Frisian Flag 2018

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Frisian Flag 2018 - Text and pho­tos: Joris van Boven and Alex van Noye

The Leeuwar­den Air Base in the Nether­lands (ICAO code EHLW), hosted the an­nual Frisian Flag 2018 ex­er­cise, was held from 9 to 20 April 2018. Over these two weeks, par­tic­i­pants ex­e­cuted a mix of air- to- air, air- to- ground and air-war ex­er­cises. A re­al­is­tic in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion was one of the ma­jor aims of this ex­er­cise since many in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions were con­ducted by multi­na­tional task­forces, with dif­fer­ent air­craft types, fol­low­ing dif­fer­ent tac­tics, doc­trines and train­ing-lev­els, with dif­fer­ent com­mand-chains and dif­fer­ent air-re­fu­el­ing pro­ce­dures and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.

Each day, two mis­sions were flown with 40-50 air­craft and mis­sions be­came in­creas­ingly com­pli­cated as the ex­er­cise pro­gressed. All par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries played the role as mis­sion-com­man­der for mis­sion and all coun­tries also brought in their tac­tics, doc­trines and les­sons learned from pre­vi­ous ex­er­cises and real- war ex­pe­ri­ences.

As there were two mis­sions per day, prepa­ra­tions for the morn­ing- mis­sions started on the day be­fore and ended with a mass- briefing early in the morn­ing and sim­i­larly, af­ter­noon mis­sions were con­ducted. There were flown 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. Since air- to- air re­fu­el­ing was the part of the ex­er­cise, the plan­ners and mis­sion-com­man­ders kept a close eye on that and made sure it was done timely, though it was not re­ally needed since tar­get area was close to Leeuwar­den Air­base.

The Dutch No. 322 TACTESS ( Tac­ti­cal Train­ing Eval­u­a­tion and Stan­dard­i­s­a­tion) Squadron or­gan­ises the Frisian Flag ex­er­cises (and its pre­de­ces­sors) and has so over the past 20 years. The main task of 322 TACTESS Squadron is to stan­dard­ise Dutch op­er­a­tional F-16 tac­tics and doc­trines. Some years back, it was 323 TACTESS Squadron that used to or­gan­ise Frisian Flag ex­er­cises but later on, it was 322 TACTESS Squadron that took the ba­ton to con­vert the fu­ture Dutch F-35 JSF air­craft, which is ex­pected in the Nether­lands some­time in 2019.

Frisian Flag les­sons (com­pared with Red Flag)

Most of the for­eign par­tic­i­pants were very pleased by Frisian Flag ex­er­cise which they found rel­a­tively low-cost as com­pared to the Red Flag ex­er­cise in the US. Al­most all the na­tions across the globe par­tic­i­pated in Frisian Flag ex­er­cise with all na­tional and in­ter­na­tional doc­trines mixed into the 20 mis­sions.


In the 2018 edi­tion of Frisian Flag, there were ded­i­cated RED-AIR air­craft with civil A-4s based at Wittmund AB and Pol­ish MiG-29s based at Leeuwar­den AB. With this ded­i­cated RED-AIR as­sets avail­able in the ex­er­cise, BLUE-AIR pi­lots ex­pe­ri­enced vir­tu­ally-real ad­ver­saries with non-stan­dard tac­tics and air­craft.

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