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Frisian Flag 2019
Latest update: November 2019
Publication: This article has been published by Air Forces Monthly: Fighter town Leeuwarden June 2019.
Exercise Frisian Flag
Leeuwarden air base, one of the two Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16 bases is home to an annual fighter exercise since 1992. In 1999 the exercise was named Frisian Flag referring to colleague flag exercises in north America (Red Flag at Nellis AFB, NV and Maple Flag held CFB Cold Lake, AB) and the province of Friesland where the town and adjacent air base are located.
Currently based at Leeuwarden are 322 squadron equipped with the Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM and 306 squadron who will receive four General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper UAVs from 2020. Within 322 squadron its Tactical Training Evaluation and Standardization (TACTES) branch is responsible for maintaining the standardization of (inter)national F-16 operations and organizing exercises Frisian Flag and the Fighter Weapons Instructor Training (FWIT). Therefore it maintains procedures, syllabuses and experiences in its Fighter Centre of Excellence which are also used to organize new and improve existing exercises.

Frisian Flag 2019 took place from April 1 until 12. With the exception of the last Friday two mission a day were flown from 09.30 – 12.00 and 13:30 – 16.00 As the RNLAF already finished its night flying season which runs from November to March as well as avoiding noise pollution for its neighbors the exercise doesn’t offer night flying missions. Mission areas are directly located to the north which offers temporarily reserved airspaces (TRA’s) above the Waddenzee and North Sea with the airspaces being controlled by Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands. In the same area air-to-ground ranges are available for instance RNLAF range the Vliehors located Wadden island Vlieland.
Exercise Frisian Flag 2019
The Swiss Air Force made its debut at Frisian Flag. It brought four of its 25 aircraft strong Boeing F/A-18C Hornet fleet. As the Hornets are in the process of an upgrade program limiting the amount of available airframes in Switzerland they participated until Tuesday April 9 with the aircraft leaving at the end of the afternoon. Another newcomer were USAF Air National Guard F-16s. From 2014 the ANG participated at Frisian Flag with an Expeditionary Fighter Squadron composed of two Boeing F-15C Eagle squadrons which marked the start for their six month Operation Atlantic Resolve deployment to (Eastern) Europe. This year the 148th Fighter Wing was assigned to the exercise only. Participants of the European Air Refuelling Training (EART) exercise held since 2014 conducted their own exercise which included the support of the twice daily Frisian Flag missions.

Frisian Flag sees about 50 aircraft per mission take off from Leeuwarden offers training with different aircraft for both mission commanders as well as less experienced aircrews. For the scenario it only used Blue- and Redland as fictive countries. Missions were gradually build up integrating more roles, threats and challenges into the exercise. The first day was used to get all participants acquainted with procedures and airspace but also involved achieving air superiority against air and ground threats and the take out of a headquarters. The next days the focus was laid on defensive counter air (DCA) and air superiority missions. The last day of the first week blue forces had to defend its airspace against a robust enemy supported by electronic warfare (EW). The second week Close Air Support (CAS) and dynamic targeting (DT) were introduced in the missions. On Thursday this lead to the final scenario which consisted of several missions directed against advanced air and ground threats using EW with the blue force employing Offensive Counter Air (OCA), Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses / Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD / DEAD), Air Interdiction (AI), DT and Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance (SCAR). Red Air missions are flown by the participants each delivering 40% of the total executed flights whereas the other flag exercises make use of dedicated adversary squadrons (18th/ 64th AGRS with the F-16C/D or civilian contracted Alpha Jets).
Participants Frisian Flag 2019
Operating from Leeuwarden Air Base:
Country: Aircraft: No. aircraft: Squadron / Wing: Airbase: Comments:
France Mirage 2000D 4 EC 003 BA133 Nancy  
Germany EF-2000 7 TLG 31 Norvenich  
  EF-2000 1 TLG 71 Wittmund  
  EF-2000 2 TLG 74 euburg  
Netherlands F-16AM 10 312/313 squadron Volkel  
  F-16AM 8 322 squadron Leeuwarden  
Poland F-16C 7 6 ELT Poznan-Krzesiny  
  F-16D 1 6 ELT Poznan-Krzesiny  
Switzerland F/A-18C 4 11 Staffel Meiringen  
United States F-16C 10 179th FS/ 148th FW Duluth IAP MN ANG
United Kingdom Falcon 20 1 Cobham plc Bournemouth Private contractor
Total   55
Operating from their home base:
Country: Aircraft: No. aircraft: Squadron / Wing: Airbase: Comments:
Netherlands C-130H 1 336 squadron Eindhoven  
NATO E-3A 1 NAEW&CF Geilenkirchen  
Canada A-4N 3 Discovery Air Defence Wittmund Private contractor
Total   5
Support aircraft (on arrival and/or departure days):
Country: Aircraft: No. aircraft: Squadron / Wing: Airbase: Comments:
Poland C-295M 2 13 ELTr Krakow-Balice  
Switzerland Falcon 900EX-EASy 1 LTDB Dubendorf  
Total   3
Cancelled participations 
Country: Aircraft: No. aircraft: Squadron / Wing: Airbase: Comments:
Poland Mig-29 0 1 or 41 ELT Minsk or Malbork Cancelled
Portugal F-16AM/BM 0 Esq 201/301 Monte Real Cancelled
Total   0


France, Germany, Netherlands, NATO, Poland, Switzerland, United States.
F-16, F/A-18, EF-2000, Mirage 2000, C-130, C-295, Falcon 900, E-3.
Participants Frisian Flag 2019
France: Mirage 2000D Germany: EF-2000 Netherlands: F-16AM
Poland: F-16C Switzerland: F/A-18C United States: F-16C
Photo gallery: March 29 (arrival day) Photo gallery: Frisian Flag April 8