In August 2020 a truly unique exercise took place in Germany: Exercise Blue Wings 2020. This exercise marked the first time that aircraft from the German Luftwaffe and Israeli Air Force (IAF) operated jointly in German skies.
After the Luftwaffe had already taken part twice in Exercise Blue Flag, which took place at IAFs Ovda airbase, it was now time to return the honour. On the 17th of August, a detachment of 180 men and women from several IAF units started the exercise at Nörvenich Air Base, just south of Cologne. Nörvenich is the home of Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 31 “Boelcke”, flying the Eurofighter.
The first week of the exercise primarily consisted of getting to know the airspace in preparation for the “MAG (Multinational Air Group) Days” exercise – an international event that takes place four times a year.
On Tuesday the 18th of August, a mixed formation of German and Israeli aircraft perfromed a fly-by over the sites of Dachau Concentration Camp, in memory of the Holocaust victims, and Fürstenfeldbrück Air Base, in memory of 11 Israeli Olympic delegation members that were murdered in the 1972 Olympics terrorist attack.
As part of the exercise, six “Barak” (F-16C/D) fighter jets, two “Re’em” (Boeing 707) aircraft, a “Nachshon-Eitam” (Gulfstream G-550) and a “Nachshon-Shavit” (Gulfstream G-V) aircraft landed at the Nörvenich Air Base. The Baraks were flown by members of 101 and 105 Squadrons, both based at Hatzor. The Re’ems were operated by 120 Squadron (nicknamed Giants), normally based at Nevatim. The two Nachshons were both flown by 122 Squadron, also based at Nevatim.
101 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as the First Fighter Squadron, is Israel’s first fighter squadron, formed on May 20, 1948, six days after Israel declared its independence. Initially flying the Avia S-199, it has since operated the Supermarine Spitfire, North American Mustang, Dassault Mystere IV, Dassault Mirage IIICJ, IAI Nesher and IAI Kfir. It currently operates out of Hatzor Airbase, flying the F-16C Fighting Falcon.
The 105 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as The Scorpion, was founded in December 1950 as a Spitfire squadron and has since operated the P-51 Mustang, Dassault Super Mystere, IAI Sa’ar, and F-4 Phantom II. It currently operates F-16Ds at Hatzor Airbase.
The 120 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as the Desert Giants (former International Squadron), is a Boeing 707 Phalcon and KC-707 Re’em squadron based at Nevatim Airbase. Eventually the KC-707s will be replaced with newly ordered KC-46s.
The 122 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as the Nahshon Squadron (former Dakota Squadron), is a G550 squadron based at Nevatim Airbase. The Squadron has five G550 (G550 “Nachshon-Eitam” and G-V (“Nachshon-Shavit”) with two aircraft are used for Airborne early warning and control (CAEW or Conformal Airborne Early Warning, IAI EL/W-2085) and three are used for Signals intelligence (SEMA or Special Electronic Missions Aircraft).
TLG 31 “Boelcke”
The Tactical Air Force Wing 31 “Boelcke” is one of four Eurofighter squadrons. With the fighter jet, the squadron makes its contribution to alliance and national defense. This mission includes ensuring air combat capability and establishing the Eurofighter’s air-to-ground capability for the Air Force. The squadron develops procedures and training principles for pilots and technicians for all German Eurofighter associations in order to establish the air-to-ground capability of the fighter jet.
In August 2020 some work needed to be done in the depots of the Dutch Nationaal Militair Museum. Because of this, several sleeping beauties (otherwise not visible to the public) were parked outside in the morning sun on the platform of the former Soesterberg Airbase.
The National Military Museum is situated on the former air base at Soesterberg. It combines the collections of the former Military Aviation Museum in Soesterberg and Army Museum in Delft. There are numerous pieces on display, including tanks, planes, armoured vehicles and helicopters.
Considering the fact that a heatwave was taking place, as well as that we were in the middle of school holidays, the choice was made to visit the site in the early morning.
At 7.30 in the morning the August summer sun provides a beautiful low light, which emphasizes the beautiful lines and pristine conditions of these aircraft. Some are so well preserved that you could almost fire them up and fly away.
These aircraft were all moved back inside once the maintenance work in the depot was finished. When will we see them aiagin? Hopefully very soon….
Do you want to know more about the NMM and the former Soesterberg Airbase? Then visit the WEBSITE of the NMM.
After the arrival of the first two Lufthansa Boeing 747s at Twente Airport (see http://niekvanderzande.nl/two-cranes-park-in-twente/ ), a third one arrived for storage at Twente Airport on the 29th of June.
Because of ongoing cost reductions, Lufthansa has decided to put 6 Boeing 747-430s in long term storage at Twente Airport. In order to facililtate this, several dedicated aircraft parking platforms have been created next to the main platform.
The third Lufthansa 747 to arrive was D-ABTK, which is 18.5 years old. It was initially withdrawn from use at Frankfurt in March 2020. After some rescheduling, it was then ferried to Twente on the 29th of June.
Upon arrival, D-ABTK was initially parked at the former Runway 11 platform. Later that week she was moved to the newly created parkingspots.
Airplane enthusiast faced an early start on Saturday 6 June for the arrival of two Lufthansa Boeing 747-400s that will be stored at Twente Airport. Initial rumours on the ever-reliable internet mentioned that these aircraft would be dismantled with AELS, but AELS was quick to mention that this was not the case.
These two aircraft are the first of in total six Boeing 747s that will be stored at Twente Airport for Lufthansa. Whilst parked here, the Cranes (nickname for Lufthansa aircraft) will be maintained by Lufthansa Technik, so that they can be restored into airworthy condition at any given time.
Due to the loss in demand and the many travel restrictions, Lufthansa has to keep a large part of the fleet grounded. Initially this was done at their hubs like Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg. However, these airports are now slowly starting up their operations again, which means that some of the parking space over there is needed for other purposes.
Because of this, Lufthansa came to an agreement with Twente Airport for the storage of 6 aircraft. Since Twente has a runway that is wide and long enough (almost 3000m), it is able to handle large aircraft like the Boeing 747.
Earlier this year, two factory fresh Airbus 220s were already parked at Twente Airport whilst the lease company was looking for a new customer.
The first aircraft to arrive on 6 June was D-ABVO named Mülheim a.d. Ruhr, which landed shortly before 8 am. This 747 arrived directly from Beijing, where it was ferried earlier this year for a C-Check. However, because of the Covid-19 crisis, this check was postponed and the aircraft was flown to Twente. The crew was not that confident that this particular airframe would fly again, as it is already more than 23 years old and the demand for large aircraft is less.
Two hours later her younger sister D-ABTL arrived from Frankfurt, which was with a flighttime of 45 minutes a lot shorter. After arrival, she was directly parked at the former runway 11, where Lufthansa Technik will prepare her for the long term storage.
After parking, there was a quick moment for a group picture, after which both crews flew back to Frankfurt in a Piper 34. That’s also one of the perks of storing aircraft close to home; you can fly back with a small aircraft.
At this moment, it is not yet known when the other 4 Boeings will arrive. In order to park them, first the new parking positions that are currently under construction at Twente Airport need to be ready.
After a period of almost 2 months, Lifeliner 5 made the last operational flight on 20 May 2020. This flight between Hamburg and Venlo ended an intense period during the COVID-19 crisis.
As of the 24th of March the fifth Mobile Medical Team (MMT) took to the air with an additional trauma helicopter to quickly transport intensive care patients. This helicopter was deployable throughout the Netherlands.
In view of the growth in the number of patients infected with the coronavirus, it has been decided to use this helicopter in addition to the existing MMT service to get patients to the right hospital even faster and thus relieve the burden on road transport.
The helicopter (type H145) was made available by the ANWB Medical Air Assistance (MAA) and has been fully equipped by Radboudumc for the transport of intensive care patients. The team flew in protective gear to avoid getting infected. The helicopter was completely disinfected after each transport.
The helicopter, which is normally in use as an ambulance helicopter to serve the Wadden Islands, was temporarily based at Volkel Airbase and available from 7 in the morning till 7 in the evening. Between the 6th of April and the 2nd of May the second “Waddenheli” was also put in use as an MMT Helicopter, this Lifeliner 6 was based at Groningen Eelde Airport. During this period a NH90 of the Royal Netherlands Airforce was on stand-by to carry out ambulance duties for the Wadden Islands.
The helicopter crew consists of a pilot, a specialized MMT nurse and an anesthetist-MMT doctor. This helicopter is larger than the regular helicopter used by MMTs and offers more space to transport a patient and to provide proper care.
Lifeliner 5 transported the last COVID-19 intensive care patient on Wednesday, May 20. Due to the decreasing number of corona patients, long-distance interregional intensive care transport is no longer necessary. IC patients can also be transported by road over a short distance from 22 May.
Lifeliner 5 was made available by ANWB Medical Air Assistance at the time of increasing demand for MICU transport, and was fully equipped by the ANWB together with Radboudumc for the transport of intensive care patients with the COVID-19 virus. The medical crew consisted of members of the regular MMT of the Radboudumc. Lifeliner 5 transported 66 corona patients and 2 non-COVID intensive care patients from the Volkel site. Most of the patients came from hospitals in the south of the country and were brought to the north of the Netherlands and to Germany, and vice versa.
The Lifeliner 5 last flew with a corona patient from Hamburg to Venlo on Wednesday 20 May. This patient had spent six weeks in Germany – without a visit – at the ICU and was allowed to return to Venlo that day. Lifeliner 5 returned to its regular location in Lelystad on Friday 22 May, where it will be used as a backup ambulance helicopter for flights between the Wadden Islands and the mainland.
From 12 to 14 May 2020 Skyvan OE-FDI of Pink Skyvan Aviation flew from Twente Airport in order to exercise with the Dutch Army.
The annual overview is now online. Enjoy 12 minutes of sights and sounds.
From August 23 to 30, 2019, six Mirage 2000-5 of the Groupe de Chasse 1/2 “Cigognes” participated in exercise Épervier 2019, from Payerne air base in Switzerland. This is an air training that allows French air defense pilots, to perform complex missions with the Swiss F/A-18 Hornet.
Arriving from Luxeuil Air Base, the 79 airmen joined the town of Payerne in northwestern Switzerland on August 23rd. For the 2019 edition of the exercise “Épervier”, the fifteen pilots of the “Cigognes” trained missions of a very high tactical scenarios alongside Swiss F/A-18 Hornet pilots of Fliegerstaffel 11. Organized by the Swiss Air Force, on their largest military air base, this bilateral exercise aims to consolidate the existing links between the two nations but also to carry out joint air defense missions: the main mission of the Mirage 2000-5 and Swiss F/A-18 Hornets.
To ensure the “first-in-first” air defense mission, the fighter jets trained four rounds a day for one week to deal with air-to-air threats during complex-level missions. mixed fighter forces operation (MFFO), also known as mixed patrols, composed of both Mirages and Hornets.
Fighting over the snow-capped Swiss mountains, the pilots, whether they are young qualified or more experienced patrolmen, play blue air (friendly forces) and red air (enemy forces) in turn.
On Friday 30 August one more mission was flown before the French contingent returned to their homebase in Luxeuil.
The month of September is traditionally the period when Operation Market Garden is commemorated in the Netherlands. This year was the 75th anniversary of this failed operation.
On Friday the 20th of September the Ginkelse Heide area was the scene of the rehearsals for the 75 Years Market Garden commemmorations.
Since I had the idea that the crowd would be immense on the Saturday, I decided to have a look at these rehearsals.
That day three waves of paradrops were flown. I missed the first wave, since it was decided to close the N224 road at that point. I was then stuck in the forest, 600 meters away from the drop zone.
When the 2nd wave was flow, I quickly realised that light conditions were terrible, looking straight into the sun. I therefore decided to relocate and was able to face the drops from the front when the 3rd wave was flown.
All in all it was a very impressive sight to see all these paratroopers jump from the planes.