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  • Writer's pictureLudo Mennes

2021 RNLAF sunset flying

Due to the worldwide pandemic the Royal Netherlands Air Force was forced to fly more missions at home in 2020. The normal training grounds in the USA were mostly off limits therefore exercises were flown over Dutch soil. Despite lock downs and different measures the increased activities offered some very nice old fashioned aircraft (and helicopter) spotting opportunities at the fences of the Dutch bases.

In November the 322 TACTES Squadron deployed four brand new F-35A Lightning IIs from Leeuwarden to Volkel Airbase for exercise "Frisian Lightning". A simulated two weeks long deployment to test the out of area operations for their IQT.

This deployment offered aircraft enthusiasts a great opportunity to see the aircraft operate from close by, together with the home based F-16s. The weather played ball on a number of days catching the aircraft in the best possible light conditions!

F-35A Lightning II returns just after sunset in some spectacular light
Dutch F-35A about to touch down after a North Sea dusk mission
RNLAF F-16AM in the best light conditions at Volkel Airbase

From 23 November until 10 December 2020 the 336 Squadron "Blackbulls" was involved in the two weeks long exercise "Werewolf Resilience". For the last two years the squadron operated out of MCAS Yuma, Arizona, USA., however this year the unit used its own airbase of Eindhoven and the small air strip of Weelde in Belgium. Working together with the Commandos, Marines and the 11th Air Mobility Brigade the squadron flew two missions per day practising low level flying, night flying, cargo drops and tactical approaches.

Two C-130s of 336 Squadron taxy out for the next mission
RNLAF C-130H during sunset over Holland
Special tail C-130H G-781 taxies in just after sunset during exercise "Werewolf Resilience"
C-130H performing a tactical approach over Eindhoven Airbase turning to finals

Although the Dutch weather in winter time is mostly grey, occasionally the skies are blue and offer great opportunity for sunset shots. In the winter months Leeuwarden Airbase was visited a number of times for some local shooting of the soon to depart F-16s. The last ones will leave the base mid 2021 after over 40 years of operations.

Dutch F-35A F-013 during its second flight from Leeuwarden Airbase
322 TACTESS F-16AM banking away from the town of Marsum during a sunset mission

The waiting can be very awarding, especially when the locals play around and make several approaches, offering the possibility to find the right spot!

Overshooting runway 23 of Leeuwarden Airbase a F-16AM climbes out again

The end of the Leeuwarden F-16s is near after 41 years of service

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