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De Luchtmacht Open Dagen, Part II; Leeuwarden, June 16, 2006

322 Squadron – Niet praten Maar Doen; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The no 322 Squadron is the oldest F-16 unit of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The history of the unit goes back to the Second World War. The no 322 Squadron was formed as the Dutch Spitfire Squadron. The mascot of the unit is the African Grey Parrot which is visible in the squadron emblem and on the F-16s.

The no 322 Squadron is the oldest existing unit of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The unit was established on June 12, 1943. The squadron was formerly known as the no 167 Squadron. The unit moved to RAF Woodvale near Liverpool where it was renamed to the no 322 Dutch Spitfire Squadron. The squadron moved to RAF Hawkinge near Dover in December 27, 1943. The no 322 Squadron performed several attacks on targets in France from this airfield. The unit was also used to guide bombers and to intercept V-1 missiles. The unit was equipped with the newer Spitfire XIV during the move to RAF Acklington in 1944. The unit did not stay long at this location, because it soon moved to RAF Hartford Bridge and later to West Malling. The unit flew several missions during the Battle of Arnhem. The unit received a new squadron mascot during this period. It was the African Grey Parrot. This parrot was also represented in the new squadron emblem. The parrot was known as Polly Grey; this was also the new name of the unit. The squadron motto was “Niet Praten Maar Doen” (Don’t Talk, But Act). The arrival of the parrot in the unit was a mental boost for its personnel during the Second World War. The unit received the new Spitfire LF IXb at Deanland Air Base in August 1944. This variant of the Spitfire was very suitable for supporting the ground forces. The unit was moved several times from airport to airport until the end of the war. Ultimately, the squadron moved back to England where it was disbanded on October 6, 1945.

The unit continued from September 27, 1946. The no 322 Squadron was re-established as a part of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The unit was re-established at Twenthe Air Base and was equipped with the Spitfire IX. Barely two years later, the unit was moved to the Dutch East Indies. The unit moved back to Twenthe Air Base on October 4, 1949. Here, the unit was temporarily disbanded until February 1, 1951. The unit was again re-established. The unit moved to Soesterberg Air Base where it was

equipped with the Meteor Mk.8 on 31 August, 1951. The Meteor was the first jet fighter which entered service in the Dutch Air Force. In January 1958 it was changed to the Hunter F4. The squadron was sent to Biak during the crisis in Dutch New Guinea. The unit operated there from August 6, 1960 with 12 Hunters and 2 Allouette II helicopters. The squadron remained at this location until October 1, 1962. It moved back to the Netherlands on October 5, 1662. The unit was based at Leeuwarden Air Base from April 1, 1964. The unit was prepared to fly the F-104G Starfighter. This aircraft had entered service within the Air Force to perform the air defense task. The no 322 Squadron was the first unit which was equipped with the F-16 Fighting Falcon on May 1, 1981. The unit received a number of new tasks, such as close air support. The no 322 Squadron had been flying for many years with the F-16A/B until the first Midlife Update (MLU) F-16 was received in 1998. The MLU F-16 is a modernized version of the F-16A/B and can be used during nighttime as well. The no 322 Squadron was the first Dutch unit which shot down an enemy MiG-29 with the F-16. The unit shot down a MiG-29 which tried to disrupt the Allied bombing. The J-063 has now a MiG-29 silhouette under the cockpit because of this incident.

Today was the first day of the airshow at Leeuwarden. I arrived early at the airbase, because I wanted a nice place along the runway. The weather was, like yesterday, not the best weather. Yesterday it rained from time to time and today it was mostly cloudy. I decided to position myself halfway down the runway during the airshow. In the morning hours it was mainly the older aircraft, which served at the Air Force in the past, which flew a demo at the airshow. We had to wait until the afternoon before the heavy work started to fly. The first nice participants which flew a demo were a British and a Swiss Hunter. These planes flew some nice formations together. It was impossible to do more maneuvering with these relatively old jets. The following artists, who performed their demo, were the Portuguese pilots of the display team Ases de Portugal with their Alpha Jets. Also a demo was flown by the Finns by the Mid Night Hawk Display Team. There were many demo teams active during this edition of the Open House; there were even more teams scheduled in the afternoon. Very nice was the departure of the Swiss Learjet 35A and the Swiss Cessna 560XL. I never saw these aircraft before and they were therefore a nice addition. The Swiss were followed by the demonstration of the Spanish EF-18 Hornett.

The second part of the airshow started with the always spectacular Air Power Demonstration. This time the focus was on the F-16s which are deployed by the Air Force. Several Dutch Air Force demos were flown right after the Air Power Demo. This time, the F-16 Solo Display Team and the PC-7 display of the no 131 Squadron performed a display. One of the highlights of the Open House was the demo of the F-15E Strike Eagle. The F-15E gave one of the most spectacular demonstrations of the entire Open House. There are not many demonstrations seen of this aircraft in Europe. Very special this year was the presence of the Blue Angels. This team is the display team of the United States Navy and flies the F/A-18 Hornett. The team has also a Hercules which will fly a demo as well. Unfortunately the Hercules did not make the famous Jato start today. This was due to the low clouds above the base. The Hercules received the nickname Fat Albert in the U.S. Navy. The team is flying a total of six F/A-18s. One of the Aircraft is a dual F/A-18. My first day of the airshow at Leeuwarden was over after a spectacular demonstration with a lot of American Air Power. The weather today was not the best weather. It was gray all day. I hope the weather will improve before tomorrow for the second airshow day. Today's results were not bad at all. I went home with 4 full film containers.




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