Frisian Flag 2018
Frisian Flag is one of the biggest military exercises in Europe for fighter planes. This international exercise takes place at the Leeuwarden air base in The Netherlands and attracks many hundreds of aviation enthousiasts and photographers. From the famous spotters hill at the Marssum side of the air base you have a beautiful view of the impressive departures, the taxiing aircraft or the arriving fighter jets.
To keep international coalitions as effective and successful as possible during military missions, they must practice. A huge exercise like Frisian Flag is therefore the ideal opportunity for pilots and accompanying support such as technicians and flight controllers to learn from others and show their own capabilities. During this two-week exercise, which is organized by the 323 Tactical Training Evaluation and Standardization (TACTES) Squadron of the Leeuwarden air base, about fifty fighters jets leave the Leeuwarden airbase twice a day to carry out complex training missions above the North Sea, the Wadden Islands and Friesland. During these missions the fighter pilots simulate air battles, practice at the NATO training ground De Vliehors with Laser Guided Training Rockets and learn to deal with electronic warfare. To make this event possible, cooperation in terms of planning, air traffic control and combat management is essential.
Because of the dimension of this exercise, the list of participants is always very impressive. In addition to F-16 fighter jets from the Royal Netherlands Air Force from the Leeuwarden and Volkel air bases (312, 313 and 322 Squadron's) this year also eight Eurofighter Typhoons participated in Frisian Flag from the Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 71 'Richthofen ' of the German Air Force. France sent a large delegation to Leeuwarden with five Mirage 2000D's and eight Rafale's fighter jets and also the Spanish Air Force was present this year with seven McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet fighters which are normally based at the Base Aérea de Zaragoza. Poland was also well represented during this edition of Frisian Flag with three MiG-29 Fulcrums and five F-16C's. The most impressive participants this year were undoubtedly the twelve McDonnell Douglas F-15's of the United States Air Force (USAF) from the 104th Fighter Wing and the 142nd Fighter Wing which are part of the Massachusetts Air National Guard and the Oregon Air National Guard. In addition, a Falcon 20 also participated in this exercise, which was provided by the British company Cobham plc to disrupt the reception of radio signals during the execution of the missions.
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens
Location: Leeuwarden airbase, The Netherlands
More info: Royal Netherlands Air Force