Royal Netherlands Air Force Open Days


18-20 June 2009

2009's Royal Netherlands Air Force (Koninklijke Luchtmacht, KLu) open days were staged at Volkel. This southernmost of the Netherlands two fast jet bases now houses three F-16 squadrons, nos. 311, 312 and 313 sqs. The Obase opened its gates on Thursday for those aviation enthousiasts who were a member of any of the country's spotting groups, whilst the Friday and Saturday were the real airshow days. Despite some forecasts to the contrary all three days enjoyed rather agreeable weather.

To start with the Thursday, this day gave the opportunity to shoot aeroplanes arriving for the airshow. Among them this Greek Air Force F-16D Block 50. Note the type's conformal fuel tanks, breaking up the F-16's otherwise clean lines. These could be shot from the grandstand reserved for the press during Friday and Saturday. This was a widely appreciated service by the KLu, which even included free food and drinks!


The static show included such items as the F-16BM seen to the left which is the testbed within the KLu flying with the Flight Test Office at Leeuwarden. Others included thie French Mirage 2000D from Nancy's EC 3, now with the base code 133 instead of the win code. A new trend with the French Air Force. Not often seen nowadays are the USAFE A-10's with only a single squadron left at Spangdahlem. Note the faulty serial number 81-0654, which belonged to an F-16A delivered to Egypt. Most likely a painter's error, which should have read 82-0654.

Much in evidence and surprisingly well photographable were some large transports. A French Transall sat lonely on the western end of the public area, whilst the eastern end was populated by from left to right a Slowakian An.26, the Turkish Air Force's Turk Yildizlari support Transall and a Moroccan Air Force CN.235.

The airshow started around 10 AM and included some very interesting bits. Privately flown fast jets are nowadays more and more in evidence and provide some measure of variation following the force reductions experienced by many air arms. An example of this trend is the Saudi marked Strikemaster, an armed version of the Jet Provost, seen left. The Austrian Air Force gave a welcome display with one of its advanced trainers, the SAAB 105Oe. Always good to watch is the French Air Force's Alpha Jet which competed in its class against the SAAB and its British counterpart, the Hawk.

Fortunately, the really fast jets were not to be overlooked. After all, many people would not liked to have missed Capt. Ralph Aerts's rejuvenated display in the immaculately orange F-16AM J-015. This jet took over from its predecessor for some years, J-055. J-015 has been sprayed in a new scheme which must do many Dutchman proud, being predominantly orange in colour.

Proudly displaying its unit badge on its back, Polish Air Force MiG.29UB can be seen here pulling up into a climb. The MiG.29 may be aging, the type can still give a good account of itself, obviously. Polands MiG.29's are to soldier on for a while alongside newly delivered F-16's. Once these types were expected to fight it out over Europe. Fortunately, this never happened.

Not to be outdone, a Spanish Air Force EF-18A was displayed by a demo pilot in his last days on the type.

Now firmly established in RAF service and indeed throughout Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain as well, the Eurofighter Typhoon was displayed (Friday only) in the colours of RAF No.3 squadron. Sadly lacking to make a comparison were France's Rafale and Sweden's Gripen. 


Keenly awaited by many was the Vulcan. This RAF 1950's vintage V-bomber is airworthy again since 2008 and was flown at Volkel by a.o. Martin Withers. The same man who had taken part in the famous Black Buck air raids on the Falkland Islands during the war against Argentina in 1982. Operated by the Vulcan to the Sky trust, the mighty bomber was flown very carefully in order to preserve life. For instance, the undercarriage was never lowered and raised more than necessary. It is to be hoped the type may be enjoyed on more occasions.
A most remarkable addition to the air show circuit is the Beech 200. This off the shelf civil travel plane replaced the RAF's Jetstream T.1's some years ago. After some time in service, the time was there to start displaying the type in air. It gave a remarkably good account of itself in the hands of this crew from No.45 (R) sq.

The latetst addition to the helicopter line-up in the Dutch armed forces will be the NH-90. A multi-national development in which the late Fokker participated as well, the type is being built in two main versions, the TTH-90 Tactical Transport Helicopter and the NFH-90 NATO Frigate Helicopter. An example of the latter can be seen being dispayed in flight in the colors of the Italian Navy. It came straight from Le Bourget on the Saturday, hence the large H27 code.
A customary part of any KLu Open Day is the Air Power Demonstration. It, as always, depicts the taking of an enemy airfield and includes much pyrotechnics simulating air raids by F-16's. Seen here is an AS.532U-2 Couagr about to touch down among the craters. Also involved were a CH-47D Chinook as well as AH-64D Apaches.

Among the many demo teams were Patrouille de France, Turkish Stars, Patrulla Aquila, but also the Red Arrows. In this view, the Synchro Pair do one of their cross overs, one of the most spectacular manoeuvres in any demo team's sequence

The KLu again put up one of their well organised, attractive for a wide audience displays. Lots to be seen during those three days and; it's all for free!

Roll on 2010!


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink