag edition and you can read about EART on GAR by clicking HERE.
EART and Frisian Flag provided an ideal training situation with two missions running side by side every day and the skies above the Nordsee and Leeuwarden were heavily congested with participating aircraft. The fighter crews had the opportunity not just to train for different scenarios with the participating Frisian Flag nations but also to plan together with EART’s air-to-air refuelling tankers from Eindhoven.
Frisian Flag exercise will continue next year alongside EART but with some new participants. The Royal Netherlands Air force will fly the KDC-10 until the beginning of 2020 and that venerable aircraft will be replaced by the Airbus A330 MRTT.
Also the RNlAF has been testing its first two F-35A airframes in the USA and with the roll out of the latest F-35A (F-008) last month, maybe it too will take part for the first time at Frisian Flag in 2020?
Global Aviation Resource would like to thank everyone involved with Frisian Flag and EART for their assistance.
Thanks to Jeroen van Holland for providing this feature and also to Kevin Wills for the additional imagery.
Frisian Flag 2019 gallery