On Friday June 20th and Saturday June 21st, the Royal Netherlands Air Force hosted (RNLAF) hosted the “Open Dagen” (Air Force Days), which were held at the Gilze-Rijen helicopter base near Breda in the Southern part of the Netherlands.
The big theme for this year was “Operation Air Support” (Operatie Luchtsteun). A nice entry to the event: spectators were guided through a huge tent with multiple photo and video displays of the various Dutch Defense components active around the world. Specifically the recent actions of various Dutch Air Components in Afghanistan, Mali and Somalia were shown.
The mission in Afghanistan started back in 2002 and lasted nearly 12 years! The first deployment started in April of 2002 when a KDC-10 tanker aircraft left for Al Udeid in Qatar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The KDC-10 was followed by a C-130 Hercules and a few months later six F-16s which all left for Manas, Bishkek in Kirgizia.
In April of 2004, six AH-64D Apaches of the Dutch Air Force left for Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan to act as a QRA unit for the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). They conducted several aerial reconnaissance missions, escorts and air support for downed allied aircraft. It was on a routine mission on August 29th , 2004, that the RNLAF suffered its first aircraft loss when one of the Apaches crashed. The crew suffered minor damages.
In March of 2005 the remaining four F-16s also moved to Kabul in support of the elections in Afghanistan, protecting several convoys. When the Belgian and Norwegian Air Support dropped out of Afghanistan, the Netherlands sent four more F-16s for additional support.
A detachment of four Chinooks shipped over to Kandahar Airfield that same month. During their one year operation in the area two of the Chinooks were lost, fortunately without human casualties.
Another Chinook was deployed to Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, in September of 2005. It's primary mission was MedEvac.
Six of the F-16s were redeployed to Kandahar in November of 2006 and would remain there until November of 2011, the number reduced to four aircraft by then. At that time, the Netherlands took the leadership of the ISAF mission in the Uruzgan province. The 1 ATF (Air Task Force) started at that time, wherein the Air Force redesignated all of its units. At that time the RNLAF also operated six Apaches (later reduced to four), five Cougar helicopters, three Chinooks and one C-130 Hercules. Sadly, three members of the RNLAF were lost during their mission in Afghanistan: on July 26th , 2006, Lieutenant Colonel Jan van Twist and Sergeant Bart van Boxtel were killed in a helicopter crash in a Mil Mi-8. One month later, on August 31st , F-16 pilot Capt. Michael Donkervoort was lost during his mission.
The final act of the RNLAF involvement in the Afghan conflict was when four F-16s were redesignated to Mazar-e-Sharif to participate in Air Policing Missions above the Northern part of Afghanistan. The final units were withdrawh at the end of 2014.
A couple of months before that, in May of 2014, a detachment of three Chinooks and four Apache helicopters, along with 80 ground personnel, were moved to Mali in support of operation MINUSMA (UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali ). Their mission would be to support the political process and carry out a number of security-related stabilization tasks, with a focus on major population centres and lines of communication, protecting civilians, human rights monitoring, …
On March 17th , 2015, an AH-64D crew comprising of Capt. René Zeetsen and 1st Lt. Ernst Mollinger were killed whilst on an exercise in Mali.
With the continuing threat of terrorism, the RNLAF also supported operations against the ISL terrorist group in Iraq and Syria with a detachment of eight F-16s from Leeuwarden Air Base.
To show the general public what the combined operations of both Air Force and Army could look like, the Open Days presented an Air Power demonstration on both show days.
Weather conditions were challenging (very cloudy), but at least it stayed dry for the most part on both show days. The GRAS organization also organized a spottersday on Thursday where aviation enthousiasts could watch the arrival of the aircraft participating in the aerial displays as well as several international aircraft taking part in the static display.
We attended the arrival/rehearsal day on Thursday from outside the airbase (at the start of RWY 28), both show days, and the departure day on Monday.
Some of the static aircraft highlights were 2 MiG-29s from Slovakia (one flying and one for static), an ex-German Air Force MiG-29GT now operated by the Polish Air Force, 2 Turkish Air Force F-4E-2020 Phantoms, a Portuguese and Polish Casa S-295M and many more. Image of those aircraft can be found at the very bottom of this review.
The Friday (which is a working day) already saw a total of 65.000 spectators, followed by no less than 180.000 visitors the next day, making the Open Dagen once again a huge success. In fact, radio and TV channels urged spectators not to venture to the event on Saturday afternoon since all of the parking spaces were full.
The display program was largely the same on both show days, although some items shifted a bit on the timetable.
Traditionally starting off the airshow are a mix of historic aircraft which at one time or another all were part of the RNLAF. The first hour comprised of displays from the Fokker Four display team.
The Dutch “ Stichting Fokker Four” maintains and flies four Fokker S-11 tail wheeled Instructor aircraft. The Fokker S-11 is a single engine, two-seat propeller aircraft developed after WWII as a basic trainer for the Dutch Air Force. The Air Force used them until 1973, as well as several foreign countries, such as Israel, Italy, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.
Another flying legend was P-51 Mustang PH-PSI Damn Yankee flown by Tom van der Meulen. This particular Mustang is a P-51D-30-NA 44-74425 and was delivered by North American Aviation to the USAAF in 1945 where she served briefly with the 356th FG. After the Second World War, it went on to serve with the Royal Canadian Air Force. After being sold to several civil US owners, she was acquired by the Stichting Dutch Mustang Flight at Lelystad, Netherlands. She was painted in the colors of 356th FG, 359th FS 474425/OC-G/Damn Yankee. It wears the colors of the Squadron, but has a fictional name. You can read more about Damn Yankee here.
The Belgian Air Force was also showcasing the ageing Sikorsky Sea King with a nice Search And Rescue demo. The Belgian Air Force only had 2 examples of the trusty SAR bird flying as they are due to be replaced in early 2015 by the newly acquired NH-90s. One example of those was part of the static display, whilst the Dutch Navy presented their newly acquired NH-90 later on in the day.
Another historic presentation was made by the Stichting Exploitatie Catalina owned and operated Consolidated PBY-5A "Catalina". She's the oldest (1941) still flying Catalina in the world. Only two are left in an airworthy condition on the European mainland.
The history of PH-PBY starts back in December of 1939, when the US Navy placed an order for 33 Catalina Flying Boats. On November 15th , 1941, this particular Catalina rolled from the production line and shortly thereafter started her carreer with the US Navy, which used the type for protection of convoys on the Atlantic against German submarines and surface ships.
PH-PBY even has a combat history, sinking three Nazi submarines and heavily damaging a fourth! She's also a movie start as she was used for the filming of the movie Flipper.
The Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service operated a total of 78 Catalina's between 1941 and 1958. PH-PBY is repainted as 16-218, which served with 321 Sqn in the Dutch East Indies.
On Friday morning, the German Army MBB Bo-105 also displayed its aerobatic capabilities. On the Saturday, its display was pushed back to around noon. The MBB stands for Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm.
The Bo-105 is designed as a light, twin-engine, multi-purpose helicopter. At the time of development and construction it featured a revolutionary hingeless rotor system. The first flight of an Bo-105 was made as far back as February 16th, 1967. Primary military users are the German Army (100 aircraft delivered). A special anti-tank variant armed with Euromissile HOT missiles was designated as Bo-105 PAH-1 of which the German Army ordered 212 examples.
Production ended in 2001 when the type was replaced by the more modern Eurocopter EC-135 (MBB became part of Eurocopter in 1991).
Several civilian and police units around the global also operated the type. The RNLAF operated 30 MBB Bo-105s as light reconnaissance helicopters (Groep Lichte Vliegtuigen) which were stationed at Deelen AB as part of 299 Sqn.
The next display hour started with a celebration, namely the 50th anniversary of the Alouette III in service with the RNLAF.
The Aérospatiale Alouette III is a single-engine, light utility helicopter developed by Sud Aviation and manufactured by the french company. It was the successor to the Alouette II
The SE 3160 prototype first flew on February 28th , 1959 and the type entered production in 1961 and remained in production until 1968.
The Alouette III has been in service with the RNLAF since 1964, when it ordered 77 helicopters (27 of which were manufactured under license by the NV Lichtwerk in the Netherlands) which were all stationed at Deelen AB, flying with the 299 and 300 Squadrons. Another unit, the 298 Sqn was stationed at Soesterberg. The RNLAF operated the aircraft as a light liaison helicopter. In 1986 it was decided to phase out the type, but since there was still a great variety of tasks carried out, it was decided to keep 4 aircraft in operational service (A-247, A-275, A-292 and A-301).
Since then they provided VIP transport, photo and film assignments, … and were painted in blue.
The Alouette was also operated as a SAR platform by the RNLAF at one time. There was even a helicopter demonstration team at one point comprising of four 299 Sqn Alouette IIIs named “The Grasshoppers”.
The Belgian Navy also still operates three Alouette IIIs.
To further honor the 50th celebration, a Danish Air Force one also took part in the aerial displays.
Other historical performances were given by the Stichting Koninklijke Luchtmacht Historische Vlucht (RNLAF Historic Flight) or SKHV.
The SKHV was first started in 1969 as an aero club (Stichting Vliegsport Gilze-Rijen) by a group of former Air Force and Navy fighter pilots. The commander of the Gilze-Rijen Air Base at that time supported the renovation of a small hangar in which a Harvard and a Piper Super Cub were restored. The initial aim of this aero club was to provide private pilots with the possibility of advanced flying training. In the following years several historical aircraft were added to the fleet after having been carefully restored to an airworthy condition. From 1976 onwards the club has dedicated itself to the restoration and the maintenance of propeller-driven aircraft formerly used by the Royal Netherlands Air Force and Navy.
In 1998 the Stichting Vliegsport Gilze-Rijen and the Dutch Spitfire Flight merged to form the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight thereby bringing the only airworthy Dutch Spitfire and a Beaver into the collection. On September 24th, 2004, during the 35th anniversary, the merge of the Duke of Brabant Air Force (DBAF) and the SKHV was announced. Since then the DBAF flag-ship, the B-25 Mitchell, has been part of the SKHV fleet.
The SKHV fleet mainly comprises aircraft formerly flying with the RNLAF or RNL Navy Air Services, with the exception of Prince Bernhard's Stinston L5B.
Currently, the SKHV fleet includes the following aircraft:
- Supermarine Spitfire PH-OUQ
- North American B-25 Mitchell PH-XXV
- Six North American Harvard IIbs (PH-IIB, PH-MLM, PH-LSK, PH-IBI, PH-IBY and PH-TBR)
- Five Piper L21Bs (PH-GAU, PH-GAZ-, PH-KNR, PH-PPW and PH-PSC)
- Beechcraft PH-KHV
- De Havilland Beaver PH-DHC
- Four Fokker S-11s (PH-GRB, PH-HOI, PH-SII and PH-HOE)
- Tiger Moth PH-TYG
- Stinson L5B PH-PBB
The Beaver and Harvard performed in the morning display, with the B-25 and Spitfire flying later during the day.
A huge Antonov An-2 biplane took to the skies now, owned and operated by Classic Wings. The Antonov An-2 , nickname Annie, is the largest biplane in the world and was designed by the USSR in 1946.
It was, well IS used as a light utility transport, parachute drop aircraft and agricultural work aircraft. Is used, because remarkably enough the type is still operated by many around the globe today! As a matter of fact, the Russians continued to build the type until late 2002!
Its two large biplane wings give it an extreme maneuverability at slow speeds and make it an ideal aircraft for use on short, unimproved fields. Several design features were incorporated to take further maximum advantage of operating from those fields:
- A pneumatic brake system (similar to those used on heavy road vehicles) in order to stop quicker on short runways
- an airline fitted to the compressor, so the pressure in the tires and shock absorbers can be adjusted without the need for special equipment.
- The batteries are large and easy to remove, so the aircraft does not need a ground power unit to supply power.
- There is no need for an external fuel pump to refuel the aircraft, as it has an onboard pump that allows the tanks to be filled from simple fuel drums.
- It has a minimum of complex systems. The crucial wing leading edge slats that give the aircraft its slow flight ability are fully automatic, being held closed by the airflow over the wings. Once the airspeed drops below 64 km/h (40 mph), the slats will extend because they are on elastic rubber springs.
Because it is Russian, it also has another advantage: it is extremely rugged and can withstand extreme temperatures.
It was designed to meet a 1947 Soviet Ministry of Forestry requirement for a replacement for the Polikarpov Po-2, which was used in large numbers in both agricultural and utility roles. Antonov designed a large single bay biplane of all-metal construction, with an enclosed cockpit and a cabin with room for seats accommodating up to twelve passengers. Over 18000 examples of the An-2 were built.
The first prototype flew on August 31st , 1947. The An-2 is powered by a Shvetsov ASh-62 engine and used about 43 gallons of avgas per hour.
In its handbook, the Antonov An-2 has no stall speed listed. As a matter of fact, a note in the pilot's handbook reads: "If the engine quits in instrument conditions or at night, the pilot should pull the control column full aft and keep the wings level. The leading-edge slats will snap out at about 64 km/h (40 mph), and when the airplane slows to a forward speed of about 40 km/h (25 mph), the airplane will sink at about a parachute descent rate until the aircraft hits the ground."
Pilots of the An-2 say one can fly the aircraft in full control at 30 mph (50 km/u) (as a contrast, a modern Cessna four-seater light aircraft has a stall speed of around 50 mph). If it flies into a 35 mph headwind, it can even fly backwards whilst under full control!
On Friday, just before noon, a half-hour slot was provided for the Breitling Jet Team, operating the L-39 trainer. Their arrival was blocked by the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, who believe that the team's display is not within safety limits. To fill up the gap, the RNLAF sent up the AH-64D solo display team, which as a result performed twice that day (not that we're complaining).
The RNLAF is the only Air Force in the world with a dedicated display of the AH-64 Apache helicopter (normally Apache demonstrations are only carried out by the manufacturer, Boeing).
The team consists of members of the 301 Squadron “Redskins” of the Defence Helicopter Command stationed at Gilze-Rijen airbase.
Like in previous show seasons, the team continues to use flares to add to the spectacle. These flares, stored in so-called AMASE pods (Apache Modular Survivability Equipment). These pods each contain three Northrop Grumman AAAR-54 sensors and two flareboxes. The goal of these pods is protection against heat seaking missiles (flares) as well as infrared guided missiles. The pods are attached to the helicopter at the very end of both wing stubs. The flares are used at certain points during the display to add an extra dimension to it, especially at dusk.
For the display, the Hellfire racks and rocket pods are removed from the helicopter in order to save weight and as a result, enabling the Apache to speed up faster in between the individual manoeuvres.
The aircraft itself, Q-17, can be seen in its original camouflage colors, but a special printing is added to add to the display thrill. This printing can be removed quickly, so that the helicopter can be used for operational missions when required.
Pilot in command this year is still Major Roland “Wally” Blankenspoor, who had been flying with the RNLAF since 1997. He has logged about 3300 flight hours, of which 2750 are on the Apache.
First officer is Captain Harm “Kaas” Cazemier, who has been flying the Apache since 1998.
Come noon, it was time for the main event of both display days: the Air Power Demonstration. The scenario was set in the imaginary country of Kralië where a terrorist named Mr. Krespo was spotted at a local airfield. The mission was to attack and secure this airfield and capture Krespo.
First, the airfield is attacked by several F-16s making multiple bombing and ground attack runs. With the enemy stunned, the attack helicopters are sent in, along with the CH-47 Chinook and Cougar transport helicopters carrying allied soldiers. Once the runway is secured, a C-130 Hercules can land, bringing in more troops and several vehicles.
A KDC-10 provides aerial refueling support for the F-16s.
This whole demonstration gives the public an insight in how actual operations are planned meticulously and how they are carried out. The use of pyrotechnics further aids in making the whole demonstration more realistic.
Mr. Krespo survived the initial attacks and tried to escape in a technical vehicle, only to be stopped by an Apache gunship who fired a warning salvo in front of the vehicle, forcing it to stop. In the end, the terrorist was captured and all allied troops left the area.
When the show of force ended, all of the participating aircraft return for one more formation flypast. Since Gilze-Rijen is a helicopter base, there were a lot more helicopters in the display than there are in Volkel or Leeuwarden, the two other locations hosting the Open Days in turn. Both of the latter bases house F-16 Squadrons, so when the Open Days take place there, there are usually more F-16s taking part in the Air Power demo then there would be helicopters.
Participating in this year's Air Power Demonstration were four AH-64D Apaches, four F-16s, four CH-47 Chinooks, four Cougars, one C-130 and a KDC-10.
After a short brake, the RNLAF was back to display the bambi-bucket water drop. The Bambi Bucket was developed by Canadian Don Arney and is manufactured by SEI Industries since 1983. It is a s pecialised bucket suspended on a cable carried by a helicopter to deliver water for aerial firefighting.
Each bucket has a release valve on the bottom which is controlled by the helicopter crew. When the helicopter is in position, the crew releases the water (called “a drop”) to extinguish or suppress the fire below.
The design of the buckets allows the helicopter to hover over a water source, such as a lake, river, pond, or tank, and lower the bucket into the water to refill it. This allows the helicopter crew to operate the bucket in remote locations without the need to return to a permanent operating base, reducing the time between successive drops.
The Bambi Buckets are collapsible and vary in capacity from 72 to 2,600 US gallons (273 to 9,842 liters). The size of each bucket is determined by the lifting capacity of the helicopter required to utilise each version.
The firefighting demonstration was carried out using two different sizes of buckets slung underneath a Cougar and a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
Back to WWII with a display by the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF). The group is administratively part of the Royal Air Force (No 1 Group) and operates from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
Its aircraft are regularly seen at events commemorating World War II. They currently operate 7 (seven!) Supermarine Spitfires (A Mk Vb AB910, a Mk IIa P7350, a Mk PRXIX PM631, a Mk PRXIX PS915 and a Mk LF IXe MK356), two Hawker Hurricanes (both are Mk IIcs LF363 and PZ865), two Douglas Dakota's (ZA947 and FZ692), a DeHavilland Chipmunk and off-course their flagship: one of only two airworthy Avro Lancasters (PA474)
For the Open Days, the BBMF brought along two of its Spitfires (MK356 and PS915) and the Lancaster.
This was followed by the always unique formation flypast of the RNLAF AH-64D Apache of the solo display team along with the F-16 solo display team. After the flypast they broke formation and both presented their display routines. The RNLAF F-16 solo display team was one out of three F-16 displays, the other carried out by the Greek Air Force and Belgian Air Force.
Unlike previous years, the aircraft used was in normal operational colors, rather than the flashy Orange Lion scheme used before.
Following their display was a nice display of the Czech Air Force Alca L-159. The manufacturer of this multi-role combat aircraft is Czech company Aero Vodochody. Alca stands for Advanced Light Combat Aircraft. The type is derived from the Aero L-59 Super Albatros. Development of the aircraft began in 1992 and when it became operational, the Czech Air Force, which is the main operator, ordered 72 airframes in April of 1995. It exists in both a single seat and two-seat variant. On Saturday its display was slotted in between the Beaver/Harvard formation and the Austrian AF Alouette III display.
The second F-16 display was up next and this time it was our own Belgian Air Force to show off its capabilities. The 2014 Belgian Air Force F-16 Solo Display Team is based at Florennes (cycles every two or three years between Florennes and Kleine Brogel). Demonstration pilot is Renaud “Grat” Thys, with over 1200 hours of flight experience in the F-16. Grat flew his first display season in 2012.
The airframe is FA-87, which is, in keeping with recent tradition, also painted in a colorful paint scheme.
The additional use of flares during certain stages of the display sequence always brings a little extra punch to the display.
A nice addition to the aerial display is a type not regularly seen at Dutch airshows, namely the Dutch Coastguard's Dornier DO 228. The Do 228 is a twin-turboprop STOL (Short Take-Off/Landing) utility aircraft, manufactured by Dornier GmbH. Approximately 270 airframes were manufactured between 1981 and 1998.
A nice treat and very rare visitors to this region are the Spanish Air Force helicopter display team: the Patrulla Aspa. The reason they do not venture much outside of Spain is because the team consists of part-time pilots who are normally assigned for training duties.
The team was formed on September 23rd , 2003, at the Armilla Air Base and operate five Eurocopter EC-120 Colibri helicopters. Their first foreign airshow debut was made at the Portugal Air Show in 2005. The team provided a nice tight formation display and was a nice variation in the display program.
Back to some more thunder with the display of a Slovakian Air Force MiG-29. Always a crowd pleaser this smoking Russian bird! The Slovaks sent a nice example over as well with tiger markings on its tail.
The Mikoyan MiG-29 is commonly refered to by NATO as the Fulcrum. It is a twin-engine supermaneuverable jet fighter aircraft designed in the Soviet Union. It was developed by the Mikoyan design bureau as an air superiority fighter during the 1970s, the MiG-29, along with the larger Sukhoi Su-27, was developed to counter new American fighters such as the F-15 Eagle and the F-16. The MiG-29 entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1983.
The aircraft has been further developed into a multirole fighter, capable of performing a number of
different operations, and are commonly outfitted to use a range of air-to-surface armaments and precision munitions.
It is still being developed, the latest variant being the MiG-35.
The MiG-29 has also been a popular export aircraft with more than 30 nations either operating or formally operating the aircraft to date. India is currently the largest export customer of the type. Other nations include Bangladesh, Poland, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.
The Slovak Air Force performed an upgrade on their MiG-29/-29UB for NATO compatibility and is referred to as the MiG-29 AS (single seat)/UBS (dual seat).
Next up was the first demonstration of the NH90 helicopter in the BeNeLux region. The NH Industries NH90 is a medium-sized, twin-engine, multi-role military helicopter. It is the first helicopter to feature entirely fly-by-wire controls and the first helicopter to comply with full NATO helicopter requirements for a battlefield helicopter which is also capable of being operated in a naval environment.
The helicopter is capable of all-weather day-and-night operations, for both land and ship-borne operations. Two variants exist:
- NFH: NATO Frigate Helicopter
The primary role of the NFH version is autonomous anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface unit warfare (ASuW), mainly from naval ships. These aircraft are equipped for day and night, adverse weather and severe ship motion operations. Additional roles include anti-air warfare support, vertical replenishment (VERTREP), search and rescue (SAR) and troop transport. The NFH variant is also typically outfitted with dipping sonar and sonobuoy processing equipment.
- TTH: Tactical Transport Helicopter
The primary role of the TTH version is the transport of 20 troops or more than 2,500 kg of cargo, heliborne operations and search & rescue. It can quickly be adapted to MEDEVAC/CASEVAC missions by fitting up to 12 stretchers or cargo delivery capability. Additional roles include special operations, electronic warfare, airborne command post, parachuting, VIP transport and flight training.
These two main variants share about 75% commonality with each other.
Additionally, it is possible for each customer to have various alterations and customizations made to their own NH90 fleets, such as different weapons, sensors and cabin arrangements, to meet their own specific requirements. Thus, each nation's NH90 is effectively customized to the end-user's requirements..
The NH Industries company is wholly owned by Airbus Helicopters, AgustaWestland and Fokker Aerostructures. Development of the NH90 started back in 1985 when France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom joined hands to develop the NATO battlefield transport and anti-ship/anti-submarine helictoper for the 1990s. The UK left the joint venture in 1987. A new development contract was signed by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands on September 1 st , 1992, known as NAHEMA (NATO Helicopter Management Agency). They were joined by Portugal in June of 2001, who dropped back out of the programme in 2012 due to the financial crisis.
Major components are produced by each of the shareholding companies:
- Airbus Helicopters France 31.25% (Engines, Rotors, the Electrical, flight control and the core avionics systems)
- Airbus Helicopters Deutschland 31.25% (Forward and centre fuselage, the fuel, communications and avionics control systems)
- Fokker 5.5% (Tail structure, doors, sponsons, landing gear and the intermediate gearbox)
- AgustaWestland 32% (Rear fuselage, main gearbox, hydraulic system, automatic flight control and plant management systems, power plant and the NFH mission system)
The first prototype conducted its maiden flight on December 18 th , 1995. During the development phrase of the programme in the 1990s, both technical and funding problems were experienced:
- German army experts stated that the NH90 had issues regarding troop transport (the seats were only rated for 110kg, considered too light for a fully equipped soldier – the cabin floor was prone to damage from equipment – adding a rear ramp machine gun was not possible due to space taken by troop ingress and egress – no fast rope provision)
- The Australian Department of Defence identified a more pressing issue in that the helicopter suffered compressor blade rubbing caused by the bending of a spool in the Rolls-Royce engines due to uneven cooling after shutdown
- In March of 2014, the Dutch NH90 suffered higher than expected fuselage wear and corrosion following an extended deployment at sea
The issues were all addressed and the NH90 is currently being delivered to multiple countries and is beginning its operational career. Countries currently receiving or ordering the NH90 are Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Spain and Sweden.
First customer to receive the production NH90 was the German Army in late 2006. In April of 2010, the Royal Netherlands Navy was the first customer to receive the NFH variant.
The Netherlands have a total of 20 units on order: 12 NFH and 8 TNFH for the Air Force. The NH90 even saw some operational service with the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNN): in April of 2013, the RNN operated the NFH onboard HNLMS De Ruyter (F804) to help fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden. In November of 2014, the RNN deployed a single NFH to Somalia to support Operation Atalanta.
The following display was the third and last F-16 display. The last one of the day was flown by the Hellenic Air Force. The Greek F-16 demo team callsign is “Zeus”, representing the father of the Olympian Gods of the Ancient Greek Mythology.
The team is currently flying its fifth display season and it is the only Block 52+ variant of all F-16 demonstrations flown at the show.
The current team comprises personnel from the 340th and 343rd Squadrons, both of which are based at Souda Air Base. The 2014 demonstration pilot in his first season is Captain Georgios Androulakis. He joined the Hellenic Air Force Academy in 1997 and was assigned to 116CW/335SQ in 2002, flying the ? -7E Corsair ?? . In 2005 he was assigned to 115 CW/343SQ and started flying the F-16C Block 52+. He currently has over 2000 flight hours of which 1500 are on the F-16.
Second demonstration pilot is CaptainSotirios Stralis.
Back to the late 1950s-early 1960 with the Dutch Hawker Hunter Foundation's Hunter T.8C G-BWGL/‘N-321‘. The Foundation was established in 2005 by a group of military aircraft enthousiasts. Its main goal is the operation and conservation of a Hawker Hunter ex-military jet, both as a tribute to a great classic fighter aircraft and as a memento to the history of the Dutch airforce squadrons who flew the Hunter in great numbers during the 1950s and 60s.
Thanks to the support of many, the Foundation was able to acquire its Hawker Hunter T.8C in the United Kingdom from Elvington Eventes Ltd.
A second Hunter, the single seat F.6A/‘N-294, was acquired shortly after the first one.
The Foundation operates its Hunters for some 40 hours a year from Leeuwarden AFB.
Back to the present day jet age with the demonstration of the Swiss Air Force's F/A-18 Hornet. The Swiss Air Force operates a total of 26 F/A-18C (single seat) and 11 F/A-18D (dual seat) Hornets. They are designated to 17 and 18 Fighter Squadrons based at Payerne and 11 Fighter Squadron based at Meiringen.
The British Royal Air Force Display Team, the Red Arrows closed the festivities on Friday. On Saturday they displayed just before noon, before departing back to RAF Waddington, their home base.
The Red Arrows were formed back in 1964 and initially flew with seven Folland Gnat trainers.
In 1966, the team expanded to nine members and in 1979 they made the switch to the BAe Hawk trainer.
Since their existence, they've performed well over 4000 displays in over 53 countries. As usual, they showcased another example of precision flying combined with some thrilling solo passes. In 2014, the team celebrated its 50th anniversary year! Congratulations Red Arrows!
A couple of special treats were presented to the crowds on the Saturday only: the first was a combined flypast of a KLM MD-11 and a RNLAF KDC-10. The MD-11, the civil equivalent of the KDC-10 is due to be retired from the KLM fleet later in 2014. The MD-11 came in to land at Gilze-Rijen and picked up about 50 children from the “Hoogvliegers” foundation. The foundation regularly organizes flights for terminally ill children to give them a great time in an aircraft. At the end of the day, the kids boarded the MD-11 once again to depart back to Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam.
Second extra on Saturday (just before the Air Power Demo) was the QRA simulation (Quick Reaction Alert) of two F-16s scrambling to intercept the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner in commercial service in the Netherlands, operated by Arke Fly.
The Open Days always present an interesting combination of aircraft and is always greatly themed, both in the air as on the ground with a lot of things to see and participate in. The aerial displays were a thrill to see, even despite there being several holes in the programme due to some cancelations.
In 2015 there will be not Air Force Open Days, since they are held 2 times in every 3 years (alternating with Army Days and Navy Days). They will be back in 2016 at Leeuwarden Air Base in the Northern part of the Netherlands.
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