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Training of Combat Scenarios; Leeuwarden, March 28, 2017

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

Frisian Flag is an exercise with a large international field of participants. To coordinate an exercise of this scale a structured approach has been established. In a two-week period of time more than 60 aircraft will be active on a daily base in a relatively small practice area which is generally located above the North Sea.

The host of the exercise Frisian Flag 2017 is the Dutch no 322 Squadron which is stationed at Leeuwarden Air Base. Captain Remco is this year the supervisor for the exercise Frisian Flag. Captain Remco is an F-16 pilot within the no 322 Squadron at Leeuwarden Air Base. As supervisor of the exercise Captain Remco is responsible for facilitating information to the participants of Frisian Flag. Shortly before the exercise Remco has participated as a pilot in the American Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada in the United States. Red Flag is the American counterpart of Frisian Flag and also here operational scenarios are experienced under high stress levels in an international cooperation. The entire area where the exercise will take place has a size of more than 210 km by 320 km wide and extends from the north of the Netherlands to the coast of North Germany and the west of Denmark. The difference with the American Red Flag exercise lies in the fact that during Frisian Flag actions are planned ahead with only 24 hours instead of 48 hours which is usual in America. This means that the planning window is very short and very intense for the participants. The planning of the mission will therefore be done on the same day as execution of the planning during flight.

Frisian Flag has also this year a wide participation from various NATO countries. The Royal Netherlands Air Force will be, like the previous years, participating with a total of twelve F-16s from Leeuwarden Air Base and Volkel Air Base. The German Luftwaffe is flying along during Frisian Flag with as many as ten EF2000 Eurofighters which are based at the German airbase Nörvenich where they fly at TLG-31. This year the Germans are for the first time active in the offensive role. The Germans had chosen for Frisian Flag to train these skills for the first time on a large scale. Also this year, the United States Air National Guard (ANG) will participate again in the exercise with no less than twelve F-15Cs. The ANG detachment is this year under the leadership of the

Louisiana ANG which is flying with the famous "Jazz" Eagles of the 122nd Fighter Squadron which is based at the airport of New Orleans. The Florida Air National Guard is flying along under the command of the Louisiana ANG. The F-15 Eagles from this unit are assigned to the 159th Fighter Squadron at the airbase in Jacksonville Florida. The Belgian multirole participation consists of seven F-16s of the no 349 Squadron at the Belgian airbase Kleine-Brogel. The Portuguese Air Force will participate for the first time in Frisian Flag. They will participate in the multirole and came to Leeuwarden with five F-16s from the Portuguese Monte Real Air Base, where the aircraft are assigned to the Esq201 and Esq301. The French fly along with five Mirage 2000Ds from EC03.003 "Ardennes" which is based at Nancy Air Base in the northern part of France. The British RAF is flying with six Tornado GR4s from the British RAF Marham. The British Tornado’s which are participating this year are of the no 31 Squadron.

Besides the fighters there were also several support aircraft involved in the exercise. An E-3 Sentry from the German airbase Geilenkirchen will coordinate the exercise in the air. The civilian company Cobham from England participated with a Falcon 20 which will be used in the ECM role during the scenarios. At Eindhoven Air Base several tankers will participate during the EART exercise which is held in parallel to Frisian Flag. The tanker participation consists of an Italian KC-767, a French C-135FR, a German A310MRTT and a Dutch KDC-10. In total, there are more than 60 combat aircraft involved in Frisian Flag which all fly a mission twice a day. On the ground several units will provide support to Frisian Flag as well. The German Army will participate with a few simulated SA-6 and SA-8 systems. The Royal Netherlands Army will participate with Patriot batteries and the Royal Netherlands Air Force will support the exercise with Smokey SAMs. These three missile systems will ensure that the participants of Frisian Flag will really get a radar lock from the ground. They have to react immediately at that moment to secure them from a missile attack. With the Smokey SAM participants can experience how a real missile launch looks like from the air. The Smokey SAM has a smoke trail during its launch and simulates a real missile attack. The German battle command "Sunrise" and the Dutch counterpart "Bandbox" will coordinate the strike missions against these kinds of missile systems and other ground targets at various shooting ranges.

During the exercise, missions of various kinds will be conducted. Typically, the types of missions are divided into defensive missions and offensive missions. Remco says, with defensive mission’s think of defending ground targets, escorting slow movers and the use of air defense systems such as Patriot missiles. During offensive missions one must think especially about controlled air strikes, creating air superiority, eliminating enemy air defense and the use of forward air controllers. During defense missions pilots must defend Leeuwarden Air Base against an aggressor. During the offensive scenarios pilots have to attack and disable targets in Germany on the range. Participants will take off and refuel first with the help of the tankers in the designated tracks in the western zones. Then the groups of aircraft will gather in the holding area's after which they will perform their scenario in the eastern part of the training area. During the attack the participants will suffer from missile launches from the ground and enemy planes which are attacking to defend the area. The air defense fighters will have to defend the bombers against enemy aircraft during their strike. Remco says he already experienced many of these scenarios during his deployments in Iraq and Syria. He says it’s crucial for survival to train this situation as a preparation for a real scenario. Frisian Flag is therefore an essential training in preparation for deployments.

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