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Luchtmacht Open Dagen 2008; Leeuwarden, June 19 – 21, 2008

95 Years Royal Netherlands Air Force; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The annual Open House of the Royal Netherlands Air Force was also this year on my program. There was a spotter’s day which is nowadays held annually. The air base is open to the general public on June 20 and 21. The theme of the Open House this year is the 95th anniversary of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

The Open House of the Royal Netherlands Air Force is also known as De Luchtmachtdagen. This event is held annually in June and is organized by the Royal Netherlands Air Force at an air base somewhere in the Netherlands. Nowadays De Luchtmachtdagen are organized alternately by Gilze-Rijen air base, Volkel air base and Leeuwarden air base. It gives people the chance to become familiar with the Royal Netherlands Air Force. There are several air shows and demonstrations with many different types of planes and helicopters. The F-16’s from Leeuwarden air base and from Volkel air base give a contribution to the NATO air defense every day. This contribution is called the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA). Besides this task, they support the Dutch land and naval forces. There is also a Search and Rescue Unit (SAR) based at Leeuwarden air base. There are two F-16 units based at Leeuwarden air base, namely; the no 322 Squadron and the no 323 TACTES Squadron. The no 303 SAR Squadron is next to the F-16’s units also based at Leeuwarden air base. This unit flies the Augusta Bell AB-412 helicopter for search and rescue duties.

The no 322 Squadron was founded in 1943 in England. The Dutch no 322 Squadron was part of the RAF. The unit consisted of Dutch pilots who had fled to England during World War II. The no 322 Squadron took part in the Battle of Arnhem and the air battles for the corridor in Brabant. The squadron was several times deactivated and reactivated after World War II before it moved permanently to Leeuwarden air base in 1964. The squadron has been used in Indonesia and New Guinea and was stationed at Soesterberg and Twenthe before it was moved to Leeuwarden. The unit is used in the swing role task. This means that the unit can be used for both air and ground attack tasks. The main task of the no 323 Squadron is to give all the F-16 pilots of the Air Force a Tactical Training, Evaluation and Standardization Task (TACTES). The no 323 Squadron is therefore a knowledge center for F-16 pilots from the Netherlands

and other NATO countries. The Fighter Weapon Instructor Training (FWIT) is an international training for weapon instructors. The FWIT is a 6 month international training. Participants are; the Netherlands, the Norwegian, the Danish, the Belgian and the Portuguese Air Force. These are the so called European Participating Air Forces (EPAF). The no 303 Squadron is the Search and Rescue Unit (SAR) of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The main task of no 303 Squadron is to save pilots at sea when they need to leave their aircraft, but the SAR has more functions. The unit transports patients from the Frisian Islands excluding Texel to hospitals on the mainland. There is always a helicopter standby at Vlieland during military firing exercises at the Vliehors range or air operations above the North Sea.

The day at Leeuwarden air base was the annual spotter’s day which is held the day before the air show. The air base was covered with dark clouds and there were many showers from time to time. Despite the weather I was able to gather a few photos which looked great under these conditions. We were placed on the press tribune which was located halfway down the runway with a group of over 200 people. The first planes came in for landing after 30 minutes of waiting. Traditionally the larger aircraft will land first each year. The first plane which came in was a KC-10 of the United States Air Force. Several fighters landed during the morning hours such as; two German Typhoons from Laage, one French Mirage 2000D from Nancy and two Belgian F-16’s from Kleine-Brogel. I was especially very happy with the Mirage2000D because I don’t have many aircraft of this type in my photo collection. Also nice visitors to the Open House were the Danish Saab T-17 Supporter and the Slovenian Pilatus PC-9. The highlight of the Open House arrived in the afternoon. The weather conditions had improved in the meanwhile. The highlight for me was the arrival of the Canadian CP-140 Aurora. This aircraft is a Canadian derivative of the American P-3 Orion. This aircraft made several overshoots before it landed. The pictures which I took of this aircraft were very good. I saw this aircraft for the first time. The second highlight of the Open House arrived shortly after the landing of the Canadian Aurora. A Greek F-4 Phantom appeared in the circuit.

I visited Leeuwarden only during the Saturday event of the Open House. Also today the weather was not great. It was cloudy again, but fortunately it stayed dry all day long. The flying display started with some light aircraft and some warbirds. The first demo which was interesting for me was the SAR demo given by the Dutch AB-412SP. The next demo after the SAR demo was also a very important one for me. This was the demo of the EH-101 Merlin of the British Royal Navy. This large helicopter performed an excellent demonstration; the pilot showed us what this large helicopter can do. The Merlin demo was followed by the SAR demo of the Belgian Sea King. The first fighter of the day took off when the Sea King had finished his demo. This was the Mirage 2000C of the French Air Force. This aircraft performed an excellent demo as well and the aircraft showed us a few spectacular maneuvers. The traditional airpower demo took place at the start of the afternoon. The highlight of all demos would fly right after this event. This was the demo of the new NH-90 of the Royal Dutch Navy. The light gray helicopter came down into a hover in front of my camera; I could make a great series of photographs. The Dutch Ministry of Defense ordered twenty of these helicopters. Twelve of them are Naval Frigate Helicopters (NFH) and eight of them are Troop Transport Helicopters (TTH). More spectacular demos took place in the afternoon, such as; the Irish PC-9, the Slovenian PC-9, the Spanish F-18 Hornett and the Belgian F-16. The Open House 2008 was over for me after all these demos. The weather during this Open House was not the best weather that you could wish for, but given the circumstances I made the best of it. Next year the Open House will be held at Volkel air base in the county of Brabant.

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