Frisian Flag 2005

Leeuwarden, the Netherlands

26 September  - 7 October 2005


One of the currently two operational fighter bases of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, Leeuwarden, recently hosted the first mult-national Frisian Flag exercise since 2002. Aim of this exercise was training and executing complex missions by multi national forces. The exercise was based on previous experiences with operations over the former Yugoslavia as well as those over Afghanistan. In scope, Frisian Flag is comparable to Red Flag at Nellis AFB, Nevada, USA and Maple Flag at CFB Goose Bay, Alberta, Canada.    

Leeuwarden, situated close to the Northern shore of the Netherlands, enabled many of the flight operations to be performed over the North Sea. However, some flights, notably those involving Forward Air Control, had to be done over land. A.o. Vliehors air to ground firing range on the isle of Vlieland and the Marnewaard exercise area were used. For added realism, Smokey SAM´s were fired from the latter area during the second exercise week.

Frisian Flag is of course all about dissimilar training. For each exercise, foreign participants with aircraft other than F-16's will be in demand. Did previous exercises see French Mirage 2000's and Mirage F.1CR's, this time saw the Frisian Flag debut of the Swedish Air Force's SAAB Gripen. The aircraft came from the F17 wing, based at Ronneby. The Swedes already had taken part in Frisian Flag 2002, albeit with SAAB Viggens. Other foreign participation came in the form of Finnish F-18C Hornets, German F-4F Phantoms and British Jaguar GR.3A's. Of course, Dutch F-16's from all F-16 squadrons formed the bulk of the 38 strong fighter contingent. 


This should have been as large as 50 aircraft, but was reduced to the lower number following cancellation by the Spanish EF-18A Hornets, French Mirage 2000's and the Belgian F-16 team. 

On 26 September, the participants started arriving at Leeuwarden with the Finnish F-18 team being supported by the sole Fokker F.27 freighter stil in Finnish Air Force service. The F-18 team was formed from all the three squadrons forming Finland's Hornet force, HavLLV 11 (Rovaniemi), HavLLV 21 (Tampere) and HavLLV 31 (Kuopio). The F-18's, six in all, were of course tasked with air-to-air missions during the exercise as the Finnish Air Force, Ilmovaimat, does not have an air-to-ground role. 

Exercises like Frisian Flag provide valuable training for multi national operations for air forces like those from Finland and Sweden. These services had been secluded from the outside world during the Cold War, but the disappearance of the East-West polarization makes their countries' neutrality meaningless. In the future therefore, those Scandinavian countries not belonging to NATO might be expected to make an appearance during such operations as those over the former Yugoslavia. 

As Germany´s Eurofighters are still a long way from being truly operational, providing air cover by the Luftwaffe remained the responsibility of the F-4F Phantom. Four Phantoms were based at Leeuwarden for the duration of the exercise, all coming from Wittmund's JG 71 "Richthofen". 

The Phantoms were not the only ageing asset during Frisian Flag 2005 however as they were joined by six RAF Jaguar GR.3A's from RAF Coltishall. Contrary to the Scandinavians, the Jaguars operated purely in the air-to-ground role. 

The six British aircraft made their last Frisian Flag appearance, as this type is to be retired within 18 months while their RAF Coltishall base is to be closed as a consequence. XZ364/FS seen here during final approach was the only one sporting 41 sq markings. All the other Jaguars which flew in the exercise wore 6 sq badges.

Other air assets taking part in Frisian Flag 2005 were a single 334 sq KDC-10 tanker flying from it's home base at Eindhoven as well as a NATO E-3A AWACS from Geilenkirchen. No doubt, Frisian Flag 2005 provided the participants with many worthwile training opportunities, as especially during the second week the weather was perfect. 

Thanks go to Leeuwarden Air Base for providing opportunities to collect certain images seen here.

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink