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F-16 Weapon Instructor Training; Leeuwarden, March 8, 2001

The FWIT Course at Leeuwarden; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The annual FWIT of 2001 started early this year. The FWIT training was already held in March where the training is normally held during the summer months. During the FWIT F-16 pilots and ground personnel are trained to weapon instructors. The entire FWIT consists of an air to air phase and an air to ground phase.

The FWIT is an exercise which is now held annually at Leeuwarden Air Base. The Fighter Weapon Instructor Coarse (FWIT) is an exercise in which weapon instructors for the F-16 are trained. The FWIT is a primary exercise when it comes to the training of weapon instructors. The exercise is annually organized by the no 323 Squadron which is stationed at Leeuwarden. The exercise was set up in collaboration with the Belgians, the Danes and the Norwegians who also fly the F-16 MLU. After the training, the participants are fully trained weapon specialists and will train F-16 pilots in their own country in the use of the various weapons systems of the F-16. The entire FWIT exercise can be divided into four stages. In Norway, the participants have more space to fly low during the air to ground phase. The Netherlands is too densely populated for such kinds of exercises and therefore the exercise should be limited to the Vliehors Range. The participants are therefore not fully trained and therefore this part of the training is carried out in Norway. The third phase of the training is the basic steps which are used in attacking ground targets. After the third phase, a final exercise will take place during the fourth stage of the FWIT. Also during this phase, other units will participate in the training as opponents of the FWIT participants. After this last phase, the students are fully qualified weapon instructors at the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. It is intended that the trained weapon instructors transfer the knowledge to other units in their own country.

There will be two missions per day during the flying days. The morning mission will take place between 9:00 am and 12:00 noon and the afternoon mission is flown between 13:30 pm and 16:00 pm. During both missions, the F-16s will take off in a mass start at Leeuwarden Air Base for their mission. It is usual that besides the FWIT participants regularly aircraft of the no 322 Squadron are involved too. These aircraft will occur during the FWIT missions as aggressors and they play enemies in the

scenario which is flown. For safety there is during the mission always a SAR helicopter standby on Terschelling north of Leeuwarden. This helicopter can always come into action when an F-16 comes into trouble over the Wadden Sea. During this FWIT course there were six students from the Netherlands present in the class. These pilots were from Leeuwarden, Volkel and Twenthe. The participating pilots were from the no 311 Squadron, no 315 Squadron and no 323 Squadron. The Belgians also joined with two students. The pilots from Belgium were both derived from Kleine-Brogel Air Base in the north of the country. The Belgian pilots are on this airbase assigned to the 10 Wing. The Norwegian participants were from the 334 Skvadron which is stationed at the Norwegian airbase Bodo. The F-16s from this unit are identified by the red and white markings on the tail of the plane. The Norwegians flew like the Belgians along with two students.

The weather was during this FWIT mission not the best weather. It was very foggy at Leeuwarden Air Base on Thursday, March 8. Despite this weather the missions went on for the FWIT participants. The day started with two Belgian Alpha-Jets which would make a number of touch and go’s at Leeuwarden. The aircraft is painted red and the tail contains a large Belgian flag. The first aircraft which would appear at the head of the runway were two F-16s of the no 323 Squadron and two F-16s of the Norwegian Air Force. These aircraft all appeared on the southern side of the airbase. The F-16s took off one by one and disappeared very soon after take-off in the fog clouds. Shortly after the departure of the first FWIT participants, there was a Belgian F-16 inbound Leeuwarden. This aircraft was a replacement aircraft for one of the students who had a broken F-16. The SAR helicopter also flew away after the landing of this F-16. The aircraft had to fly a wounded person from the Wadden Islands to the hospital on the mainland. Two F-16s from Volkel Air Base appeared in the meanwhile on the south side of the airbase. The participants of Volkel were this year pilots of the no 311 Squadron. The two F-16s which were involved from Twenthe during the FWIT were of the no 315 Squadron. The last FWIT participants which were leaving were the Belgians. The Belgians would participate with two aircraft during the FWIT.

In the meanwhile the planes of the no 322 Squadron were aligning at the runway. One of the aircraft which flew along during the today’s mission was the J-251. This F-16 MLU was the first aircraft which was delivered to the Royal Netherlands Air Force at the end of the 90s; this aircraft was the prototype of the MLU package which was introduced for the F-16 partner countries. The weather got worse during the entire departure wave. Visibility became less and less by the minute and it was still questionable whether the aircraft which were landing were visible during the recovery. After the departure wave it was more than one hour are quiet in Leeuwarden. Waiting for the recovery of the mission had begun. After an hour, the first four F-16s reported themselves at the control tower of Leeuwarden. A group of three Dutch F-16s and a Belgian F-16 entered the landing circuit. There was no tactical break over the airfield today due to the dense fog. The aircraft all came straight in and landed immediately. All the aircraft used their ILS system because they could not see the runway at Leeuwarden from the air. Shortly after the group of four aircraft the next group of four aircraft reported themselves. The aircraft which came in at Leeuwarden were a Dutch F-16, a Belgian F-16 and two Norwegian F-16s. The last aircraft which were coming in were the F-16s from Volkel. After the landing of the two F-16s the flying day at Leeuwarden was over. No afternoon mission was flown because it was canceled due to the dense fog.

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