Frisian Flag April 2018, Leeuwarden AB/Netherlands and EART 2018

 

F-16AM_J-643_3

The 2018 edition of Frisian Flag was conducted between April 9th to April 20th, 2018 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. The exercise Frisian Flag takes 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 it the Air Forces played a significant role. That concludes for these operations well trained and educated personnel are needed. A further development is that all these operations are done, without exceptions, in coalitions. A state doesn’t go into a conflict alone anymore. Sure, we have NATO in the West, but the last missions worldwide have traditional coalitions being 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 deployments also made the air forces rely on their past training. For this reason, Frisian Flag is so valuable, it offers high-quality training as it is only rarely available in Europe! The main feature of Frisian Flag is to plan large combined air operation (COMAO) in realistic scenarios, to fly, and to analyze subsequently.

Participants: Leeuwarden AB
France, Mirage 2000D (EC 03.003, Nancy AB)
France, Rafale B/C (EC 01.004 St. Dizier AB/EC 03.030 Mont de Marsan AB)
Germany, Eurofighter (TaktLwG 31 and 71, Nörvenich and Neuburg AB)
Netherland, F-16AM/BM (312, 313 & 322 Squadron, Volkel & Leeuwarden AB)

Poland, F-16C (31 BLT, Poznan AB)
Poland, MIG-29 (1ELT, Minsk AB)
Spain, EF-18M (ALA 15, Zaragoza AB)
UK, Dassault Falcon 20ECM Electronic Warfare
USA, F-15C/D Eagle (104th FW/131st FS Barnes ANGB/MA, 142nd FW/123rd FS Portland ANGB/OR)

Participants: 2018 Geilenkirchen AB/Germany
NATO, E-3A (NAEW&CF Geilenkirchen AB)
France, E-3F (EDCA01.036 Avord AB)

Eindhoven AB/Netherlands

The European Air Transport Command (EATC) has for the fourth time completed the European Air Refueling Training (EART). This exercise took place parallel to the exercise Frisian Flag 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 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.”

EART’s Exercise Director, Colonel Andrea Massucci, told us that EART 2018 planned to put a premium on ‘Tanker cell formation’ operations and ‘tanker-to-tanker’ rendezvous procedures; as well as introducing the ‘Advanced Certification Level’ for tanker crews. However, the unforeseen withdrawal of the French, Italian and United States left just two operational aircraft for the exercise, meaning that much of the planned training such as the ‘tanker cell formation’ procedures could not be practiced.

With the introduction of the ‘new generation’ fleet of Airbus A400M and A330-MRTT aircraft, EATC’s member nations will become increasingly committed and more capable in their AAR capabilities. All future AAR operations will be operated as ‘pooled’ assets; interoperability being essential for success. It was noticeable that between 2010-2016, the number of air-to-air refueling missions flown by EATC member nations increased year on year, whereas 2017 saw a deacline in the number flown and is probably indicative of the capabilities and reliability of the aging fleets of aircraft operated by every member; a sure sign that new, more reliable and capable aircraft are of paramount importance.

Every day the tankers flew two missions across the North Sea, with the difficulty constantly increasing. Correspondingly elaborate also the coordinating plans, with up to 70 aircraft. 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 60 minutes.

Participants: EART 2018
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)
USA, KC-135R (100th ARW, RAF Mildenhall)

 

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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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