Frisian Flag 2018
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.