Military Wiki
Leeuwarden Air Base
Airport type Military
Owner Military of the Netherlands
Operator Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)
Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu)
Location Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Built 1938
Elevation AMSL 1 m / 3 ft
Coordinates 53°13′43″N 05°45′38″E / 53.22861°N 5.76056°E / 53.22861; 5.76056Coordinates: 53°13′43″N 05°45′38″E / 53.22861°N 5.76056°E / 53.22861; 5.76056

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Direction Length Surface
m ft
05/23 2,957 9,701 Asphalt
02/20 1,999 6,559 Asphalt
Source: DAFIF[1][2]

Exercise Frisian Flag Is a major NATO multinational aerial exercise, held annually at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands, over the North Sea[3] and in the skies above the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.[4]

Missions flown during Frisian Flag included defensive and offensive air missions, protection of friendly aircraft and Close Air Support (CAS) strikes. Some missions call for Forward Air Controller units coordinate with fighter elements to attack ground targets. Surface-to-air missile systems enabled realistic exercise scenarios missions.[5] A combat search and rescue element has been added to recent Frisian Flag exercises. Usually involving the rescue of downed air crew by ground forces with the assistance of fighters and helicopters.[6]


The exercise was first held in 1992 following NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina, originally called exercise DIATIT, the first three letters coming from the word DIANA, 322 Tactical Training Evaluation and Standardization (TACTES) Squadron's nickname (the organizing unit) and the last three letters coming from the words Tactical Integrated Training.[7] It changed its name to Frisian Flag in 1999. The name ‘Frisian Flag’ was chosen because ‘Frisian’ is named after the province of Friesland, the home of Leeuwarden Air Base and because of similar ‘Flag’ exercises such as ‘Red Flag’ (U.S) and ‘Maple Flag’ (Canada). Operational planning of Exercise Frisian Flag is organised by 322 Tactical Training Evaluation and Standardization (TACTES) Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF).[8]

Frisian Flag is open to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Partnership for Peace (PfP) members, participating aircraft fly twice-daily missions during the exercise, which is designed to prepare participating aircrew for complex hostile environments, including missions that may occur in a high intensity conflict. It provides the opportunity for air forces to plan and execute complex missions including offensive and defensive training in a realistic scenario.[9] Defensive Counter Air (DCA) missions are flown with close coordination with ground-based Surface-to-air missile units.[10]

Modern Era

The aerial exercises takes place in two waves daily, morning and afternoon during the two-week period. There is no flying in the evenings and on weekends.[11] During the exercise, the pilots co-operate with the land and naval forces, including the JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers). The fighter component will also receive support from a NATO AWACS platform. The European Air Refuelling Training (EART) exercise is integrated with Exercise Frisian Flag. French, Dutch, Italian and German tankers operate from Eindhoven Airport.[12] Aircraft are divided into friendly 'Blue' and hostile 'Red' forces at the start of the exercise.[13] Exercise Frisian Flag has involved into one of the largest NATO exercises,[14] involving more than 70 aircraft from NATO and Partnership for Peace countries.[15]

During Frisian Flag command and control of aircraft is provided by Dutch and German Control and Reporting Centres (CRCs) supported by NATO AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft from NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen.[16] No live ammunition is used during the exercise. All air-to-air and air-to-ground weapon launches are simulated.[17]


Fighters from participating units, as well as Douglas A-4 Skyhawks from Discovery Air Defence play the role a 'Red' hostile forces.[18] British company Cobham plc provide Falcon 20 aircraft to simulate enemy electronic jamming during Frisian Flag exercises.[19] The Norwegian AF has also provided electronic warfare Dassault Falcon 20 aircraft in previous Frisian Flag exercises.[20] A Gates Learjet 36A from Dutch company Skyline Aviation was used to provide hostile 'enemy' jamming during the Frisian Flag 2013.[21]

Surface to Air Threat

Realistic ground based threats include Surface to Air missiles like the SA-6 'Gainful' and Roland mobile short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system and 'Smokey Sam' missiles that are fired at aircraft to simulate hostile enemy threat environment.[22] Dutch Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries have also been integrated into Frisian Flag.[23] The Surface-to-air missile units are based at the Marnewaard training area and the Vliehors range (NATO codename 'Cornfield') on the Dutch Wadden Islands.[24][25]


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Past Participants


  1. Airport information for EHLW at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.Source: DAFIF.
  2. Airport information for LWR at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective Oct. 2006).
  3. "NATO fighters and refuellers to train in Netherlands". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  4. "NATO Allies and partners head home as exercise Frisian Flag concludes". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  5. "International air exercises in Netherlands drawing to a close". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  6. "International air exercises in Netherlands drawing to a close". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  7. "Frisian Flag 1999". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  8. "Exercise Frisian Flag 2016". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  9. "NATO Allies and partners head home as exercise Frisian Flag concludes". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  10. "Frisian Flag 2012 – contractor support of air operations". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  11. "Annual Frisian Flag fighter jet exercise starting next week in Leeuwarden". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  12. "5th European Air-to-Air Refuelling Training takes off in the Netherlands". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  13. "Frisian Flag 12". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  14. "NATO air forces wrap up exercise Frisian Flag". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  15. "Exercise Frisian Flag 2018: more than 70 NATO military aircraft in the Netherlands". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  16. "NATO Allies and partners head home as exercise Frisian Flag concludes". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  17. "Frisian Flag a Dutch Master Class". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  18. "Polish F-16 Fighters Taking Part In The Frisian Flag Exercise". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  19. "Frisian Flag 2018". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  20. "Frisian Flag 13". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  21. "War Operations Above Friesland". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  22. "Frisian Bayou". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  23. "Frisian Flag 2012 – contractor support of air operations". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  24. "Two Exercises, One Goal'". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  25. "Cornfield Range Vlieland". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  26. "Frisian Flag 2014". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  27. "Frisian Flag 2014". 
  28. "Air Force Medical Service Photos". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  29. "Frisian Flag 2019". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  30. "Frisian Flag 2012". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  31. "Frisian Flag". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  32. "Polish F-16 Fighters To Take Part In The Frisian Flag Exercise". 
  33. "Frisian Flag 2017". Retrieved 8 October 2019. 
  34. "Frisian Flag 2018". 
  35. "Military Exercise – Exercise Frisian Flag 2013". 
  36. "Exercises and Deployments – Frisian Flag 2019 - Leeuwarden Airbase". May 3, 2019. 
  37. "U.S. Air Force Airmen participate in Frisian Flag 2019". 
  38. "UK RAF deploys six Tornado GR4 aircraft for Frisian Flag exercise in Netherlands". 

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