Frisian Flag 2014: European Air Arms train for multinational air campaigns like Libya and Afghanistan

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.


Reporting by Ruben Veenstra; Photography by Lieuwe de Vries


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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. more like training for other illegal invasions and violation of other country soverenty thats what the training is for.EU-Nato mafia terrorists.

  2. Oh – so Russia’s not into “illegal invasions and violation of other country soverenty”.

    Did you just wake up from hypersleep?

    • really? so we start a “democracy change” into russias back yard and you think russia would not be looking after her own interest?Russia and Ukraine was doing fine till we got involved in it.The only one who is responsible of this and other countries illegal invasions is US.Please dont lecture me on foreign policy you dont want to make a fool of yourself.

      • So “illegal invasions and violation of other country soverenty” are OK, as long as the invading country is just “looking after her own interest?”

        Thanks for completely invalidating your own initial stupid statement. LMAO.

        • Well now maybe we should ask the same question concerning the US goverment actions and its illegal invasions.Which all ended up a disaster scenario for the countries we invaded.We started this whole crimean crisis when we stuck our nose it.To me thats an invasion.All this democracy preaching is bull crap.This country has gone to hell thanks to the 2 party clown circus in washington.We start $h!t and then try to justify by making false accusations.if the russians were as brutal as we are they would had bombed the $h!t out of ukraine like we did in Irak and afghanistan.Or the other mess we created in kosovo which we bobmbed in the name of democracy.Get a grip dude and change your pic it gives one the idea of how big of a ignorant fool you are.

          • No. Just no. The USA didn’t instigate the Ukraine crisis. If anything the Ukrainians did. By Ukrainians I mean the corrupt pro – Russian ones… that were kicked out of government.
            Yanukovych sold his country to Russia – whether this was because he wanted to ingratiate himself with the Russians or whether he was intimidated by the Russians (or both) is unclear. What is clear is that the majority of “western” Ukrainians were against this. They wanted closer ties to the EU.
            This resulted in demonstrations and protest in the streets of Ukraine.
            These, in turn, resulted in the Yanukovych government predictably rushing through several “anti demonstration” and “anti public gathering” laws. This caused further unrest as the government were seen as “oppressing the people”.
            When the demonstrations became violent (whether this was due to the infiltration of pro government (agent provocateur) thugs into the ranks of the demonstrators, a reaction to police brutality toward the demonstrators or the work of right wing fascist factions within the demonstrators no one can rightly tell) Yanukovych fled Kiev for eastern Ukraine (although some sources claim he fled to Russia). He stopped governing and hid. His government was toppled by popular pressure applied by the Ukrainian people.
            However, Yanukovych then went ahead and asked Putin for help to reinstate him. Now, the recently toppled regime was pro – Russia; the new regime is pro – West. Of course Putin would help – what was not obvious was that Russia would then roll out the same dirty trick it used in Georgia in 2008 to “legitimately protect Russians abroad” and carry out a massive land grab – the size of which is still not known… How much more of Ukraine will Putin annex?

            Also – stop acting like an arrogant child, please.
            Lastly – this has nothing to do what so ever with the topic of the post.

          • So “sticking our nose in” Ukraine protests is an “invasion” in your mind. But a **real** military invasion – is just Russia “looking out for her interest”. Jesus Christ, do you even read what you type?

            BTW, NATO involvement in Kosovo had *nothing* to do with Democracy you blithering idiot. Please educate yourself.

            You sound like a 12 year old whose entire understanding of global politics comes from watching RT and PressTV.

      • Ha ha “until we got involved”… Um.. Druzhkok, learn English first then write “we”. Obviously the Lubyanka English lessons have taken a turn for the worse. This jackass is a Russian. By the way despite their anti gay rhetoric recently a hit pop song in Russia came out called “porviosh za Putina” which means would you rip yourself open (i.e. sexually) for Putin. Crowds of obedient Russian men and women (including the above poster answered “yes I would”..)

  3. Let me re-iterate. In your 12 year old, RT/PressTV watching mind:

    -Russia invading and annexing territory is OK.
    -The US “sticking our nose everybodys business” is “illegal invasions and violating another countrys sovernty”.

    As I said before – you must be 12 years old to be this confused.

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