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Fighter Aircraft in Europe; Leeuwarden July 6 & 7, 2001

The Luchtmacht Open Dagen, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Also this year, the traditional Air Force Days were held in the Netherlands. This year edition the open house was organized by Leeuwarden Air Base in the northern part of the country. The Air Force days are always held on Fridays and Saturdays. Every year more than 200,000 spectators are visiting this large airshow event.

During the air force days at Leeuwarden Air Base, there were many aircraft from the Netherlands and its partners present. During these days, many fighters were shown to the public. Many fighters are a familiar sight in Europe. This overview shows which aircraft were present during the Dutch Air Force days. The development of the F-16 began in 1965 with the Advanced Day Fighter (ADF) project. This aircraft should be able to operate alongside a heavier fighter jet from the FX project which would later become known as the F-15 Eagle. On January 13, 1975, the YF-16 was declared the winner of this program and the USAF ordered 15 pre-production models. The F-16 soon entered service in Europe to replace the F-104 Starfighter. The F-16 would be the ideal war plane for any kind of battles on the Iron Curtain. There was an initial group of four countries which would become the first export customer for the F-16. These countries were Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. From February 1975 this cooperation was initiated in Europe. In June 1975, these four countries decided to jointly purchase the F-16. On August 17, 1978, the USAF received the first F-16 Fighting Falcon. On January 29, 1979, the first European-built F-16 was delivered to the Belgian Air Force. The Netherlands followed on June 6, 1979. Norway received its first aircraft in December 1979 and Denmark on February 18, 1980. The F-16 would become in the Netherlands one of the most successful fighters of all times. The Mid-Life Update program was a drastic intervention to modernize the rapidly aging F-16s.

The Mikoyan Gurevic MiG-21 (NATO code "Fishbed") was the first aircraft from the Soviet Union, which was suitable for both the role of fighter and the role of interceptor. The aircraft was the first aircraft able to reach speeds above Mach 2. The MiG-21 is in its primary role of interceptor aircraft similar to the American Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, the American Northrop F-5 and the Dassault Mirage III. The first MiG-21 variants were operational in the interceptor role alongside the Su-7 and later the Su-9.

Like many other aircraft, the MiG-21 was built for combat at short distances. The aircraft was able to remain only 45 minutes in the air. In later versions of the MiG-21, this problem was solved by a much larger fuel capacity. The MiG-21 was an aircraft which was easy to build, fly and maintain. This made the MiG-21 a huge export success. The Mikoyan Gurevic MiG-29 (NATO code "Fulcrum") is a fourth-generation fighter, developed by the former Soviet Union. The MiG-29 was developed in the late 70s as an air superiority fighter for the short distance. The MiG-29 is seen as the Russian counterpart to the American F-16 Fighting Falcon. The MiG-29 was first shown publicly to the West in 1986 in Finland. The MiG-29 operates like the MiG-21 Fishbed and the MiG-23 Flogger in the air defense role in many Eastern European countries and Russia. The only difference was that the MiG-29 has two engines instead of one. The primary role of the MiG-29 is to defend the airspace against unwanted intruders.

The SEPECAT Jaguar is a fighter-bomber which was developed by an English-French alliance at the beginning of the 60s. The aircraft manufacturers joined forces for the development of the Jaguar in the Société Européenne de Production de l'Avion de Combat d'Ecole et d'Appui Tactique (SEPECAT). The aircraft was primarily designed to give ground forces support (close air support). The first prototype of the Jaguar flew on September 8, 1968. From 1973, the first Jaguars were delivered to the AdlA. A total of 160 single seat Jaguars and 40 dual seat Jaguars were purchased in France. The single-seat variant of the Jaguar was referred in France to as the Jaguar A and the two-seat variant was designated as the Jaguar E. The Jaguar was initially developed as a training aircraft which would later result in the development of the Alpha-Jet. The aircraft was too good and too advanced to be able to act as a trainer. The need to develop a trainer remained in France and the project continued. The Dassault/Dornier Alpha-Jet is a light attack aircraft and advanced trainer and is produced by Dassault Aviation from France and Dornier from Germany. The aircraft is globally in use at various air forces. The first French prototype made its first flight at Istres on October 26, 1973. The first German prototype made its first flight at Oberpfaffenhofen on January 9, 1974.

The Dassault Mirage 2000 is a French multirole combat aircraft built by Dassault Aviation. The development of the Mirage 2000 followed after a series of projects which were created between 1965 and 1975. The first prototype of the Mirage 2000 first flew on March 10, 1978. The first production aircraft first flew on November 20, 1982. The first operational version of the Mirage 2000 was an air defense fighter, namely the Mirage 2000C. The Mirage 2000B was the two-seat trainer version of this air defense fighter. The Mirage 2000N fighter-bomber was developed for attacking targets with the Air Sol Moyenne Portee nuclear missile. This version of the Mirage 2000 first flew on February 3, 1983. The Mirage 2000D was equal to the 2000N but was only suitable for attacking with conventional weapons for close air support. The prototype was a modified Mirage 2000N and first flew on February 19, 1991. The successor of the Jaguar is the Dassault Rafale which entered service in 2006 for the first time at the French Air Force. The Rafale is a modern aircraft like the Swedish Saab Gripen and the Eurofighter EF2000. The aircraft has been developed from a separated project of the Eurofighter and the Gripen. The Rafale appears to be a great all-round aircraft which can easily fulfill any role. The aircraft is able to carry a large weapons load. The Rafale is being built in three variants, namely; the Rafale B (two-seater) which is a trainer version, the Rafale C (Chasse) as fighter-bomber for the French Air Force and the Rafale M (Marine) which is a carrier based fighter-bomber for the French navy.

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