The exercise, due to take place until Apr. 17, is “a bilateral training whose aim is to enhance interoperability and readiness through combined air operations, including air-to-air, air-to-ground and joint tactical air controller training.”
31FW Fighting Falcons will conduct range operations and joint exercise sorties with Romanian Mig-21 Lancer (as the local, upgraded version of the Soviet Fishbed is dubbed) to enhance interoperability and give Romanian air force personnel knowledge about the F-16 flying program: last year Romania signed a contract to procure 12 F-16s from Portugal, more modern aircraft that will be used to replace the aging MiG-21s.
Washington ramps up its presence in Eastern Europe with more U.S. Air Force F-16 combat planes deploying to Romania.
The U.S. is going to station more F-16 fighter jets to Romania, amind rising tensions after Russia’s invasion and subsequent annexiation of Crimea.
Even if the aircraft will take part in a pre-planned joint exercise, the deployment of the American warplanes close to Ukraine, is a just the last of a series of actions aimed at reassuring eastern Europe and Baltic allies worried by Russia’s seemingly aggressive posture.
Furthermore, the Pentagon is sending 175 new troops to Mihail Kogalniceanu military base in Romania, near the Black Sea port of Constanta, to boost the local presence of some 265 Marines already stationed there as part of a Black Sea Rotational Force.
From Mar. 31 to Apr. 11, 60 aircraft from eight different European countries will take part to NATO Exercise Frisian Flag 2014 whose purpose is to train for complex, multinational operations, like those over Libya and Afghanistan. Ruben Veenstra and Lieuwe de Vries went to Leewarden airbase, in the Netherlands, to report from Frisian Flag for The Aviationist.
It’s 9 o’clock in the morning and the first fighters are lined up on Runway 27 of Leeuwarden AB, the Netherlands. It’s the second day of the NATO exercise Frisian Flag 2014. The exercise, held since 1992 (in 1999 it took its current name), is meant for European nations to train for multinational operations like those over Libya and Afghanistan. It is also an opportunity for pilots to engage in dissimilar aircraft training (DACT) missions.
Host nation aside, Belgians, Danish, Norwegians and Portuguese with their F-16s, Spain and Germany with their Eurofighters, and the Finnish with their F-18 Hornets are taking part to the Frisian Flag. Support will be provided by a French Air Force AWACS E-3F, a British civilian operated DA-20 for EW (Electronic Warfare) and a DA-42 M-NG in a S-UAV role. Yep, you read that right: that’s a heavily modified Diamond DA-42 (a type of surveillance plane flown by Ukraine as well) with basically all the electronics and equipment of a RQ-1 Predator due to an absence of European operated Predators. It’s a manned aircraft but for all intents and purposes during Frisian Flag, it’s a recon drone with a real live feed to Leeuwarden AB.
In conjunction with Frisian Flag, the European Defense Agency is holding its first-ever multinational air-to-air refueling (AAR) exercises called, unglamorously, European Air-to-Air Refueling Training 2014 (EART14). A Dutch KDC-10, a German A310 and an Italian KC-767A will fly dedicated AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) training missions from Eindhoven AB. Next to assisting Frisian Flag in AAR, they will train in Link 16 procedures, bailout procedures and multiple AAR formations. EART14 will also further certification for the Italian KC-767.
EART14 was born out of the realization of European member states that they are suffering from a lack of equipment and interoperability. In comparison: the EU member states have 40 tankers of ten different types, whereas the U.S. have over 550 tankers of just three types. In recent years, the EDA has defined three objectives: increasing the overall AAR capacity, reducing fragmentation of the fleet and optimizing the use of assets.
Although NATO-members have a long tradition of training with each other, Frisian Flag is one of the few initiatives in Europe that simulates large-scale wartime missions and conditions.
Complex missions are being flown above three countries (The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark) and will simulate real world operations like those in former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya. Missions range from defensive (like protection of ground objects and slow movers) to offensive missions (air interdiction and SEAD -Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses). To make things even more interesting, the Germans have placed SA-6s and SA-8s in the fighting area. The aircrews have no idea where they are placed, maximizing the training value. In turn, the Dutch have placed several Smokey Sams and inflatable targets.
For Close Air Support missions the fighters will rely on JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) units from the Dutch Special Forces who have operated previously in Afghanistan. An active Link 16 network is set up for communications throughout the two-week exercise.
Crews are divided in 12-hour morning and afternoon shifts with planning alone taking 6 hours a day. Each shift has a wave of 44 aircraft. This pace is being help up every day, for twelve consecutive days with the missions getting more and more complex along the way.
The Polish Ministry of National Defense has eventually decided that the Polish Air Force Su-22 Fitters will remain active for at least 10 more years. The Cold War era fighter bomber has been in service in the Polish Air Force for nearly 30 years now.
Additionally the Su-22 engines are going to be refurbished by Military Aviation Works No. 4. This facility is located in Warsaw.
The Su-22s are going to be used then in accordance with their technical status. The planned modifications are quite interesting, even though the scope of works is not so wide.
According to dziennikzbrojny.pl website the changes would include installation of an ICAO and Eurocontrol compliant communications suite (8, 33 kHz channel spacing).
There are also rumors that the Polish Fitters are to get new instruments, scaled in the imperial units. This would also make cooperation with the NATO aircraft easier for the pilots.
When it comes to application of the old fighter-bombers, they will be an important asset within the special forces and anti-aircraft gunners training programs, taking over the duties already done by the Polish F-16.
NATO conducted a wide range air defence-related exercise in Iceland.
Personnel and weapons systems from Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden took part in the Iceland Air Meet 2014 (IAM2014) exercise, which took place between Feb. 3 and 21 in Iceland.
The large exercise took advantage of the concurrent deployment in Iceland of a Royal Norwegian Air Force detachment, involved in the regular NATO peacetime preparedness mission, although NATO mission and IAM 2014 remained two separate events.
For the first time ever, IAM 2014 saw the deployment to Iceland of aircraft from the Finnish and Swedish air forces, which took the opportunity to improve interoperability with both NATO and non-NATO members within the NORDEFCO (Nordic Defense Cooperation).
All the assets were placed under operational control of the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Uedem, Germany which managed and coordinated the flying activities.
Keflavik was the main operating base of IAM 2014, where all aircraft were based. Serials spotted during the exercise were as follows.
Royal Norwegian Air Force: 675, 667, 293, 660, 688 (all F-16As) and 711 (F-16B)
Finnish Air Force: HN-457, HN-456, HN-454, HN-450, HN-416 (F/A-18s)
Finland Army: NH-207, NH-211 (NH-90s)
Sweden AF: 260, 263, 265, 271, 285, 286 (JAS-39 Gripens) and 837 (JAS-39 two seater); 84002 – (K)C130
At least one U.S. Air Force KC-135 from RAF Mildenhall supported the exercise, during which lots of sonic booms, even registered on seismometers, and low-flying “by six fighters trailing each other” in the West Fjords were reported.
Missions were flown two or three times a day, weekdays, usually 10:00, 14:00 and 19:00 hrs (+/-30 min) and take off and landing procedures usually lasting 30+ min each.
Usually each wave included four/five F-16 (doing Airspace Policing) and four Gripen and three F/A-18 flying per mission (11 or 12 fighters) plus tankers.
With the help of the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we had the opportunity to attend the media day of IAM 2014 at Keflavik and The Aviationist’s reporter Eggert Norðdahl took the images you can see in this article.
Noteworthy, during the media day there was a bomb threat (that was actually a hoax) on a Wow Air Airbus A320 that delayed the take off of all the fighter jets by one hour.