Frisian Flag 2018, Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands


Also this year Leeuwarden Air Base was hosting the annually held exercise Frisian Flag. From 9 April until 20 April around 60 aircraft were participating in this exercise. They flew two mission a day, one before noon and the other in the afternoon.


The missions flown during Frisian Flag include air defence missions, offensive (strike) missions, missions to protect other aircraft and missions carried out to eliminate static and moving targets on land or at sea. Training and exercises are vital to the Air Forces, real missions do not allow any room for errors and mistakes. During the Frisian Flag exercise all capabilities of the different fighter aircraft are used to ensure preparedness for any kind of mission. While exercises will never replace the real thing, they are the best way to prepare the pilots for deployments during operations.


The Frisian Flag exercise takes place in the airspace of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. Leeuwarden Airbase is a logical choice to host this exercise because it’s close to the North Sea were a large training area is situated. So reaching the areas and returning don’t need much time and flight time can be used in perfect condition.


This year’s exercise brought a nice and interesting variety of airframes from different countries to Leeuwarden. Low Approach travelled several times to the North of the Netherlands to witness the Frisian Flag 2018 exercise.


The Netherlands Air Force participated with three of their F-16’s squadrons, from Leeuwarden Air Base 322SQN and from Volkel Air Base 312 and 313 SQN.

Also the French Air Force sent a large group of participators to Leeuwarden. Rafale B and C from Mont-de-Marssan and Saint-Dizier and the Mirage 2000D from Nancy.

The United States Air Force (USAF) participated for the third time in a row with twelve F15’s from two different squadrons. The first 123d Fighter Squadron (123d FS) "Redhawks" from the Oregon National Guard 142d Fighter Wing located at Portland Air National Guard Base. The second squadron came from the Massachusetts ANG 131st Fighter Squadron "Death Vipers" based at Barnes Air National Guard Base.

Also the Spanish Air Force joined Frisian Flag this year with their EF-18 in total there could be seen 3 EF-18BM and 8 EF-18M, They switched some planes during Frisian Flag.

Two other countries that participated in the exercise were Germany and Poland, the German Air Force came to Leeuwarden with the EF-2000 from Wittmund and Nörvenich. The Polish Air Force participated with five F-16C’s from 31.BLT based in Poznan. Another great addition from the Polish Air Force was the participation from three MiG-29A’s from 23.BLT/1.ELT based in Minsk.

Other participant for Frisian Flag was the Falcon DA20EW from Cobham.

Other participants for Frisian Flag were the E-3A AWACS from the NATO that flew from Geilenkirchen, three A-4N from Discovery Air Defence flying from Wittmund and the E-3F from the French Air Force flying from Avord.


Integrated into the Frisian Flag exercise was EART (European Air Refueling Training) 2018 exercise that was held at Eindhoven Air Base. The objective is to train air crews and engineers in planning and executing complex air-to-air refueling (AAR) operations in a multinational and realistic COMAO. Five tankers were scheduled to participate in EART 2018; however a couple of unforeseen events elsewhere impacted heavily on the exercise. Confirmed aircraft were the RNLAF KDC-10, the GAF A310 MRTT, the FAF C-135FR and the USAF KC-135 Stratotanker. The French Air Force Boeing C-135 flew just two missions in this year’s exercise before being re-called by the Armée de l'Air. The U.S Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker was re-called to RAF Mildenhall, both aircraft being required to support the planned air strikes against Syrian targets. So only the Netherlands Air Force KDC-10 and the German tanker did the whole job.

Low Approach Aviation Photography wants to thank the Public Affairs Officer from Leeuwarden Air Base for their hospitality during the mediaday.



Source: Netherlands Air Force

Text: Dirk Geuns

Photography: Dirk Geuns, Andy Patzelt, Tim van den Boer, Laurent Heyligen.