Supercruise Aviation - Article
Frisian Flag 2019 - 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 1 until 12 April.

Due to bad weather over the Atlantic Ocean, the last of the Americans arrived on saturday 30th of March while other countries like the Dutch, German, French, Swiss and Polish units arrived on the 28th and 29th of March. In two week’s time, the participating aircraft flew two sorties a day exercising several scenario’s. Getting more complexed by the day.

For the fifth year Leeuwarden airbase received aircraft from conitinental US (CONUS) consisting of ten USAF Air National Guard F-16CM. The unit involved was: 179 FS / 148th FW based on Duluth, Minnesota. The unit is Nicknamed 'Bulldogs'. The F-16's of this unit are applied with the Have Glass V paintscheme. Its a 5th generation” paint. This paint scheme has a special radar-absorbing paint capable to reduce the aircraft Radar Cross Section. The F-16's are covered with RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) made of microscopic metal grains that can degrade the radar signature of the aircraft. The Have Glass V is the latest version of the special paint.

The deployment of these F-16's had several reasons 1. to improve interoperability of their own tactics with NATO tactics. 2. building relationships with the different participating countries and knowing how to coordinate with the European allies. 3. the deployment itself; practising the process of a deployment and the lessons learned.

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, were the EART exercise was running.

On the 29th of March a vist was done to Volkel airbase. On this day no less as 10 aircraft would depart to Leeuwarden to participate for Frisian Flag.


The Netherlands 15x F-16AM/BM from Leeuwarden and Volkel airbase
Germany 10x EF-2000 Eurofighter from Wittmund airbase
France 4x Mirage 2000D from Nancy airbase
Swiss 4x F/A-18C from Meiringen/Payerne airbase
Poland 8x F-16C/D from Poznañ Krzesiny airbase
USA 10x F-16CM from Duluth ANGB, Minnesota


Report by Edward Antonissen and photos by Edward Antonissen