April 2018 saw the start of the annual edition on the full scale multinational exercise Friasian Flag at Leeuwarden Air Force Base in the northern part of the The Netherlands. Air and ground crews from several NATO allies joined this annual large exercise hosted by Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), with some 75 military aircraft.
Dino van Doorn report for Global Military Aviation Photography (GMAP) on the 2018 edition of the exercise.


From 9-20th of April the 2018 edition of the full scale exercise “Frisian Flag” is taking place and is organized at Leeuwarden Air Base, The Netherlands. The exercise is conducted for two weeks in several designated areas over the North Sea to work out large complex missions with +/- 40 fighter jets, tankers and AWACS radar aircraft.
During this edition of the Frisian Flag six different NATO allies participated in the exercise; The Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Poland and the United States.

It is important that the pilots from all the different countries train together and to get used to each other during the missions. The exercise focuses on international coörporation, precision and the leadership skills from the participating NATO squadrons, to prepare the pilots for future coöperative operations within NATO.
In order to create a realistic enviroment, several scenarios are plotted and prepared by the air crews. Twice a day missions are prepared and flown by waves of +/- 40 aircraft from Leeuwarden Air Base situated in the north of The Netherlands and close to the North Sea training area’s.
The aircrews have to prepare and execute specific scenario’s vary from air interdiction missions preventing hortile air forces to enter a designated area to attacking specified ground targets coörperating with forward air controllers both on land or at sea. During these missions the mission leader has to plan and execute the mission against these targets while minimize loses.

In addition to the participating NATO members, United States Air Force (USAF) F-15’s from the Oregon and Massachusetts Air National Guard (ANG) also participated in the exercise. After the exercise the F-15’s will stay in Europe to continue the USAF presence as part of the expeditionary force Atlantic Resolve.


No less than 60 aircraft from six allied nations took part in the 2018 edition of the Frisian Flag exercise.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) participated with two of their F-16 squadrons. The Participating RNLAF units came from Volkel Air Base: 312 and 313 Squadron.

Besides the Dutch contingent also a large delegation from France was present with bunch of Dassault Rafales and Mirage-2000’s. The United States Air Force (USAF) was well represented with twelve F-15C/D Eagles from the Oregon and Massachusetts Air National Guard (ANG). But These Eagles are also part of the Atlantic Resolve Security Package in Europe. Other NATO allies who joined this large scale exersice were the German Air Force with their EF-2000 Typhoon’s from Norvenich and Wittmundhaven, and Poland with F-16C’s and their oldschool Mig-29A fighters. Spain participated with seven EF-18 Hornet  jets from Ala15 based at Zaragoza Air Base and in the first week some extra 3 Hornets arrived to join the exercise. During the arrival one the Spanish Hornets had some troubles with overheated breaks and needed some repairs during the exercise.

With such a diverse participation, it has become clear that the Frisian Flag is the largest multinational exercise in The Netherlands!

Simultaneous to the Frisian Flag exercise, European Air Refueling Training (EART) exercise 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 fly their missions twice a day in order to refuel the participating aircraft.

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