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A Disappointing TLP Edition; Florennes, May 13, 2002

Tactical Leadership Program 2002/3; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

During the third TLP of the year there would be some setbacks during the flight activities. During the second week of the course, there would be a Starfighter crash at Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands. Later there was again a Starfighter which had problems and several Dutch F-16s had oil problems in the pitot tubes.

In April and May the third TLP of the year took place. During this edition, there were a lot of NATO countries present at this large scale training. The third TLP of the year took place between Friday, April 19, 2002 when the members of this TLP arrived and Friday, May 17, 2002 when the participants went home again. The TLPs in the spring are often accompanied by improved weather conditions, which ensure that the slots for all TLP participants are usually sold to the NATO partners. During this TLP edition it would be different, because some of the flights would be canceled because of bad weather conditions. On Thursday, April 25, Friday, April 26 and Tuesday, May 14, there were days no TLP missions flown due to training sessions. During these days the so-called non flying days were held in which participants are at school. The TLP students will follow during these days theory lessons which are later practiced during the flying missions. This theory consists of several scenarios which are discussed. The academic TLP days are usually held on the first Monday and Tuesday of the course. No missions are flown during public holidays as well. On Wednesday during the third week, there is normally also one of these non-flying days scheduled. This day is usually planned between the long range air to air refueling missions. The last academic day takes place in the fourth week before the CSAR mission is flown. This mission is planned extensively during an extended theory lesson. The day after the learned lessons, the scenarios are practiced in real time.

Two F-16s of the Belgian Air Force of the 2 Wing at Florennes participated in this TLP edition. The two French Mirage 2000Cs arrived in the third week and participated as external assets in the training. Furthermore three French AS555AN Fennic helicopters flew along to transport the referees and observers of the TLP missions. The Germans were at the TLP present with as many as six Tornados’ from JBG-31 at Nörvenich and JBG-33 from Büchel. The Italian Air Force was represented with four Starfighters of

the 4° Stormo of the Italian airbase Grosseto. This TLP edition was the last edition in which the Starfighters would participate. The Italian navy flew along with three AV-8B Harrier II STOVL aircraft. These aircraft participated as external assets from the third TLP week. The Dutch air force participated with four F-16s and two Apache helicopters. Halfway through the TLP the F-16s were exchanged for four new aircraft as the F-16s had problems with oil in the pitot tubes. The planes were later reversed, because the Dutch detachment at Goose Bay in Canada needed these aircraft. There were at Volkel and Twenthe already aircraft available which had been inspected. The Portuguese joined the exercise with two F-16s and from the third week with two more aircraft. The Spanish Air Force participated in the TLP with two Mirage F1s from Ala 14. The British flew along at Florennes with two Tornado GR4 aircraft. Finally, the USAFE flew with two F-15Cs from Lakenheath and two F-16Cs from Aviano.

On Friday, April 19th, the first participants arrived in Florennes. Throughout the whole operational flying day several participants arrived. There was no mission planned on May 1, 2002. This day is the international day of labor. It's a tradition that people do not work on this day. On Monday, April 29, the TLP mission was canceled due to bad weather in the target area where the mission would be executed. On May 2, the mission started in the early afternoon. The four Italian F-104 Starfighters and two French Mirage F-1s took off like it was planned. Only when these aircraft were already in the air, the TLP mission was eventually canceled. All other aircraft which were ready at the head of the runway immediately turned around and returned to the TLP platform. Only two 4° Stormo F-104s returned to Florennes after the mission was cancelled. Later that day it was announced that the F-104S MM6778/9-40 was crashed at Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands. According to eyewitnesses, the F-104 was flying too high during its approach in Leeuwarden; the aircraft came down too hard on the ground during landing. When the plane hit the ground, it broke in two parts. After about 1.5 hours, the rescue services were able to rescue the pilot from his plane. The pilot had sustained some serious injuries in the accident. The other Starfighter was diverted to Wittmund in northern Germany. The Starfighters were taken off earlier, because they could not be refueled in the air. During the air to air refueling mission, they join up with the rest after a fuel stop at the forward air base Leeuwarden.

On Friday, May 3 there was despite the accident with the Starfighter at Leeuwarden just normal activity in Florennes. The first external Assets arrived on this day. These arrivals consisted of two French Mirage 2000Cs and three AV-8B Harriers from the Italian Navy. On Monday, May 6, there was another TLP mission on the program. Sadly enough also this TLP mission would be cancelled. Because of the bad weather in the target area, the entire TLP mission was canceled when the majority of the aircraft was already in the air. The Falcon 20 which would provide support for the electronic warfare mission was already at the head of the runway, but taxied back to the TLP platform. The three Italian Harriers were already warming up at the TLP platform. These aircraft were ready to leave. Ultimately, the aircraft turned the engines off and the mission was over. Soon, the first F-15s which were away, heard that the mission was canceled. Shortly after the landing of the F-15s one of the Starfighters which was in the air reported the aircraft had an engine emergency. The aircraft had a hydraulic failure and the pilot had first dumped fuel before returning to Florennes. The mission would go to Germany and was repeated a day later. The rest of the TLP mission in the week which followed would go on as the weather improved significantly. On Friday, May 17, the participants of the TLP would fly back home. On this day usual many transport aircraft arrive at the airbase to pick up materials and the personell.

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