The multinational Exercise Frisian Flag took place at Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands recently, and the Royal Air Force has released details of its contribution.
Among the 1,100 personnel and 48 aircraft from seven NATO nations involved in the exercise was the RAF’s No 31 Squadron ‘The Goldstars’. Six of the squadron’s Tornado GR4s spent the two weeks of the exercise at Leeuwarden alongside types including Luftwaffe Typhoons, French Air Force Mirage 2000s, and F-16s from the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) and other air arms.
Between March 27 and April 7, the RAF Tornado GR4s flew missions including simulating the ‘Red Force’ element for fighters from the US Air National Guard, France, Germany, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands. The ‘The Goldstars’ also spent time as ‘Blue Force’ assets during the RNLAF-led exercise.
In the course of large-scale composite air operations (COMAO), Frisian Flag saw specific missions being flown including protection/escort of high-value aircraft, and prosecution of ground targets on land and sea in a high-threat environment. For the latter, the attackers had to attend to ‘Red Force’ fighters and ground-based Patriot and SA-6 Gainful surface-to-air missile batteries.
Wing Commander Matt Bressani, OC 31 Squadron and the Detachment Commander of the RAF contingent at Frisian Flag, said: “Working with NATO countries helps us to better understand our own strengths and weaknesses by testing each other’s defences. With the Tornado GR4 going out of service in a few years’ time, this is an ideal opportunity to train our crews for their future beyond this air frame. The time working alongside our allies means that we will expose both air and ground crews to working closely with Typhoon deployments from our partner nations, allowing our boys and girls to get up close to an aircraft they could be working on themselves in the near future.”
Tactical control of the airspace was managed by both the Dutch and German Control and Reporting Centres, as well as an AWACS aircraft from the NATO E-3A component in Geilenkirchen, Germany.
The aircraft taking part from Leeuwarden comprised ten Luftwaffe EF2000s, 12 F-15C/Ds from the Florida and Louisiana Air National Guard, seven Belgian Air Component F-16AM/BMs, 12 RNLAF F-16AM/BMs from 312, 313 and 322 Squadrons, five Portuguese Air Force F-16AM/BMs, four French Air Force Mirage 2000Ds and the six Tornado GR4s.