Tag Archives: Air National Guard

A look inside Frisian Flag 2018

Fighter jets all around. That simply was the case during April’s excerise Frisian Flag 2018 at Leeuwarden airbase in the  Netherlands. This time, Airheadsfly.com along with our partner Imagingthelight.com, got access to virtually all areas during this increasingly popular and important flying exercise. Enjoy the results with us, starting with a jaw  dropping movie.

For two weeks,  sunrise signalled a hive of activity at Leeuwarden. Over 70 fighter jets from the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany, Poland and the US took to the air twice a day, practicing complex military scenarios based on recent experiences in global hotspots. Most of these scenarios played over the North Sea, just a few minutes’ flying time from Leeuwarden.

With its realistic wargames and readily available airspace, Frisian Flag remains one of the most prominent combat aviation exercises in Western Europe, says Frisian Flag supervisor Ronald van der Jagt. “The flying part is of course the most visible part of Frisian Flag, but it’s important to recognize that most training actually takes place on the ground. The most important lessons are learned during the debrief after each mission.”

Situational awareness

In the air, situational awareness is what it’s all about. “The challenge is to always know what’s going on and who is doing what. As a pilot, you have to manage all the information from radar, threat warnings, datalinks and your wingmen. It’s a skill that requires practice and you’ll get better at it each time. But it’s only after you land when you get the complete picture of all that went good or bad. That’s where value is added.”


To no surprise, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is the main player in Frisian Flag, sending 16 F-16s from both Leeuwarden and Volkel airbase. In a repeat of previous years, the US Air National Guard sent 12 F-15 Eagles as part of a wider military presence in Europe. France deployed 8 Dassault Rafales and 4 Mirage 2000D’s, while Germany’s contribution consisted of 7 Eurofighters. Perhaps the most welcome participants were 3 MiG-29 Fulcrums from the Polish, who also sent 5 F-16s to Leeuwarden.

F-35 in Frisian Flag

The RNLAF continues to use ageing F-16’s. Van der Jagt: “We are able to keep up, but the fact is that there are other players now with more capable assets. We are looking forward to receiving our first F-35’s here at Leeuwarden next year.” In the meantime, Van der Jagt aims to invite Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35s for the 2019 edition of Frisian Flag. The Norwegian started flying their new jets from home soil late last year.

Of note this year was the unprecedented transparency offered by the RNLAF. Yes, Frisian Flag is know for it’s abudance of noise pollution to coal communities, but the idea to in return offer all sorts of hospitality to those communicties plus other stakeholders, is simply a great one. Out hats are off to that!

© 2018 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

Sunrise starts a hive of activities during Frisian Flag. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Eight French Rafales in early morning light. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Spain provided F-18 Hornets. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Most training is done on the ground, and that includes training for ground crews. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
French Mirage crews check their  cockpit before strapping in. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Anticipation mounts…. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
… as engines are started. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Taxi time! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
One of 12 Air National Guard F-15 Eagles. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
No words needed! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
RNLAF F-16s are ageing, but they can keep up. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Burners alight! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Polish Fulcrums were perhaps the most interesting participants. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Skywards in a Mirage. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Polish F-16 takes to the skies. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Landing time for this  Rafale. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Not much flare for this Spanish F-18 Hornet. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Thumbs up to Frisian Flag! (Image © Elmer van Hest)


US F-15s to train over Finland

In  May, US F-15 Eagle fighter jets will perform joint training with Finnish Air Force F-18 Hornets in the skies over Finland, the ministry of defense in Helsinki confirmed to Airheadsfly.com on Tuesday 10 February. It marks the first time the US and Finland work together in a large scale military exercise.

The F-15s likely are part of a Theater Security Package  (TSP) such as the ones the US sent to Europe in 2015 also. Then, the fighter jets also took part in various military exercises, although they did not venture into Scandinavia.


The US pilots and ground crew will be based at Kuopio-Rissala airbase, home to Finnish Air Force F-18s. The exercise runs between 9 and 22 May and should largely play out in the skies over Lapland and eastern Finland, close to neighbouring Russia.

See our report on last year’s US Air National Guard TSP to Europe.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Positive rate of climb… (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Swamp Foxes in Poland

The Polish Airbase of Lask has been home to Polish F-16s for quite some time. This June F-16s from the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing join their Polish counterparts in bilateral training. The US F-16s deployed to Europe on 28 May as part of an ‘aviation detachment’, as the Air National Guard calls it.

The South Carolina F-16s are perhaps better known by their ‘Swamp Foxes’ nickname., and usually based at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, SC. The unit also brought aircraft in the relatively new ‘Have Glass’ colour scheme, recognizable by the darker grey colour.

Bilateral Polish-US air force training has taken place since 2012. US F-16s from Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany and Aviano Air Base in Italy have previously deployed to Lask.

Also among extra US assets in Europe now, are twelve US Air Force A-10C Warthogs and twelve Air National Guard F-15C Eagles.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The Swamp Foxes on the flightline at Lask (Image © Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder / South Carolina Air National Guard)

(Image © Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder / South Carolina Air National Guard)
(Image © Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder / South Carolina Air National Guard)
(Image © Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder / South Carolina Air National Guard)
(Image © Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder / South Carolina Air National Guard)
(Image © Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder / South Carolina Air National Guard)
(Image © Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder / South Carolina Air National Guard)
(Image © Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder / South Carolina Air National Guard)
(Image © Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder / South Carolina Air National Guard)

Press Play: Riding the clouds, fighting the Eagle

Every now and then a video pops up that is worth its own space at Airheadsfly.com. On Tuesday 2 June, the Dutch ministry of Defense published gear footage of a Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16 pilot sharing the sky with a US Air National Guard F-15 Eagle, but also exchanging some simulated hostilities during Dissimilar air combat training (DACT).

The video was made earlier this Spring, when twelve F-15 Eagles of the Florida Air National Guard’s 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed to Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. A story on that – also with video! – is here.

The Eagles later took part in exercise Frisian Flag (see here and here for more vids) and are currently deployed to Bulgaria.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image & video footage: Sharing the sky. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

Rewinding Frisian Flag

Wether they involved noisy fighter jets or not, for years and years military exercises in European passed by largely unnoticed by the general public. The same can’t be said for exercises held over the last few months, which saw themselves at the focus of the new’s attention. Recent military exercises such Frisian Flag 2015 at Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands, are as much about training as about a show of force.

The US has been eager to show its airborne teeth in Europe, sending Theater Security Packages of A-10s and F-15s to Europe – packages that were previously reserved for ‘other’ hot spots around the globe and earlier this year caught many off guard in Europe.

The F-15s took part in Frisian Flag 2015, along with Dutch and Polish F-16s, Spanish and Finnish F-18s plus German Typhoons.  A show of force as seen by many – and in these times, that’s one objective ticked off. Let’s rewind that in this quality film by professional filmer Vincent Kok of Imaging the Light.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top) A US Air National Guard F-15 at Leeuwarden.
(Image © Dennis Spronk)