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The Year 2016

The year 2016 was a year in which many trips were made locally. The year started at the Belgian airbase Koksijde where the 58,000 flight hour’s milestone of the Sea-King was celebrated. Frisian Flag was again traditionally very good with another American participation in the form of ANG F-15s. The largest Tiger Meet ever was visited in Spain was at Zaragoza Air Base. The absolute highlight of 2016 still was the introduction of the F-35 Lightning II in Europe its visit to the Dutch Air Force Days and the RIAT. The trip to Poland was ultimately a big failure due to bad weather conditions and the exercise Black Blade at Florennes was a successful end of the year 2016.


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58000 Flight Hours and 3185 Scrambles

58000 Flight Hours Sea-King, part 1; Koksijde, March 2, 2016

Over 40 years ago on November 8, 1976 five Sea-King helicopters arrived for the Belgian Air Force at Koksijde Air Base. The helicopters were during the transfer from the British authorities to the Belgians flown from the English RNAS Culdrose to Koksijde. The formation of five Sea-Kings is also known as the poker formation. It's a unique situation which is characteristic for the rescue unit of the Belgian Air Component. The unit started with five Sea-King helicopters in 1976 and not a single Sea-King helicopter was lost in all these years.

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The Most Remarkable Scrambles

58000 Flight Hours Sea-King, part 2; Koksijde, March 2, 2016

The Belgian Sea-King helicopters are currently still about a third of the time (19 weeks per year) standby for SAR duties. The rest of the time the new NH90 Caiman is on standby. Eventually, the Caiman will completely take over the task of the Sea-King in 2018. The NH90 has been qualified to take over all the SAR tasks. The Sea-King is currently only kept air worthy to give the NH90 crews the time to get all the issues around training in order. The withdrawal of the Sea-King crew began in 2015 when the first pilots were converted to the NH90.

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Italian Tornado’s at Nörvenich

Cooperation with TLG-31; Nörvenich, 10 maart 2016

Italian Tornado ECR warplanes would practice at the German airbase Nörvenich in the week of March 7 until March 18, 2016. The Tornado ECR is a variant of the Tornado IDS and is specifically designed for the so-called SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions and is used by Germans and the Italians. The aircraft were all assig- ned to the 50° Stormo which is based on the Italian airbase Ghedi in the north of the country. It is not the first time that the Italians practice at Nörvenich. In the past, the unit operated often from Nörvenich.

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An Integration Exercise of the Dutch DHC

DHC Exercise Joint Falcon; Oirschotse Heide, 1 april 2016

During the exercise Joint Falcon four days of intensive training by the army units of 11 Airmobile Brigade and the helicopters of the Defense Helicopter Command was executed. The exercise would take place on the terrain of the former airbase of the Peel and military training area at the Oirschotse Heide near Eindhoven. The integration exercise Joint Falcon took place in the week of March 29 until April 1, 2016. On March 31 and April 1, the exercise will move to the Oirschotse Heide which is also known as the GLV-V (Gebied Laagvliegen V) (LFA 5).

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The Art of Night Photography

Belgian Air Force Sunset Shoot 2016; Beauvechain, April 5, 2016

In the evening of April 5, 2016, the Belgian Air Force organized in cooperation with the 1 Wing at Beauvechain their first Sunset Shoot. During this shoot, a group of over 400 photographers was invited and had the opportunity to shoot the aircraft and helicopters of the Belgian Air Force during sunset and at night. Night photography is one of the most exciting forms of photography. The Sunset Shoot at Beauvechain Air Base was an occasion where all the lessons which are learned could be used in a practical situation by the present photographers.

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Project Disposal F-16

F-16s are Prepared to be Sold; Volkel, April 13, 2016

Since the sale of the first series of F-16s in the Netherlands the Project Disposal F-16 (Project Afstoting F-16) was created. This project group needs to prepare the F-16s of the Royal Netherlands Air Force for delivery to the new owner. Currently there are at Volkel Air Base 15 F-15s which are prepared ready for sale. On April 13, 2016, the sold F-16s were parked on the flightline in the safari park for a photo shoot. The safari park is the old flightline of the former no 306 photo reconnaissance squadron which was stationed at Volkel in the past.

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Low Flying Area 5

Helicopters at the GLV5; Oirschotse Heide, 2016

The Oirschotse Heide was visited for first time in 2016 at the end of February. There was not much to do during this particular day. Only one Chinook came along for a few hover exercises above the heath. In mid-April the Oirschotse Heide was visited again. In this period, there was a MEDEVAC exercise ongoing of the Dutch Army. The wounded soldiers, who figured during this exercise, were evacuated with a Chinook during the landing on the sands. After the exercise there was a C-130 Hercules from Eindhoven Air Base in the circuit of the airport.

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European Air Refuelling Training 2016

Training with the European Tankers; Eindhoven, April 11 – 22, 2016

During the annual European Air Refuelling Training (EART) fighter pilots from different European countries are (re-)qualified to refuel in the air. The EART will take place in parallel with the exercise Frisian Flag at Leeuwarden Air Base. Each day, a number of tankers will take-off from Eindhoven Air Base to refuel the fighters over the North Sea. From Eindhoven there would participate a Dutch KDC-10, an Italian KC-30 and a French C-135FR. The German Airbus A310MRTT would operate from its own airfield in Koln-Bonn for this training mission.

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International Exercise Frisian Flag

Practicing on a Large Scale; Leeuwarden, April 11 – 22, 2016

The annual exercise Frisian Flag at Leeuwarden Air Base is the largest exercise which is organized by the Royal Netherlands Air Force. In total, nearly 70 fighters from many countries participated in this exercise. There daily realistic scenarios are flown in an interna- tional context above the North Sea. During the exercise it is important that pilots from different countries train together. This is necessary because in a real mission, they always work together with one or more coalition partners like the current mission over Iraq and eastern Syria.

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The Massachusetts Air National Guard

131st Fighter Squadron; Leeuwarden, April 11 – 22, 2016

The 104th Fighter Wing is a unit of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. The unit is based at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Massachusetts. When the F-15 Eagle Wing is activated by the federal service of the American Government, it becomes a part of the United States Air Combat Command. Today, the 131FS is equipped with the McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle. The 104FW is constantly ready for the United States Air Force and has one squadron under its command. This unit is the 131st Fighter Squadron (131FS).

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The California Air National Guard

194th Fighter Squadron “Griffins”; Leeuwarden, April 11 - 22, 2016

The 144th Fighter Wing is a unit of the California Air National Guard. The wing contains only one squadron, namely the 194th Fighter Squadron. This unit has been stationed at the American airbase Fresno in northern California. The squadron is since the end of 2013 equipped with the McDonnel Douglas F-15C Eagle. The main mission of the 144th Fighter Wing (144 FW) is to protect the airspace of the American state of California. The F-15s of the California ANG are 24 hours a day on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) to respond when needed.

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298 Squadron, Sling the Load

Training with a Sling Load; Oirschotse Heide, April 22, 2016

Flying with a Sling Load under the helicopter during an action requires good cooperation between the helicopter pilot, the loadmaster and ground personnel. Training the lifting and dropping off a sling load is a standard training which is trained by both the helicopter crews and ground staff during a scenario exercise. A sling load is a load which is carried externally under the fuselage of the helicopter. The CH-47D/F Chinook helicopters of the no 298 Squadron at Gilze-Rijen are real specialists in transporting sling loads under the transport helicopters.

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The Belgian Pilot School

The Belgian no 1 Wing; Beauvechain, May 10, 2016

On May 10, the Belgian 1 Wing at Beauvechain Air Base was visited. This major Belgian airbase is located near the city of Leuven. The Belgian pilot training wing is stationed at this airbase. The unit flies from Beauvechain with the SF260 Marchetti. These small training planes are parked at a large platform on the southern part of the airbase. In addition to the training unit are also the majority of the helicopters of the Belgian Air Force stationed at Beauvechain. These helicopters are stationed on the northern side of the airbase.

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The Police Air Support Detachment

The Federal Police Service; Brussel-Melsbroek, May 12, 2016

The Air Support Department of the Belgian federal police offers federal and local police specialist support from the air. The police on the ground can work more efficiently with this support. The planes and helicopters from these specialized police units are stationed at the airport of Brussels at the military compound. Everyone in Belgium recognizes the white helicopters of the Federal Police. The helicopters are part of the Air Support Detachment of the Federal Police. The national coordinator ensures that the units will be used efficiently.

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The NATO Tiger Meet 2016

NATO Tigers, Hard To Be Humble; Zaragoza, May 20, 2016

In the period from Monday, May 16 until Friday, May 27, 2016, the NATO Tiger Meet took place on Zaragoza. Zaragoza is home to Ala 15, which is a full member of the NATO Tiger Association. Ala 15 is one of the three Spanish McDonnel Douglas EF-18 Hornet units and consists in total of three squadrons. Zaragoza was originally an American airbase in northeastern Spain and has several gigantic platforms. Therefore many fighter planes could participate in the Tiger Meet. Nearly 100 aircraft flew along during the COMAO exercise.

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The Tasks and Mission of Ala 15

The Largest F-18 Wing in Spain; Zaragoza, May 20, 2016

The Spanish Hornet wing Ala 15 is the largest F-18 wing in Spain. The Spanish Zaragoza Air Base is home to the F/A-18 Hornet unit Ala 15. This wing is one of the three F-18 Hornet units in Spain. Besides Ala 15 in Zaragoza Ala 12 is stationed on Torrejon and Ala 46 is stationed at Gando at the Spanish Canary Islands. The F/A-18 Hornet is one of the primary fighter aircraft of the Spanish Air Force. The F/A-18 Hornet is also referred in the Spanish system to as the C15. The registration number of the Spanish Air Force EF-18 has the designation C15-XX.

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The Three Esquadrons of Ala 15

Traditions and Habits of Ala 15; Zaragoza, May 20, 2016

The Spanish Ala 15 is since 2008 a full member of the NATO Tiger Association. For this reason Ala 15 participates annually in the NATO Tiger Meet. The unit is flying during this meeting with its European partners. The unit also has a training role for the advanced training of new pilots on the EF-18 Hornet. Ala 15 is in Spain with three squa- dron's the largest F-18 unit of the Spanish Air Force. The three Hornet units which belong to Ala 15 at Zaragoze are; the 151 Esquadron (Toro), the 152 Esquadron (Mars) and the 153 Esquadron (Ebro).

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Wrecks and Relics in Northern Spain

A Tour Through the North of Spain; Spain, May 19 – 29, 2016

While traveling through the northern part of Spain during the period of the NATO Tiger Meet at Zaragoza also many Wrecks and Relics were visited. Two preserved RF-4C Phantom II fighter planes were photo- graphed during this trip. These aircraft were both in a very good state and they looked well maintained. At a small airport was a DHC-4 preserved which was in a poor condition. In the city of Leon was a T-6 Texan present on a roundabout. At the airport of Santander were also an AT-6 Texan and a T-33 T-Bird seen and a few rescue helicopters.

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Gilze-Rijen, Runway 28

Gilze-Rijen Air Base in 2016; Gilze-Rijen, 2016

The year at Gilze-Rijen was started sometime in February when the airbase was visited during a normal day at the airbase. At the beginning of March there were as many as four French Alpha Jets which landed at Gilze-Rijen for a night stop. The absolute highlight of the year would take place on June 2, when the Dutch Air Force had announced that the F-35 would include Gilze-Rijen during a scenic flight. Despite the bad weather, the aircraft did come along. One week later the trip was flown again and Gilze-Rijen was visited again.

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The F-35A Lightning II in the Netherlands

De Luchtmachtdagen 2016, part 1; Leeuwarden, June 10, 2016

The Lockheed Martin F-35 is an aircraft of the fifth generation and is developed by the American government in collaboration with a number of partner countries. Three variants of the aircraft were developed, namely; the F-35A as a conventional variant, the F-35B STOVL version and the F-35C as a carrier-based variant. The Netherlands would participate in the program of the development of the F-35A Lightning II. The first test aircraft of the type F-35A Lightning II was transferred to the Royal Netherlands Air Force on April 5, 2012.

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The F-35 is Exploring the Netherlands

De Luchtmachtdagen 2016, part 2; Leeuwarden, June 10, 2016

After many political discussions the two Dutch F-35s had finally landed on Dutch soil were in May 2016. The Royal Netherlands Air Force flew a Campagne in the Netherlands to get the people familiarized with this new type of aircraft. The perception flights were flown and the F-35s participated in Dutch Air Force Days. During the Dutch Air Force Open House (Luchtmachtdagen) the two Dutch F-35s would be the absolute stars of the show. The Netherlands was the world's first country which showed the aircraft as the partner of the USA to the general public.

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The Retirement of the Bo-105 Bölkow

The German Bo-105 Bölkow Storage; Celle, June 15, 2016

The German Celle Air Base contains currently the only in Germany unit which is still flying the Bo-105 Bölkow. The helicopters are on the airbase of the German Army assigned to the Heeresfliegerwaffen- schule (Army Pilot School). In addition to the operational part there is also a large storage of over 50 helicopters on this basis. Eventually the Bölkow will be completely retired from service by the German Army in August 2016. Celle Air Base will be closed after this retirement and the training is moved to Bückeburg. The retired Bölkows will be sold.

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The no 1 Squadron “Stingers”

De Belgian Air Force Days 2016, part 1; Florennes, June 24 – 27, 2016

The Belgian no 1 Squadron is the oldest squadron of the Belgian Air Force. The history of the unit began during the First World War, when the squadron was established as an air defense squadron of the Belgian Army and is nowadfays stationed at Florennes. The badge of the no 1 Squadron is recognizable by the green and blue thistle. This plant is shown in a golden crown on a black background. Around the shield is a thin red border. The unit is nicknamed "Stingers" and is related to the thistle, because the plant has spines for its protection.

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The no 2 Squadron “Comet”

De Belgian Air Force Days 2016, part 2; Florennes, June 24 – 27, 2016

Besides the no 1 Squadron, the no 2 Squadron was also one of the older units in Belgium. The squadron was always easily recognizable by the bright red comet which was displayed on the aircraft. Due to some drastic reforms and cutbacks in the Belgian Air Force the no 2 Squadron was disbanded in April 2001. The no 2 squadron was the first Mirage unit which would undergo the conversion to the F-16 Fighting Falcon in 1988. The first F-16s were received from Kleine-Brogel Air Base and the no 2 Squadron was operational from 1990.

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The no 350 Squadron “Ambiorix”

De Belgian Air Force Days 2016, part 3; Florennes, June 24 – 27, 2016

The no 350 Squadron is nowadays the second unit at Florennes and is operating since the early days of the type with the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Gaul’s of the no 350 Squadron participated during the Battle of Britain during Second World War. The unit was part of the RAF and was operated by Belgians. The unit was founed on the British airbase RAF Valley in November 1941. The no 350 Squadron was just like the other Belgian no 349 Squadron operated by Belgians who had fled from their country during the German invasion.

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The Design and the Program

The JSF Program, part 1; RAF Fairford July 10 & 11, 2016

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a fighter aircraft that has emerged from the Joint Strike Fighter program (JSF) of the US Department of Defense. The contract for System Development and Demonstration (SDD) was awarded to Lockheed Martin on October 26, 2001. Lockheed demonstrated that the X-35 concept had the best and therefore this design was chosen for further development. The JSF program was started by the American government when the contract for development of the JSF was signed November 16, 1996.

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Partners and Heavy Criticism

The JSF Program, part 2; RAF Fairford July 10 & 11, 2016

After the American government had chosen the design of the Lockheed Martin F-35, the program suffered from many setbacks and disappointments. There were in the program, many technical issues on in particular, the F-35B STOVL variant and F-35C CATOBAR variant. Also, the costs of the program increased substantially. After many setbacks and dissapointments, it appears at this time that the F-35 production now seriously got started. The United States Air Force has already more than 60 aircraft in use and is a major user of the F-35.

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The F-35A Lightning II CTOL

The JSF Program, part 3; RAF Fairford July 10 & 11, 2016

The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II is the conventional takeoff and landing (Conventional Take-Off and Landing CTOL) variant of the aircraft and is intended for the US Air Force and other partner air forces. The F-35A is the replacement of the F-16 Fighting Falcon from 2018 and also the replacement of the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Unlike other aircraft, the F-35 will carry all its weapon loads and its fuel capacity completely internally. This ensures that the F-35A has a much larger chance of survival than the F-16 because of its stealth properties.

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The F-35B Lightning II STOVL

The JSF Program, part 4; RAF Fairford July 10 & 11, 2016

The F-35B Lightning II is the short takeoff and vertical landing version (Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing, STOVL) of the aircraft. The F-35B will be used by the United States Marines, the British Royal Air Force and the Italian Air Force and will be used for operations from aircraft carriers and smaller amphibious ships. The F-35B Lighting II is similar in size to the F-35A variant, but it has only a third of the fuel capacity compared to the F-35A. The F-35A is able to make 9G turns while the F-35B can make it by its construction and weight only to 7G.

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The F-35C Lightning II CATOBAR

The JSF Program, part 5; RAF Fairford July 10 & 11, 2016

The Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II (CATOBAR) is the version of the aircraft which can be launched from the American aircraft carriers. The F-35C program suffered in the beginning from a lot of technical setbacks. The United States Navy and the United States Marines will be the only users of the F-35C Lightning II variant. The F-35C has in relation to the other variants of the F-35 a heavy landing gear which is able to safely absorb the impact during a deck landing. The F-35C is designed to replace the F/A-18 Hornet at the Navy and the Marines.

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Base Aérienne d'Étain-Rouvres

3 Régiment d'Hélicoptères de Combat; August 24, 2016

The French airbase Étain-Rouvres is currently used by the French Army. The third Régiment d’Hélicoptères de Combat (3RHC) is based on this airbase. This unit is operating the Sud Aviation AS330 Puma and the Aerospatiale AS341/342 Gazelle. Étain is located in the northeast of France. The airport Étain-Rouvres was built by the French Air Force in 1937 and became later an American airbase. The United States had to retried all troops from France before April 1, 1967. Étain was from that moment handed over to the French government.

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30 Years Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society

The 30th Anniversary of the GRAS; Gilze-Rijen, September 7, 2016

In 30 years, the Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society has become one of the largest enthusiast associations of spotters in the Netherlands. The community is also the only association which is able to manage and organize a spotter day like this. For all volunteers, of course, a lot of time was invested in the organization of this day. On Wednesday, September 7, the spotter day took place in collaboration with the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC). The spotter day was organized within the framework of the 30th anniversary of the GRAS.

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The Annual Memorial to Market Garden

Market Garden Memorial; Eindhoven, September 17, 2016

Transport aircraft from various European and American countries would participate to commemorate famous Operation Market Garden on September 17. The aircraft would support parachute droppings over the Ginkelse Heide near Ede and Arnhem. Exactly 72 years ago, this operation took place to liberate the Netherlands. During this major operation in the Second World War the bridges over the main rivers in the Netherlands were captured. The purpose of this operation was to quickly capture the Netherlands and Germany in order to end the war.

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Falcon Autumn 2016

An Air Mobile Assault Exercise; Arnemuiden, September 27, 2016

To prepare soldiers of the Dutch 11th Mobile Brigade of the royal Netherlands Army and the Defense Helicopter Command for future deployments, the exercise Falcon Autumn was held. During this exercise, all the defense components operate together as an integra- ted army in cooperation with their foreign partners. During Autumn Falcon Dutch soldiers are trained like the Dutch Defense nowadays will act during international missions, as recently in Afghanistan, Iraq and Mali. In total, about 1,000 soldiers will take part in this exercise.

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International Exercise Cold Igloo

A Large Scale X-Service Exercise; Volkel October 17 & 18, 2016

Handling visiting military aircraft at the airfields in Europe is a true specialty. At Volkel in the Netherlands and at Kleine-Brogel in Belgium was therefore the exercise Cold Igloo organized to train ground personnel in the extended handling of different types of aircraft and helicopters of the partners. The fighters which visited the two airfields were opponents during the tactical missions which were flown. The aircraft at Volkel would compete as blue air against the aircraft stationed at Kleine-Brogel which were participating as red air.

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22 Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego

The MiG-29 “Fulcrum” in Poland; Malbork, October 24, 2016

The Polish airbase Malbork is in Poland known as the 22 Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego (22 Tactical Air Base), and is located in the far north of the country. The 41 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (41.elt) is stationed at this airbase. This unit flies the MiG-29 Fulcrum. Most of the MiGs of this unit are bought from the German Luftwaffe. Poland has bought these MiGs from the Germans in 2003 when the aircraft were phased out in this country. The MiG-29 is besides Malbork Air Base also stationed at Minsk-Mazowiecki Air Base near Warsaw.

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21 Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego

The Su-22 “Fitter” in Poland; Swidwin, October 25, 2016

Swidwin is currently the only air base in Europe where the Su-22 Fitter is still in operational service. Swidwin is located in northern part of Poland and is known as the 21 Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego (21 Tac- tical Air Base). On this airbase there are two operational units statio- ned which fly the Fitter, namely the 8 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (8.elt) and the 40 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (40.elt). The Su-22 is a classic Soviet combat aircraft from the period of the Cold War and is now in the twilight of its operational career at the Polish Air Force.

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The Helicopter Exercise Program

Black Blade 2016, part 1; Florennes, November 30, 2016

The Exercise Black Blade 2016 was held this year at the Belgian airbase Florennes and is an operation of the Special Forces. The exercise is facilitated by the European Defense Agency (EDA). This organization has established the Helicopter Exercise Program (HEP) since 2004 for the training of the helicopter crews. The EDA was established by several European States which believed that there was a need for a common security and defense policy. The European Union's defense capabilities are in this way linked to each other.

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Special Forces Exercise Black Blade

Black Blade 2016, part 2; Florennes, November 30, 2016

In the weeks of November, 14 until November, 30, 2016, the exercise Black Blade took place at the Belgian airbase Florennes. Black Blade 2016 is one of the exercises in Europe, which took place as part of the Helicopter Exercise Program (HEP). Black Blade 2016 is a tactical training and will take three weeks. Black Blade offers participants a unique opportunity to train the planning and execution of these kinds of missions within a common framework. During the exercise Black Blade 2016 several European partner countries participated.

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Military Movements Eindhoven

Eindhoven Air Base in 2016; Eindhoven, 2016

The year in Eindhoven started with a series of night shots when a KDC-10 returned during the dark hours. The special visitors of the year came to Eindhoven in February when an Austrian and an Italian Hercules came by to pick up a load. The highlight of the year was the visit of a Jordanian Il-76. After the droppings around the Market Garden Memorial, there was a Canadian CC150 which came along to pick up the men who would return home after the mission. The year was ended with a Spanish Hercules and a few aircraft in the dark.

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