Frisian Flag April 2017, Leeuwarden AB/Netherlands and EART 2017

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Article and photography by Peter Boschert

The 2017 edition of Frisian Flag was conducted between March 27th to April 07 2017 at Leeuwarden AB in the North of the Netherlands. The participating refueling aircraft were stationed at the NATO Base Eindhoven and belonged to the EARC. This exercise has taken place nearly each year since 1992 and includes around seventy fighter aircraft, which come from NATO and European countries. Each day, two missions of sixty to ninety minutes were flown, which take off within forty-five minutes. They’re flying in the airspaces of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, mainly above the North Sea. During the mission, the forces are parted roughly 70/30 (Blue/Red Air). The participants of Red Air are among those which take off first, to position themselves for the current scenario after the first air refueling.

The global developments in the last years showed that combat ready, well trained Air Forces are mandatory for each state. The Western Hemisphere is and was permanently involved in military operations, and in each of these the Air Forces played significant roles. That concludes that well trained and educated personnel are needed for these operations. A further development is that all these operations are done without exception by coalitions. A state doesn’t go into a conflict alone anymore. Sure, we have NATO in the West, but the latest missions worldwide contained coalitions which were joined by non-NATO partners. These scenarios bring new challenges. In the latest deployments in Afghanistan, Libya or currently in Iraq / Syria, troops had to be relocated within a few days. High demands are placed on the crews, and these also placed high demands on the Air Forces’  training. For this reason, Frisian Flag is so valuable because it offers high-quality training that is  rarely available in Europe! The main feature of Frisian Flag is to plan a large combined air operation (COMAO) in realistic scenarios, to fly, and to subsequently analyze results.

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Participants Leeuwarden AB
Belgium, F-16AM (349. Squadron, Kleine Brogel AB) Multi – Role
France, Mirage 2000D (EC 03.003, Nancy AB) Air-Ground
Germany, Eurofighter (TaktLwG 31, Nörvenich AB) Air-Air
Netherlands, F-16AM/BM (312, 313 & 322 Squadron, Volkel & Leeuwarden AB) Multi – Role
Portugal, F-16AM (Esq201/301 Monte Real AB)
UK, Dassault Falcon 20ECM Electronic Warfare
UK, Tornado GR.4 (RAF Marham) Air-Ground
USA, F-15C/D Eagle (125FW/159FS ANG Jacksonville FL, 159FW/122FS ANG New Orleans LA) Air-Air

Participants 2017 Geilenkirchen AB/Germany
NATO, E-3A (NAEW&CF Geilenkirchen AB)
France, E-3F (EDCA01.036 Avord AB)
Eindhoven AB/Netherland

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The European Air Transport Command (EATC) has, for the third time, completed the European Air Refueling Training (EART). This exercise took place parallel to the  Frisian Flag exercise in Leeuwarden, which supports the Frisian flag but is an independent exercise.

The primary goal of EART is to enable the tanker crews of the EATC nations to have a realistic training possibility in a multinational environment in complex scenarios. Above all, joint planning is at the main goal of the exercise. “At EART, we have the opportunity to plan and fly together. In addition to the normal refueling procedures, this includes, for example, the formation flight with other tankers or the practice of procedures with optical signals without the use of radio. Important is direct contact with other nations. One gets to know each other and has a direct exchange of experiences concerning different application procedures. All this promotes the effectiveness of the increasingly international operations and assignments,” a Dutch Colonel commented.

Every day the tankers flew two missions across the North Sea, with the difficulty of each sortie constantly increasing. Also correspondingly elaborate were the coordinating plans, with up to seventy aircraft in a mission. A big challenge for the maintenance teams was to prepare the tankers again for the next flight within a short time. The turnaround times (time between landing and the next start) were only about sixty minutes.

Participants EART 2017
France, Boeing C-135FR (GRV02.091, Istres)
Germany, Airbus A310 MRTT (BMVG, Cologne)
Italy, Boeing KC-767A (14º Stormo Sergio Sartoff (14th Wing), Pratica di Mare Air Base)
Netherland, McDonnell Douglas KDC-10 (334 Sqn, Eindhoven)
Netherland, C-130H (Supporting role)

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Peter Boschert

Peter is a photographer covering events in the United States and in Europe. He likes to cover Nellis AFB, NAS Fallon and RAF Lakenheath.

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