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De Luchtmacht Open Dagen, Part III; Leeuwarden, June 17, 2006

323 Squadron – Impetu Feroci; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The second F-16 unit at Leeuwarden Air Base is the no 323 TACTESS Squadron. This unit was established in 1949 and is operating from Leeuwarden since the F-16 era. The emblem of the unit shows Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt. The no 323 Squadron is the leading unit in the education of weapon instructors.

The history of the no 323 Squadron begins at Twenthe Air Base. The unit was founded in 1948 when the first Gloster Meteor arrived at this base. The no 323 Squadron was known as the Fighter Flying School. Air Force pilots were retrained at this unit to become the first jet fighter pilots in the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The Fighter Flying School was renamed to no 323 Squadron on November 15, 1948. The unit was quickly moved to Leeuwarden Air Base in the same year. Leeuwarden Air Base was therefore the first operational jet fighter air base in the Netherlands. The unit was not as active as it should be because of problems with setting up the flying school. The personnel of the unit was looking for a new identity for the squadron after they had moved to Leeuwarden. This identity became symbol for the presence of the unit at the air base. The idea for a squadron emblem grew with this thought. Eventually the spirit of Diana was born within the unit. Diana was the Roman goddess of the hunt. The motto which with the goddess of hunting was heard was “Impetu Feroci”; this means “Competing in Attack”. The no 323 Squadron was transferred to Twenthe Air Base in May 1950. The unit would not remain long at Twenthe Air Base, because in April 1952, the unit returned back to Leeuwarden Air Base. The no 323 Squadron was stationed on the south side of the base where it is still located nowadays.

The daily operations of the no 323 Squadron were at the beginning of the 50s composed of pilot training and several shooting courses. Later, the unit also provided refresher training to the pilots of the other squadrons. The unit would train experienced pilots from other units as weapon instructors. The movements in these days indicated how active the unit was. More than 100 missions were flown from Leeuwarden on peak days. The training consisted at that time of exercises with the machine gun and air to air and air to ground training. The unit flew missions with the Gloster Meteor. The no 323 Squadron was the first unit which switched to the Hawker Hunter from October

1957. From 1958 it was completely switched to the Hunter F4 and the Hunter F6. On March 25, 1963, the unit was temporarily disbanded. The no 323 Squadron was equipped with the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter on March 17, 1964. The unit performed until 1975 several missions at high altitude up to 70,000 feet to intercept the Russian strategic bombers. These flights were also named the Bear hunt. The mission of the pilots was to intercept the Russian bombers of the type Tu-95 Bear. The unit was temporarily disbanded on August 1, 1980 due to the introduction of the F-16. The complete retraining of the staff was established on April 1, 1982. The squadron received 2 tasks at this moment, namely; air defense and tactical air support. The no 323 Squadron was renamed to no 323 "Tactical Training, Standardization and Evaluation Squadron” (TACTESS) on July 3, 1992. The unit is the school to train pilots as weapon instructors, but it also provides the Integrated Combat Training (ICT). Simultaneously, the unit performed the standardization and evaluation of the F-16.

The weather was many times better on the next day when I returned to Leeuwarden Air Base for the second airshow day. Today the sun was shining very brightly. The weather was really fantastic. It promised much for the last day of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Open House. Today the airshow was opened by the Dutch Catalina, followed by the DC-3 Display Team. The P-51 Mustang performed its demo right after the opening. This warbird flew a very nice demo. The Hawker Hunter team was also planned in a very early slot during the airshow. Also today, the morning was not the most spectacular part of the airshow. There were also demonstrations flown by the Dutch Chinook and the display team Asas de Portugal during the morning hours. The two Belgian F-16s returned home after the display of this display team. The Belgians made a formation take-off and the pilots turned on the smoke pods. This had a surprising effect on the photo. The crew of the AB-412SP of the no 303 Squadron performed a rescue demonstration after the departure of the Belgians. The helicopter went into a hover in front of the public. The victim lighted a flare to indicate his location on the field. The crew of the helicopter winched the rescue swimmer down to save the victim. This resulted in fantastic shots of the AB-412SP.

One of the highlights of the Open Dagen is always the traditional Air Power demonstration. A number of 18 F-16s took part in this big demonstration. Also today the demonstration started very spectacularly with a fantastic F-16 action. This time there were almost no helicopters available for the demo at Leeuwarden. These helicopters from Gilze-Rijen were all deployed in Afghanistan. The F-16 Solo Display Team and the PC-7 Solo Display Team from Woensdrecht Air Base performed their demos after the general Air Power demonstration. Also the Spanish EF-18 flew its demo again. The demo of the Spanish Hornet was over after 10 minutes and the Patrouille de Suisse took off for the Swiss demo. The F-5s were able to climb in formation to higher altitudes due to the good weather. Also the F-15E Strike Eagle flew today. This demo was much better than the day before because the weather was good. The next display team was the Patrouille de France. The demo of this team lasted 30 minutes. The airshow at Leeuwarden ended with a true spectacle. The Blue Angels Display Team of the United States Navy was for the first time in 20 years in The Netherlands. The Hercules Fat Albert made a take-off today with its famous Jato-pod underneath the aircraft. It was the first time I experienced this. The display of the Blue Angels is always associated with the American discipline. The ground crew salutes the pilots and the F/A-18 Hornets leave for a spectacular demonstration. The demo of the Blue Angels was the last I've seen at Leeuwarden. I left home with 11 film containers as result. It was a good edition of the Open Dagen.

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