Royal Netherlands Air Force Open Days

Twenthe, 20 and 21 June 2003


On 20 and 21 June 2003, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (Koninklijke Luchtmacht, KLu) held it's annual Open Days. Venue this year was Twenthe Air Base in the Eastern part of the Netherlands. The KLu Open Days are one of the most popular public events in the country and this year was no exception. 

With recruiting currently a major goal of the Open Days, the organisers had attempted and succeeded in drawing as many as seven aerobatic teams which appeal very much to the public the organisers were aiming for. Nevertheless, there were certainly aircraft on show to interest the avid enthousiast.

For instance, this NF-5B-2000 upgrade 4013 from the Turkish Air Force's 3 AJU from Konya  used to be K-4013 with the KLu and temporarily returned to it's old roost.


Still to be seen in European skies, but not for very long anymore is this Austrian SAAB J-35Ö Draken 351123/23. Flown by the Austrian Air Force's Flieger Regiment 2, it was the static example. It was accompanied by the well-known red/white-red coloured 351108/08. The Drakens are now approaching the end of their service lives, so it was good to see them.

The German Luftwaffe's JBG 31 painted this Tornado IDS 44+31 in an attractive scheme centered around World War One fighter ace Oswald Boelcke. It was intended to have this Tornado as the star attraction at the unit's Open House at it's Nörvenich base. However, due to operational commitments the Open House had to be cancelled. Fortunately, 44+31 was among others displayed at Twenthe's static show. 

At the page describing the Swedish Air Force's Open Day at Luleĺ-Kallax on 14 June, this Norwegian F-16 660 from 331 Skvadron can be seen from the left side. The left side of the tail fin was dedicated to 60 years of 331 Skv. The left side however was dedicated to 20 Years F-16 with the squadron. Specially marked F-16's from Norway are rarely seen, so meeting 660 again after only a week with the sun on the other side of the tailfin was quite welcome. 

New NATO member Czech Republic was present at Twenthe with one of the Aero Vodochody L.159 ALCA Advanced Light Combat Aircraft that now form the Czech Air Force's combat strength. 42 Stíhací Letka from Čáslav dispatched this example, 6060, to Twenthe. 

The L.159 was to have been supplemented in Czech AF service by the SAAB JAS-39 Gripen, but following massive flooding in Central Europe during 2002, this order has been cancelled. With the retirement of the MiG.21MF imminent, the Czech AF will have to rely on this Hawk 200 class fighter for the next few years. 

A remarkable aircraft in military service in Western Europe is the Shorts SC.5 Skyvan. Nicknamed "shoebox" by many, a trio of Skyvans have served with the Austrian Air Force in a transport capacity for some 30 years now. The Skyvan came to support the Draken pair. In Austrian service, it has now been supplemented by a pair of ex-RAF C-130K Hercules. 

Another aircraft of interest in the static park was the French Army's SA.342M Gazelle 4034/AFM from 6 Regiment de Helicopters de Combat based at Compičgne - Margny. 

The French Army use these helicopters in an anti-tank capacity with Euromissile HOT missiles mounted on the stubs besides the fuselage.

Britain's Royal Air Force was represented in the static park solely by this Shorts Tucano T.1, ZF203. Bearing the squadron marks of the old Northern Ireland Wessex squadron No.72 sq, it in fact belongs to 1 FTS at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. Tucanos serve the RAF as primary trainers. Shortly before the Open Days, it was announced that part of the static display would have barriers on both sides of the exhibited aircraft, with these barriers being two rows thick. This did not promise much good for photography. However, a three-rong kitchen step worked miracles, evidenced by the pictures above.

The static show was not put up in the usual way with only barriers to one side of the aircraft because of the organisers' desire to allow the public to watch the air display along the full length of the runway. This has not been possible on previous occasions. 

One of the highlights of any Dutch Air Show is the AirPower demo. This consists of a set piece attack by all assets of the Dutch armed forces in which the taking of an airfield is enacted.

AH-64D Apaches mop up the base after an air strike by F-16's. Immediately after, CH-47D Chinooks along with AS.532U-2 Cougars disperse troops and their equipment to occupy the field. In this picture, Chinook D-662 hovers over a pair of light vehicles belonging to the 11 Airmobile Brigade which would in such a case provide the manpower on the ground. 

The remainder of the air display held some interesting participants. Apart from such fighter types as a Hungarian MiG.29, Swedish Gripen and Swiss F/A-18C there was this pair of USAFE F-15E Strike Eagles. Not a very common participant in air displays, the Americans came from the 492 FS from RAF Lakenheath. 

J-016 has been the KLu's demo F-16 for a few yaers now. The aircraft was recently transferred from Volkel to Leeuwarden as this northern base now forms the F-16 demo team. The jet has been kept in it's striking colour scheme it received during it's Volkel days. 

All in all, Twenthe's Open Days were a succes after all for photographers, despite the novelty of double barriers in the static park and the fact that part of the static was accesible from both sides. No serious photography was possible there. Unfortunately, there were some very nice exhibits in this part, like a quartet of Canadian CF-188 Hornets.

Sadly, on the Monday following the Open Day it was announced that the base has been slated for closure by the incoming governement. This may mean that 2003's Open Days were the last at this base.





All pictures (c) Hans Rolink.