Supercruise Aviation - Article
Frisian Flag 2018 - Leeuwarden airbase

Every year Leeuwarden airbase in the northern part of the Netherlands is home to the combined NATO exercise, Frisian Flag. This annual airforce exercise took this year place from 9 to 20 April. Already around mid-March participating aircraft from the United States arrived at Leeuwarden airbase.

On the 5th and 6th of April the other participants joint the Americans. Dutch, German, French, Spanish and Polish units. In two week’s time, the aircraft flew two sorties a day exercising several scenario’s. Getting more complexed by the day.

Theater Support Package (TSP)
The American presence at Leeuwarden airbase took place in the context of a larger military operation. Since the Russian conflict with Ukraine, the United States started operation 'Atlantic Resolve'. Through a strengthened military presence in Europe, the United States wants to show support to NATO allies. The name given by the USAF to these temporary deployments in Europe is 'Theater Support Package' (TSP).

For the fourth year Leeuwarden airbase received a Theater Support Package (TSP) consisting of twelve USAF Air National Guard F-15C/D 'Eagles'. The units involved were:
123 FS based on Portland, Oregon and
131 FS based on Barnes, Massachusetts.

During the weeks before the planned arrival of the Eagles' no less as twelve C-17 'Globemaster' transport planes supported this years TSP to make sure all the necessary supplies arrived on time.
The first six 'Eagles' arrived on Thursday, March 15 at Leeuwarden airbase. The remaining six aircraft arrived on Monday, March 19th.
On 3rd of May the USAF detachment left Leeuwarden airbase and moved more towards the east, Graf Ignatievo Air Base in Bulgaria and will move again more later to Romania.

Frisian Flag
'Red Flag' is a familiar name for many air force pilots, comparable to 'Top Gun' for US naval pilots. In the middle of the Nevada desert Nellis airbase is situated. Close to Las Vegas. Nellis airbase is surrounded by a vast training area. Several times a year there are large-scale air force exercises, under the name Red Flag. The name of the exercise in Friesland is derived from this. The Frisian Flag exercise is very similar to that of Red Flag. Several squadrons participate from different countries with joint training in the execution of coalition missions. Even the size of the training area is similar - only during Frisian Flag many of the missions are flown above sea instead of above land and naval ships make part of the exercise.

Aim Frisian Flag
Exercise Frisian Flag aims to develop leadership skills among all participants.
Daily routine missions will be trained in an Allied setting using tactics, techniques and procedures used by the allied force. The more experienced pilots have the opportunity to devise, develop and eventually carry out and evaluate their missions. The main aim is to make aircrews fit for their real-world airpower missions in an Alliance or Coalition context.

Missions flown during Frisian Flag include air defence missions, offensive missions, missions to protect other aircraft and engagement of static and moving targets on the ground or at sea. Allied fighter aircraft will operate independently or in close coordination with of Army or Navy units, e.g. Forward Air Controllers. Also some participants exercised bombing runs on the nearby Vliehorst shooting range. Tanker support was delivered from Eindhoven AB, EART.

The Polish Air Force participated this year with a very interesting delegation. Next to Polish F-16s which were also previously guests at Leeuwarden airbase during Frisian Flag exercises, this year it was the first time that MiGs participated in the exercise. Three MiG-29 Fulcrums from the Polish Air Force, Miñsk Mazowiecki airbase, came to Leeuwarden for exercise Frisian Flag. During the Cold War period nobody could have imagined that these aircraft types that were designed to fight western designed aircraft now operate from the same airbase. Undoubtedly the American pilots wanted to take it up in the air against the MiGs. The MiG's were mainly used as 'Red Air', so as opponents in the air.


The Netherlands 15x F-16AM/BM from Leeuwarden and Volkel airbase
Germany 8x EF-2000 Eurofighter from Wittmund airbase
France 4x Mirage 2000D from Nancy airbase
9x Rafale B/C from Saint-Dizier (5) and Mont-de-Marsan (4) airbase
Spain 7x EF-18M/EF-18BM from Zaragoza airbase
3x MiG-29 from Miñsk Mazowiecki airbase
USA 12x F-15C/D from Portland, Oregon (6) and Barnes, Massachusetts (6) airbase


Report by Edward Antonissen and photos by Hans and Edward Antonissen