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Falcon Leap 2019
Latest update: September 2019
Exercise Falcon Leap is a dedicated airborne (paratrooper jump) exercise organized by the Royal Netherlands Army 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade (RNLA - 11LMB – 11 Air Assault Brigade). Falcon Leap is held in the week prior to the annual commemoration of WWII operation Market Garden. On September 17, 1944 the allied forces commenced Market (airborne) Garden (ground) to capture bridges over rivers and canals from the Belgian border until Arnhem. Three divisions (one British, two United States) and one brigade (Poland) jumped at three locations to secure these bridges paving the way for the ground forces. Operation Market Garden is commemorated annually by ‘reenactment’ para jumps made by hundreds of paratroopers from 11LMB paratroopers and their NATO airborne colleagues. Until 2014 these paratroopers gathered only to conduct these jumps. It led to the decision by 11LMB to organize an exercise for the attending paratroopers. Aimed at interoperability, exchanging experiences and bonding Falcon Leap was born.
11 Luchtmobiele Brigade 
11LMB is a quickly deployable light infantry combat unit specialized in airborne and air assault operations. The brigade was activated in 1992 and achieved its operational readiness status in October 2003. In June 2014 11LMB became subordinate to the German Army Division Schnelle Kräfte (DSK – Rapid Reaction Division). Within 7 to 20 days the brigade can be deployed for defense of The Netherlands or its allies or be tasked for humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions. Within the Netherlands 11LMB cooperates closely with Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) helicopter and air transport squadrons. When working together the brigade is renumbered to 11 Air Manoeuvre Brigade (11AMB).

Four of the RNLAF squadrons are assigned to support 11LMB during its operations:

298 squadron (DHC): CH-47D Chinook.
300 squadron (DHC): AS-532U2 Cougar.
1 squadron (DHC): AH-64D Apache.
36 squadron: C-130H and C-130H.30 Hercules.

The Defence Helicopter Command (DHC) supports 11LMB to execute its air assault operations. Apache helicopters will provide reconnaissance and combat air support while the Cougar and Chinook transport helicopters will transport personnel and equipment. The later by underslung loads when required. Airborne operations are carried out by the Hercules aircraft. They are used to insert paratroopers or drop cargo to (re)supply the battalions of 11LMB

Currently 11LMB is in the process of reorganization its three battalions. Each of the three had one dedicated airborne company and two air assault companies assigned. The airborne companies will be realigned under one battalion with the other two being full air assault battalions. 11LMB operates from two barracks (Oranjekazerne, Schaarsbergen and Johan Willem Frisokazerne, Assen)

11LMB lineage traces back to World War II. It often uses AASLT (Air Assault) and “December 7” to its name. The brigade continues the tradition of the disbanded First Division while December 7 refers to a radio speech held by Queen Wilhelmina on that date. Its batch is a praying falcon, with 2 crossed swords in a wine-red shield. The shield also depicts EM ‘Expeditionaire Macht’ (Expeditionary Force) and has as motto: "Nec temere, nec timid", neither reckless nor fearful
11LMB structure 
11LMB is composed of three infantry battalions, one reconnaissance squadron, five support companies and one reserve battalion:

11 Infantry battalion, three companies.
12 Infantry battalion, three companies
13 Infantry battalion, three companies.
11 Brigade reconnaissance squadron.
11 Engineer company.
11 Maintenance company.
11 Supply company.
11 Medical company.
11 Staff company.
20 Natres battalion (Reserves).

11 Brigade Reconnaissance squadron consists two reconnaissance squadrons and one pathfinder platoon. The later are working in teams of around six persons these soldiers will jump ahead of the main force using the military freefall parachutes. They will secure the landing zone and provide directions for the air transport and helicopters to execute their para/cargo drop or landing. The airborne companies will use the “round” parachute during mass landings while their Air Assault colleagues will be flown in by the C-130 Hercules (TALO – tactical air landing operation) or the transport helicopters.
Falcon Leap 2019 
Until 2018 the exercise was held for four days and closed by the Market Garden commemoration jumps. This year the exercise was held for two weeks equally split between Cargo Delivery System (CDS) and paratrooper drops. To support all operations Eindhoven Air Base accommodated the transport aircraft. CDS is a relatively new missions for 336 squadron and its Hercules. 11LMB has personnel ‘riggers’ from 11 Supply company detached with 336 squadron. The riggers are responsible for preparing all pallets to be dropped. Once ready these will be loaded into the transport aircraft together with the loadmaster who is responsible for all operations in the cargo hold. The Dutch squadron took part with one or two C-130H.30’s depending on mission requirements. Both the German and Italian Air Forces send one aircraft, a C-160D Transall and C-27J Spartan respectively. In the first period that the RNLA and RNLAF conducted the CDS drop only Deelen reserve base was used. 11LMB now also has RNLA artillery gunnery range ‘t Harde and MoD complex Maarnewaard available for these drops.

The second week of Falcon Leap was dedicated to the drop of the paratroopers. On Wednesday the three missions were dedicated to commemorating the Market Garden jumps in Groesbeek, municipality Berg en Dal. In 1944 the US Army 82nd Airborne Division was allocated several landing zones around Nijmegen and Groesbeek. Its 508th PIR jumped at the Wylerbaan which was designated drop zone Tango. The same location was used for the Falcon Leap drops. During the three missions 787 paratroopers from eight countries made the jump on this historic location. On Thursday the same location was used. On Friday the location changed to drop zone Yankee at the Ginkelse heide, city of Ede. In 1944 the British 1st Airborne Division was allocated the drop zone near Arnhem including the Ginkelse heide. Three missions were flown here. It was repeated the next day during the official commemoration of Market Garden. Planed were 1.125 paratroopers from eight countries including 43 VIP’s. Although all flights took off from Eindhoven and the formations made their flights over the drop zone not all paratroopers could make their jump. The total exercise saw 4.035 successful jumps, both static line and MFF.
Falcon Leap distinguishes itself from other airborne exercise as it focusses on earning the jump wing from another country. Jumps are only made with parachutes while other exercises see a complete airborne or air assault operation. Each country has its own specific parachute which result in other jump parameters. One of this is the restriction of the wind force. This resulted in the paratroopers who carried the German chutes saw their jump on September 21 cancelled
Sergeant Patrick assigned to 11 infantry battalion explained the differences in parachutes after he made his jump on Saturday. During Falcon Leap Sgt. Patrick made jumps with parachutes from four countries. “Jumps with the round chutes are made from 1.000ft (330 meters). Before and during the runs over the landing zone the pathfinders are measuring the wind force. It’s done on both the drop and ground level. When either one is out of limits for the parachute carried the drop is cancelled. Our Dutch chutes are made with valves which can make a 180-degree turn. We use the strums to make a turn to land so we can land in the landing direction the winds blow. Our chutes are designed for operations up to 16 knots (4 Beaufort, 20-28 km/hr, 5-6 mtr/sec). It takes us on average 90 seconds to reach the ground. Just before hitting the ground at 30 meters we tighten our muscles and on landing make a role."
For each drop made with another countries parachute a wing is earned. During the wing ceremony these are exchanged. Dutch paratroopers a certified for one year period. To extend their certification paratroopers return to the Defence Para School. All facets of para jumps (safety) are trained again.
11LMB pathfinders are using the free fall parachutes making a free fall of between 40 – 60 seconds. The other paratroopers are attached to the aircraft with a static line. After the jumps the round parachutes open immediately.

11LMB and DSK have signed a letter of intent to jointly buy a new parachute when the current ones are due for replacement. Their Belgian and French colleagues operate the EPC parachute (Ensemble de Parachutage du Combattant - Combatant Parachuting Package). For interoperability between the different units it would be beneficial to operate the same parachute however a choice by Germany and The Netherlands hasn’t been made to date.
Falcon Leap participants Army (AR) and Air Force (AF) 
Country   Unit Aircraft Base / barracks
Belgium AF 20 Smaldeel C-130H Melsbroek
  AR 3 Bataljon Parachutisten   Tielen
France AR 11e Brigade Parachutiste   Toulouse
Germany AF LTG 63 C-160D Hohn
    Division Schnelle Kräfte   Stadtallendorf
Italy AF 46° Brigata Aerea KC-130J Pisa
  AR 66° Reggimento Fanteria Aeromobile "Trieste"   Bologna
Netherlands AF 336 squadron C-130H.30 Eindhoven
  AR 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade   Schaarsbergen & Assen
Poland AF 13 ELT.r C-295M Krakow-Balice
  AR 6 Brygady Powietrznodesantowej   Krakow
United Kingdom AF 24/ 47 Squadron Hercules C4 RAF Brize Norton
  AR 16 Air Assault Brigade   Colchester, Essex
United States AF 37 AS / 86 Wing C-130J.30 Ramstein AB
  MC VMGR-252 KC-130J MCAS Cherry Point
  AR 82nd Airborne Division "All American"   Fort Bragg, North Carolina
    173rd Airborne Brigade (Sky Soldiers)   Vicenza, Italy
AF Air Force
AR Army
MC Marine Corps

The Royal Canadian Army Royal 3e Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment 2nd CDSB, Valcartier, Quebec was unable to attend this year. South Africa send four of their paratroopers to the exercise.
RAF 24 squadron serves as the operational conversion unit for the C-130J Hercules and A400M. Its sister squadron is tasked with the operational mission
Falcon Leap para drops in numbers 
The planned number of para jumps for the exercise at Groesbeek and the Ginkelse heide are shown below. Noth dyas were also dedicated to the 75th anniversary op WWII Operation Market Garden.

18.09.19 Groesbeek 240 145 100 40 11 0 31 217 784
21.09.19 Ginkelse heide 255 155 142 37 58 101 31 303 1.125
The author would like to thank the municipalities of Berg en Dal and Ede and 11LMB PAO’s Maj. Gert-Jan, Capt. Roel and Erik. 
Photo gallery participants Falcon Leap
Belgium C-130H Hercules Germany C-160D Transall Italy KC-130J Hercules
Netherlands C-130H.30 Hercules United Kingdom Super Hercules C.4 United States C-130J.30 Super Hercules
United States KC-130J Super Hercules    
Photo gallery Falcon Leap: week 1, cargo delivery drop
German AFB C-160D Transall Cargo dropped RNLAF C-130H.30 Hercules
Photo gallery Falcon Leap: week 2, Groesbeek September 18
The formation of five C-130's (Belgian (1), United States (2) and Netherlands (2) approaching the drop zone. Parachutes deployed over the landing zone.

Landing on historic grounds where a PIR of the 82nd Airborne Division jumped in 1944.
The Belgian Hercules commencing its drop overflying the paratroopers dropped by the Dutch C-130.

Belgium is on of the countries with aircraft marked with D-Day stripes. There Hercules entering the track for a new run to the landing zone. Dutch Hercules dropping paratroopers during one of the runs.

37th AS, Ramstein AB, participated in previous years and returned to take part at Falcon Leap and Market Garden. The USMC send a KC-130J (tanker) to the exercise. Normally flying transport and refuelling missions the Marines are flying paratroop jumps mission during Falcon Leap and the 75th anniversary of operation Market Garden.
Photo gallery Falcon Leap: week 2, Ginkelse heide September 20
Dutch C-130 and PC-7 with the later tasked as photoship in the morning USMC overflying the drop zone marking 
their first Falcon Leap participation The Belgian AC "D-Day" marked C-130  followed by ite RAF colleague
Another run by the Marines Hercules 
Only a handful Transall remain in service with the German Air Force.  The Dutch and Belgian C-130's fly in
formation after drops were completed  Last wave of the day with the formation  seen from the Arnhem direction.