Frisian Flag and EART 2017

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - News - Text and pho­tos: Joris van Boven and Alex van Noye

At Leeuwar­den air base in the Nether­lands, the an­nual Frisian Flag ex­er­cise was held from 27 March to 7 April 2017. The two weeks saw a mix of air-to-air and air-to-ground air war­fare sce­nar­ios ex­e­cuted by the par­tic­i­pants, which in­cluded ten Eurofight­ers from the Ger­man Luft­waffe’s 31 TLG at Nör­venich, eight USAF F- 15Cs from the 122th Ex­pe­di­tionary Fighter Squadron ( with air­craft from the Florida and Louisiana Air Na­tional Guard), twelve Dutch F-16s from 312, 313, and 322 Squadrons at Volkel and Leeuwar­den, Bel­gian F-16s from 349 Squadron at Kleine-Bro­gel, RAF Tor­nado GR4s from 31 Squadron at Marham, Por­tuguese F-16s from the Monte-Real air base, French Mi­rage 2000Ds from Nan­cyOchey, a sin­gle Dutch C-130 act­ing as a ‘slow-mover’ to be es­corted by the fighters, and a civil­ian COB­HAM Das­sault Falcon 20 for elec­tronic war­fare train­ing.

Re­al­is­tic in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion is one of the key aims of Frisian Flag, as lessons learned from re­cent Afghanistan and Libya op­er­a­tions have shown. Many in­ter­na­tional

op­er­a­tions are con­ducted by multi­na­tional task­forces, with dif­fer­ent air­craft types, with dif­fer­ent tac­tics, doc­trines and train­inglevels, with dif­fer­ent com­mand- chains and dif­fer­ent air-re­fu­el­ing pro­ce­dures and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Ex­er­cises like Frisian Flag sup­ply a low-cost op­por­tu­nity to train for multi­na­tional op­er­a­tions.

Each day had two mis­sions, flown by the same air­craft but with dif­fer­ent pi­lots. The mis­sions grew more and more com­pli­cated through the course of the ex­er­cise, and all par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries had op­por­tu­ni­ties to play the role of ‘mis­sion com­man­der’ for var­i­ous mis­sions, bring­ing in their spe­cific na­tional tac­tics, doc­trines and ex­pe­ri­ences from pre­vi­ous ex­er­cises and con­flicts.

Prepa­ra­tions for the morn­ing mis­sions com­menced the day be­fore and ended with a mass-briefing early in the morn­ing, while the af­ter­noon mis­sions com­menced plan­ning early in the morn­ing and ended with a mass-briefing just be­fore take-off. Mis­sions flow in­cluded of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive air-to-air mis­sions and of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive air-to-ground mis­sions twice a day with some 40-50 air­craft air­borne each mis­sion.

The Dutch 322 TACTESS (Tac­ti­cal Train­ing Eval­u­a­tion and Stan­dard­i­s­a­tion Squadron) has or­gan­ised the Frisian Flag ex­er­cise and its pre­de­ces­sors for over 20 years. The main task of 322 TACTESS is to stan­dard­ise Dutch op­er­a­tional F-16 tac­tics and doc­trines.

Tanker train­ing

In par­al­lel with Frisian Flag 2017, the multi­na­tional re­fu­el­ing train­ing ex­er­cise EART 2017 was held at Eind­hoven air base in the south­ern part of the Nether­lands. These tankers par­tic­i­pated as re­fu­el­ers for Frisian Flag air­craft, giv­ing the par­tic­i­pat­ing Euro­pean forces the abil­ity to train with a va­ri­ety of a tanker and re­ceiver air­craft. The 2017 edi­tion saw boom- equipped Dutch KDC- 10s, hose- equipped Ger­man A310 MRTTs, French KC-135 with boom and hoses, and Italy’s mod­ern KC-767, also with boom and hoses, avail­able for the Frisian Flag fighters, en­hanc­ing fu­ture in­ter­op­er­abil­ity and broad­en­ing ex­per­tise for both the fast jet and tanker crews.

down at Leeuwar­den

A Por­tuguese F-16 gets air­borne for a Frisian Flag mis­sion

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