International

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Red Flag has become an icon of training exercises for pilots. No, it didn't get the Hollywood-blockbuster treatment of Top Gun, but the main Operation Red Flag, located at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, has, arguably, become the premiere exercise in recent years.


A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft conducts a mission over Afghanistan May 28, 2008, after receiving fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft. The KC-135R is assigned to the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing deployed from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

The original idea behind Red Flag was simple: During the Vietnam War, the Air Force realized that many of the pilots they lost were downed in their first ten missions over enemy territory. So, they realized if they could simulate a war and give a pilot their first ten "missions" in peacetime, the loss rate would go down. As the low loss rates of Desert Storm, Allied Force, and the War on Terror have shown, the idea's worked pretty well over the years.

Other countries have also taken up the idea. Israel runs a version of Red Flag, called Blue Flag, in which American units have taken part — and have had nothing but rave reviews to share afterward. The Dutch have their own version of this exercise as well.

According to Scramble Magazine, the Royal Netherlands Air Force is going to host Frisian Flag 2018. The magazine also noted that Dutch F-16 Fighting Falcons will fly alongside planes from five NATO allies: France, Germany, Spain, Poland, and the United States of America.

French Air Force Mirage 2000D multi-role fighters will take part in the Dutch version of Red Flag. (RAF photo)

France is sending a mix of Mirage 2000D and Rafale multi-role fighters, Germany will send some Eurofighter Typhoons, Poland is sending MiG-29 Fulcrums and F-16C Fighting Falcons, Spain is sending F/A-18 Hornets, while the United States is sending F-15C/D Eagles from the Oregon Air National Guard. The exercise will take place in the middle of April, with privately owned, German A-4N Skyhawks (formerly of the Israeli Defense Forces) flying as the aggressors.

Poland will be sending MiG-29s to Frisian Flag 2018. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Julian Herzog)

It sounds like this Flag could be very interesting — but we're going to recommend the pilots stay away from a certain locally-legal product.