From the 12th till the 23rd of April Leeuwarden hosted the annual exercise 'Frisian Flag'. Frisian Flag is like a Dutch Red Flag with multiple complex missions to be flown by the contenders. The missions flown vary from air-to-air, counter-air and airsupport for groundforces (C.A.S.= Close Air Support). The area that was used where the TRA's above the Northsea, some parts of northern Holland and the Marnewaard. The aircraft work close with Forward Air Controllers from the Dutch Army and vessels from the Dutch Navy. Radar and communications where frequently jammed by an 'Electronic Warfare Team'. Also a Dutch Patriot Air-defencesystem was active. This year's edition brought some fine aircraft to Leeuwarden including 4 Polish F16C/D's, 6 American F15C/D Eagle's from Lakenheath, 8 (!) Norwegian F16A/BM's, 4 Finnish F18C Hornets, 4 Swedish JAS39C/D Gripens and 4 good old German Luftwaffe Diesels (F4F Phantoms). In all a nice field of contenders. Accompanied by my son Niek and my mate Rob I drove to Leeuwarden on the 15th. The weatherforecast was exellent with blue skies all day. Upon arrival the spottershill was packed with spotters. Mostly Dutch spotters off course but also a number of Belgian and German licenseplates where present on the parkinglot. The morningwave of Frisian Flag started with the take off of a Norwegian Falcon 20ECM for all your electronic countermeasures. He took off at approximately 08.45 hrs. After the Falcon disappeared on the horizon the first fighters went airborne. The first ones where the Lakenheath Eagles. After the F15's the Swedish Gripens took off. After that the Finish Hornets went to the North-Sea TRA's alone with the Polish and Norwegian Falcons. Especially the Polish looked astonishing in their colour schemes. Absolutely brilliant ! In between a lot off Dutch F16's went take off. All aircraft could be photgraphed with blue skies. After a little hour the Norwegian Falcon 20 landed again. This was not normal ! We thought he maybe had some technical problems or something. Then the scanners came alive and we heard that the mission was cancelled. Us leaving with the question: why ? After a while the news was spread that the volcano Eyjafjallajokul (or something like that) erupted on Iceland and because of that a lot off vulcanic ash was in the air. We couldn't believe it. Later we heard that all air-traffic was sustained in all off Western-Europe. At first we waited but after an hour all hope was gone. Then we had the idea to go to Wittmund though the German Phantoms where grounded due to ejectionseat problems. But also Germany went black. The only thing for us to do was to go home. I had my pics and even Niek managed to score some planes. In all we where extremely lucky that the Frisian Flag mission went airborne so we didn't went for nothing to Leeuwarden.


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