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Frisian Flag 2015

Frisian Flag 2015

Article and Photos by Patrick Roegies, Paul Gross and Hans Looijmans

Introduction

Frisian Flag 2015 was organized by Tactical Training Evaluation and Standardization (TACTES) 323 Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) based at Leeuwarden Air Base, The Netherlands. The 2015 edition took place from April 13 – April 24, 2015. For this edition, participants from Finland, Germany, Poland, Spain and the United States were deployed to Leeuwarden AB. The exercise was conducted in designated airspace throughout the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.

Purpose

The purpose of Frisian Flag is to train and prepare pilots for future cooperative operations within NATO. The exercise Frisian Flag is focused on international cooperation, leadership and precision. For two weeks, complex missions are conducted in an international atmosphere. In order to create a realistic environment, several scenarios are plotted and are prepared by the air crews. Each twice-daily mission is prepared and flown in waves of approximately 40 aircraft. During the exercise, the aircrews have to prepare and execute the specified scenario’s. These scenario’s vary from air interdiction missions preventing hostile air forces to enter a designated area, to attacking a specified ground targets cooperating with forward air controllers both on land or at sea. During these specified missions the mission leader has to plan and execute the mission against the target while minimize loses.

Besides the participation of the air crews of the various nations, international air combat control and air traffic control centers are involved in the exercise. During these two weeks Dutch and German air combat control leaders are cooperating from the mobile control and reporting centre (DCRC) located at Leeuwarden AB.

Designated practice areas

For the exercise, four designated areas have been assigned as airspace for the Frisian Flag 2015 exercise military operations area. These areas are designated as Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Echo as presented in the illustrations below:

Participants

It is important that aircrews from the NATO nations learn to cooperate with each other. Through real-time practice, the aircrews from the different nations get accustomed to the capabilities of their NATO counterparts. In order to gain experience integrating forces, different NATO nations air forces participated in the exercise. Every year the participating nations may vary, and in this year’s event, forces from Finland, Germany, Poland and Spain participated.

In addition to the participation of these European NATO members, this year, the United States Air Force (USAF) F-15’s participated in the exercise. The F-15’s arrived on March 31, 2015 as a expeditionary force for Atlantic Resolve. The USAF decided to use Frisian Flag 2015 as an opportunity to practice integration with the Netherlands Air Force Air crews and forces from other participating nations. After the exercise was completed, the F-15’s departed to Bulgaria in order to continue the European presence for Atlantic Resolve. The participation of the USAF is not a unique event. In the past, units from the U.S. Air Forces based in Europe participated. However, this is the first Frisian Flag exercise that continental U.S.-based aircraft have participated in.

Also, participants from all RNLAF fighter squadrons joined the exercise.

The entire field of participants is presented in the table below:

NumberTypeNationSquadron
6F/A-18CFinnish Air Force (FAF or FiAF)HävLL31
10Eurofighter EF2000German Air Force (Luftwaffe)TLG31
6F-16C/DPolish Air Force31.BLT/7.elt
10F-16AM/BMRoyal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)312/313/322/323 sqn
6EF-18M,BMSpanish Air Force (SPAF)Ala12
6F-15CUnited States Air Force (USAF)159FS / Florida ANG
6F-15C/DUnited States Air Force (USAF)123FS / Oregon ANG
1E-3ANATONAEW&CF
1C-130HRoyal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)336sqn

Air refueling training during Frisian Flag

Simultaneous to the Frisian Flag exercise, European Air Refueling Training is taking place at Eindhoven Air Base, the Netherlands. This enables the tanker crews to train to refuel different types of aircraft and enables the participants of Frisian Flag to refuel from a variety of tankers. The tankers also flew their missions twice a day in order to refuel the participating aircraft.

The participating tankers are presented in the table below:

NumberTypeNationSquadron
1C-135FRFrench Air Force (Armée de l'Air)GRV00.093
1A310MRTTGerman Air Force (Luftwaffe)FBS BMVg
1KC-767AItalian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare)14°St
1KDC-10Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)334 sqn

Atlantic Resolve

USAF F-15 Eagles were deployed to Leeuwarden as a part of operation Atlantic Resolve. The expeditionary force consisted of 12 aircraft that were from the 123rd Fighter squadron of the Oregon Air national Guard and the 159th Fighter Squadron of the Florida Air National Guard. With operation Atlantic Resolve, the United States is demonstrating it’s continuing commitment to reassure NATO of the commitment of collective security to endure stability in the region. USAF Major General Eric W. Vollmecke, the Air National Guard assistant for the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa, in a press conference earlier this year, stated: “This is an extraordinary opportunity to come to Europe and operate in a different environment and work with other nations throughout the region.”

The 125th Fighter Wing, based at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Florida, represents the majority of the approximately 200 strong personnel in the expeditionary force, which is the unit’s first overseas deployment in 15 years.

The expeditionary force was deployed to Leeuwarden AB for four weeks. The unit arrived two weeks prior to Frisian Flag 2015. After the completion of Frisian Flag 2015, the expeditionary force was deployed to Bulgaria where they will remain for at least six months in order to support NATO stability as a result of the recent developments in Ukraine.

Frisian Flag 2016 is expected to take place during the same time of year in 2016.

Patrick Roegies on EmailPatrick Roegies on Facebook
Patrick Roegies
Patrick Roegies is born and raised in Tilburg, the Netherlands and currently resides in Sittard in the south of the Netherlands where he lives with his wife Joyce. Patrick graduated from a technical study at the HTS in Tilburg in 1997. He currently works as a head of an equipment engineering department in the south of the Netherlands.

His passion towards aviation started at the age of 7 in 1977 when his father took him to nearby Gilze Rijen Air Force base where he witnessed his first howling F-104 Starfighters which were practicing and as a result he got addicted immediately. The F-104’s were present in order to determine a tactic to create a diversion for the "train highjack" which was going on in the Netherlands at that time. The F-104's were meant to create a diversion by performing an overshoot, kicking in the afterburner directly over the train, creating confusion with the hijackers and enabling the police to master the hijackers. This action has actually been performed and worked.

This is when his passion towards aviation was born. He got permission from his parents to visit the airbase every free hour he had and his father showed him the way by bicycle. Patrick got his first camera in 1984 which was a Canon T50 and shot Kodachrome 64 slides of mainly military aircraft. He changed his gear in the mid-nineties to Nikon and is a Nikon user ever since.

When Patrick obtained his driver license in 1989 he started to visit airbases all over Europe and from 1997 onwards he made worldwide visits to military airbases.

In order to further professionalize his work as an aviation photographer and journalist he started to write military aviation related articles based upon his visits to various nations and their Air Forces. He managed to publish his first article in 2003 and increased the numbers of publications every year.

Patrick can be reached at: patroegies@aviationphotodigest.com
Paul Gross on Email
Paul Gross
Photojournalist at Aviation Photography Digest
Paul J. Gross (46) was born in The Netherlands and raised under the smoke of Gilze-Rijen Air Base. Northrop NF-5’s flew over his home on a daily basis. During the summer of 1982 he noted a different silhouette in the sky: twelve “FF” coded F-15 Eagles of the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing out of Langley Virginia were temporarily deployed to Gilze-Rijen Air Base. His passion for aviation was born the day his father took him to the air base to witness these machines from close by. Paul entered the world of aviation photography in 1984. Decades of visits to air bases and aviation related businesses all over the world followed. To his surprise others were interested in his images and so this period saw his first publications, mostly in Dutch magazines. Since the early 2000’s his work has been published in almost all major aviation magazines, and also used for commercial purposes in calendars, websites etc. of aviation related companies.

Nowadays Paul selects a few aviation events per year to focus and report on. His goal is to bring aviation minded readers all over the world the best action photographs with an emphasis on the interaction between man and machine.

Paul can be contacted at pjgross@kpnmail.nl

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