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The 123rd FS, Oregon ANG; Leeuwarden April 13-24, 2015

International Exercise Frisian Flag, part 2; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

During the exercise Frisian Flag, many air-to-air and air-to-ground scenarios are practiced by units of the Dutch Air Force and its partners in two weeks’ time. One of the most prominent participants in this year's edition of the exercise are the Americans who fly along with twelve Air National Guard F-15 Eagles.

The annual exercise Frisian Flag was launched on April 13 and lasts until April 24th. The purpose of Frisian Flag is to train pilots on international cooperation. Through this kind of international air force exercises pilots and soldiers are allowed to work together during difficult crisis situations. Pilots were already active in areas such as Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq and faced with a large coalition. Exercises like Frisian Flag are essential to carry out the international procedures as well as possible show of force. The fighter planes fly daily missions from Leeuwarden Air Base to practice a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-ground scenarios. The practice areas extend over the airspace of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. There are some areas in the Dutch airspace which are allocated for the exercise. These areas are the TRA01 until 10. These areas are located above the North Sea and there is a maximum altitude of FL550 (16,8km). During the exercise, no other aircraft are allowed in the area by the Dutch traffic control. The participants will train at the Cornfield Range (Vlieland) and Marnewaard (northwest of Groningen). The practice area around the Marnewaard is used for various army actions involving close air support. Participating aircraft provide support to units of the army and navy. During the exercise collaboration with so-called Forward Air Controllers from the Dutch Army takes place. Soldiers will give instructions by radio to the pilots about the precise location of the targets. This cooperation requires close communication and utmost concentration of the pilots.

Sixty fighters from Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United States will participate in this exercise. The exercise will be coordinated by an E-3 Sentry of the NATO from the German airbase Geilenkirchen. Eindhoven Air Base will support the exercise with four tankers from the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and France. The Germans joined the exercise with ten EF2000 Eurofighters from TLG-31 at Nörvenich. The Spanish fly along with six EF-18 Hornets from Ala 12 from Torrejón

near Madrid. The Polish Air Force will participate with six F-16s from Poznan. The Finnish Air Force is flying during this edition of Frisian Flag with six F-18s of all Finnish units. The Dutch itself are flying along with eight F-16s from the airfields Volkel and Leeuwarden. The no 322 Squadron at Leeuwarden Air Base organizes the exercise. The most notable participants this year are the American F-15s of the Florida Air National Guard and the Oregon Air National Guard. The American F-15s of the ANG are nowadays a rare appearance in Europe. The American units are temporarily stationed in Europe as a result of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The two hundred crew members and twelve F-15Cs are of the 125th Fighter Wing from Jacksonville, Florida and the 142nd Fighter Wing from Portland, Oregon. The aircraft crossed the Atlantic Ocean to participate in this annual major international exercise.

The 123rd Fighter Squadron (123d FS) is a unit of the Oregon Air National Guard and is part of the 142nd Fighter Wing which is stationed at Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon. The 123rd FS is equipped with the McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle. The squadron is a derivative of the organization of the 123rd Observation Squadron, which was established on July 30, 1940. The squadron is one of the original 29 National Guard Observation Squadrons of the United States Army National Guard which were formed during the Second World War. The squadron was designated during the Second World War as the 35th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron. Shortly after the war, the unit was renumbered to its current designation. The squadron was equipped with the P-51D Mustang shortly after the war. In 1951, the unit saw action during the Korean War. The unit was there renumbered as the 123rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron. After the Korean War, the unit was assigned to the 325th Fighter Interceptor Wing at McChord AFB, Washington. Despite this transfer, the squadron was officially still based on Portland Municipal Airport. From 1952, the unit would receive the F-86F Sabre. Later in the year the unit was moved back to Portland where the squadron became again part of the Oregon ANG. The squadron received here the task to secure airspace in peacetime of the State of Oregon. From 1955 the unit was converted to the F-94A Starfire all-weather interceptor. The unit was now able to make both day flights and also structurally flights at night. In 1966, the unit would eventually switch to the supersonic F-102A Delta Dagger.

In 1972, the unit was one of the few American units which had the F-101B Voodoo at its disposal. However, the 123rd FS would only fly seven years with the Voodoo, because soon the McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II was introduced to the squadron. The Phantom was the first all-round fighter which the unit got in its possession. The F-4C Phantom was used in the interceptor role and was eventually phased out at the squadron in 1985. The Oregon ANG purchased from that moment the F-15A/B Eagle. The F-15A/B Eagle would be replaced by the F-15C/D Eagle in 1995. This variant of the F-15 is nowadays still in use at the 123rd FS. The F-15s from the Oregon ANG are currently still stationed at Portland Municipal Airport. In addition to the Eagles at Portland, the Oregon ANG has also the 114th FS which is part of the 173rd FW which is based at Klamath Falls. This unit also flies the F-15C/D. The F-15s of the 123rd FS can be identified by the image of the Hawk with the Oregon flag in its claws on the vertical tail of the aircraft. The aircraft all have a red band on the tail with a thin black border. On the outside of the vertical tail is the text Redhawks visible and on the inner side of the tails is the text Portland visible. The name Redhawks is the nickname of the 123rd FS. The main task of the squadron is defending US airspace on the west coast of the country. The F-15 Eagle is an aircraft which is very well suited to perform these tasks.

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