Tag Archives: Leeuwarden

More details known on Dutch F-35 transatlantic flight

If all goes well, at least one Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35A Lightning II should touch Dutch soil for the very first time on Monday 23 May at the earliest, the Dutch Ministry of Defense said on Monday 25 April. The ferry flight from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands is a complex operation.

An F-35 lights the afterburner on its Pratt and Whitney F135 engine. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)
Related reading: Dutch Lightning Testers. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)

A lot of preparation goes into the ferry flight. The arrival of the F-35 is a major PR-moment for the RNLAF, so it leaves nothing to chance. Both KDC-10 tanker aircraft will first head to Edwards, airlifting equipment and personnel. Sources say a C-130H Hercules and a European Heavy Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster will be used to transport additional supplies.

Next, the F-35s will fly from Edwards to Patuxent River, the same location choosen by the Italians for their East-West ferry flight in February. From Patuxent River and supported by KDC-10 tanker aircraft, the jet will fly non-stop to Leeuwarden, arriving there supposedly on the evening of 23 May. Air-to-air refuelling was succesfully tested just weeks ago.

Whereas Dutch MoD spokespersons previously and constantly mentioned only one F-35 heading for the Netherlands, the amount of support flights does not rule out both Dutch F-35s actually crossing the Atlantic. That way, the Dutch seem to make sure that at least one F-35 makes it all the way to Leeuwarden – in a best case scenario, both aircraft actually appear over the Netherlands.

Two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35s explore Californian skies. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)
Two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35s explore Californian skies. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)

Airshow debut

The arrival at Leeuwarden would mean nothing stands in the way of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 first ever appearance at an airshow outside the US. Its presence at the Leeuwarden airshow on 10 and 11 June would beat the scheduled appearance of United States Marines Corps (USMC) and US Air Force F-35s at both the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough Airshow in the UK in July.

It is not yet confirmed if the F-35 will fly during the airshow. Preparing a full display takes time, while a display that only involves a couple of flat passes in each direction may disappoint the audience and ruin the PR-moment. The RNLAF studies its options very seriously, according to sources.


The main reason for the F-35’s visit to the Netherlands however, are the planned ‘perception flights’. The flights are aimed at familiarizing those living around airbases with the jet’s noise level – known to exceed those of the F-16. The F-35 will demonstrate its noise levels at both Leeuwarden and Volkel Airbase while joined by an F-16.

An F-16 joins the F-35 during perception flights over the Netherlands later this year. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
An F-16 joins the F-35 during perception flights over the Netherlands later this year. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)


The RNLAF only recently started promoting the F-35 and using the state of the art fighter jet in its recruitment strategy. Until now, the air force operated cautiously when the F-35 was concerned. The weapons program is still scrutinized by media and opponents because of its alleged shortcomings.

In 2013, the RNLAF received its first two jets. Both were first used for training pilots and are now based at Edwards for Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E). An in-depth story on that is here and here at Airheadsfly.com.

In total, the Dutch eye 37 F-35s. A formal order for eight aircraft on top of the two already delivered was placed in March 2015.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): Two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35s explore Californian skies. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)


Frisian Flag doesn’t mind some Raptors

A knowing smile. During multinational military exercise Frisian Flag at Leeuwarden airbase, that’s all US Air National Guard general Eric Vollmecke has to offer about this week’s surprise deployment of US F-22 Raptors to the UK. This year’s edition of Frisian Flag will have to make do with the Raptor’s predecessor, the F-15C Eagle.

Last year’s participation left US Eagle drivers wanting more. No surprise for the exercise that has earned it’s credits in the world of military air combat. It’s something to be proud of, says airbase commander Denny Traas. And yes, he doesn’t mind playing host to some Raptors at some time in the future.

Whereas terms like coalition, leadership and multinational cooperation are usually the talk of the town during Frisian Flag, this Tuesday it’s Raptors what it’s all about. Sure, Leeuwarden is filled to the brim with advanced warplanes, but none quite so advanced as the F-22s currently in the UK, merely 30 minutes flying time away. Traas: “We are always looking for new aircraft types to bring to Frisian Flag, each with its own capabilities and its own limitations.”

The goal of Frisian Flag is to make participating air crews aware of each aircraft type’s characteristics. That knowledge enables pilots to put together large and mixed formations of military aircraft in an effective way. It turns pilots into leaders and single nations into a partner in today’s multinational military coalitions.

The home team. Dutch F-16s are out in force during the current Frisian Flag, which runs until Friday 22 April. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The home team. Dutch F-16s are out in force during the current Frisian Flag, which runs until Friday 22 April. (Image © Elmer van Hest)


At Leeuwarden, that coalition consists of the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, the US, the UK, Finland and Poland, each sending warplanes to Leeuwarden. Their jet noise shakes the airbase twice each day for two weeks. It’s when the aircraft take off and head to the training areas over the North Sea. The impressive stream of fighter aircraft easily attracts hundreds of aviation enthusiasts – plus as many noise complaints from the neighbouring town.

Once in the training areas, the participants engage threats in the air and on the ground. It offers a welcome change to refresh skills that perhaps are dormant in current live operations over Syria and Iraq, where air-to-air combat is non-exsistent. Base commander Traas: “Frisian Flag fills that gap and results in pilots that are ready for any scenario at any time, with no lead times needed. We train any scenario here at Leeuwarden, not just those modeled after current campaigns.” Given recent events, has a scenario featuring a large scale conflict involving Russia maybe been taking out of the drawer after resting there for two decades? Another knowing but silent smile, from Traas this time.

An F-15C Eagle lights the afterburners. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
An F-15C Eagle lights the afterburners. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Belgian Air Component F-16 follows the above example. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Frisian Flag is about international military cooperation, which is nicely demonstrated by this German Air Force Eurofighter and Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 in the background. (Image © Elmer van Hest)


Both Finland and Poland would benefit from such a scenario. At the same time, neither country has taken part in recent ops over the Middle East, although Poland ponders to do so. “This is one of the most imporant exercises for us each year, along with the Tiger Meet”, says a Polish Air Force F-16 pilot. Despite not having actual combat experience, the Polish Air Force – celebrating ten years of F-16 operations later this year – bring something valuable to Leeuwarden. Traas: “They are the only ones bringing advanced F-16Cs, just like the Finnish are the only ones bringing F-18 Hornets. Again, the more aircraft types, the better.”

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Hi speed landing, slow speed shutter. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Finnish Hornet pilot checks out the crowd. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A French Air Force Mirage 2000D from Nancy. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Proven Eagle

As far as US Air National Guard pilot David ‘Moon’ Halasi-Kun is concerned, there’s still not much better than the F-15C Eagle behind him. “It is still the most highly capable and proven air superiority fighter in existence. The F-15 with its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar brings very unique capabilities, just as the F-22 with its stealthiness brings unique capabilities.” Combined, the two deliver air dominance, says ‘Moon’.

Together with 40 or so other Eagle pilots from the Massachusetts and California Air National Guards, ‘Moon’ for the next six months augments US firepower over Europe. Frisian Flag marks the start of the deployment, which should see the aircraft and crew head further into Europe.

According to Leeuwarden base commander Denny Traas, there is a ‘fair chance’ that Frisian Flag will hosts another non-European air force in the future. Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) observers are closely watching the current exercise. Raptors or Australian F-18 Super Hornets in the future? Well, why not have both? Because yes, the more, the better in the air combat household name that now is Frisian Flag.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Video filming, editing and © Vincent Kok – Orange Avenue Filmworks
Featured image (top): A German Eurofighter lands at Leeuwarden. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Focused while landing. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Smokey landing after a tiring mission. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Smokey landing after a tiring mission. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
The participating F-15 Eagles come from both the Massachusetts and California Air National Guards, with the latter shown here. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Germans are regular participants in Frisian Flag. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Noise is an issue at Leeuwarden, and this picture clearly demonstrates why. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Landing at the end of a day’s flying. (Image © Elmer van Hest)


New flock of US Eagles arrives in Europe

In a repeat of last year’s deployment, twelve US F-15C Eagles arrived in Europe over the weekend for six months of training and military deterrence. The F-15s are part of the 131st Fighter Squadron at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, and the 194th Fighter Squadron at Fresno Air National Guard Base, California.

Of the twelve air superiority aircraft, four will head to Iceland for NATO’s air policing mission at Keflavik airbase, while the other eight fly to Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands for large scale exercise Frisian Flag.

Theater Security Package

According to the US Air National Guard, the arrival of these F-15s marks the latest US Theater Security Package (TSP) to come to the European theater in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. More to the point, they act as a show of force to Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular.

Last year saw two packages of A-10C Thunderbolts and one of F-15s head to Europe as well. An even stronger signal was the deployment of four Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors to Germany.

The current deployment also involves 350 airmen. During their six month European stay, they will also forward deploy to other NATO nations, including Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania. In May, F-15s should also participate in an exercise in Finland.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): An F-15C Eagle readies itself at Fresno, California, for the flight to Europe (Image © Air National Guard /  Klynne Pearl Serran)

Dutch F-35 to Europe for ‘perception flights’

The Dutch ministry of Defense has officialy comfirmed that one of two Dutch F-35s now stationed in the US, will fly to the Netherlands in May or June for what the Dutch call ‘perception flights’. The deployment allows those living around Dutch airbases to experience the noise levels of the new fighter aircraft. Also, a Dutch F-35 recently dropped its very first guided bomb during tests.

Combined, the two Dutch F-35's amassed over 500 flying hours. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)
Related reading: Dutch Lightning Testers – Part 1. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)

The F-35 is known to be slightly noisier than the F-16 in some situations, as reported here. To demonstrate the actual noise levels, the Royal Netherlands Air Force deploys one F-35 to the Netherlands, using a air-to-air refueling (AAR) by a KDC-10 tanker aircraft, as reported earlier here at Airheadsfly.com. The KDC-10 will first fly to Edwards for AAR tests in March or April.

In May or June, the F-35 will arrive in the Netherlands and perform the perception flights. Joined by an F-16, the new fighter aircraft will take off, fly circuits and land at several airbases. Also, the F-35’s noise levels will be permanently monitored at Volkel and Leeuwarden airbases in the future, Dutch MoD states.


The F-35 very likely also appears at the RNLAF airshow at Leeuwarden on 10 and 11 June, beating UK airshows as far as the international airshow debut of the new type goes. Several United States Marines Corps (USMC) and US Air Force F-35s will deploy to the UK in July for airshows at Fairford and Farnborough. It is not decided yet if the Dutch F-35 will fly at Leeuwarden or be used for static display only.

Guided bomb test

Meanwhile, a RNLA) F-35 recently dropped a laser guided bomb for the first time during Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) at Edwards Air Force Base in California. As reported here at Airheadsfly.com, the Dutch are now involved in testing GBU 12 Paveway and GBU 31 JDAM guided munitions.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): An F-16 joins the F-35 during perception flights over the Netherlands later this year. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

USMC F-35s to UK this summer

The United States Marine Corps on Monday 25 January stated it is sending two Lockheed Martin F-35Bs Lightning II to the UK this summer. The fighter jets will appear at two airshows in July, being the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford and the Farnborough International Airshow. The F-35’s appearance will make up for a ditched attempt two years ago.

The two airshows are both held in July and should also see participation of US Air Force F-35A variants. A total of five aircraft are expected to cross the Atlantic. The USMC reached Initial Operation Capability (IOC) in July 2015, whereas the US Air Force is still working towards IOC.

The attempt to send jets to the same airshows in 2014 failed because of a problem in the engine that grounded all jets. The grounding was the result of a fire in an F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base in June 2014. An appearance would have meant the international airshow debut for the F-35.

Dutch debut

Despite today’s announcement, it could very well be the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) that debuts the F-35A on its first international airshow. In May, the RNLAF plans to fly one of its two F-35As to the Netherlands for noise tesing and an airshow at Leeuwarden airbase, although nothing is certain yet. More on the Dutch visit is in this feature story at Airheadsfly.com.

What is certain, is the presence of two F-35As in Europe already. They are two aircraft produced at FNM Aeronautics’ Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) facility in Cameri, Italy. The first of those made its first flight on 7 September 2015. The Italians will fly at least one F-35 transatlantic to the US next month and have no known plans for participation in European airshows yet.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: The F-35B is a Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35. (Image © Tom Reynolds / Lockheed Martin)