There wasn't a huge amount of rotary-wing aircraft to be seen at this year's Luchtmachtdagen. The recent grounding of the Dutch AH-64 Apache fleet due to "an apparent defect in the tail-rotor" resulted in their absence, most noticeably in the Role Demo, where the Apaches are normally very active and appreciated with the associated pyrotechnics that accompany their participation. Meanwhile the Dutch CH-47F fleet was absent as they are currently undergoing a modernisation programme. A flying demonstration was provided by one of the Dutch NH.90 helicopters, a recently upgraded RAF Puma was in the static display and of course the Role Demo went ahead, where both Chinook and Cougar helicopters participated.
Seen taking part in the Role Demo, the Dutch Cougars have had a somewhat strange career with the RNLAF
Having seen some airframes withdrawn, then later given a reprieve and re-entering service
Owned by Stichting Postbellum Foundation, Cessna O-2A #N590D was built in 1967 as the sixth O-2A to come off the production line. Painted in its former USAF colours and serial 67-21300, it served for three years in Vietnam before being flown back to the US, where it served until well into the 1980's. It was then sold onto the civil market and in the early 2000's was fully restored to its original state in Camarillo, California.
The Cessna O-2A's origins go back to the Vietnam conflict, when American forces needed a reliable and rugged platform for Forward Air Control (FAC) - finding and marking targets for bomber aircraft. Between 1967 and 1970 Cessna built over five hundred O-2s.
Classic SAAB types in action at Volkel 2019
The mighty AJS.37 Viggen (left) and the SK.35C Draken (right)
With the Royal Air Force having relinquished its Tornado aircraft, it is now down to the Italian and German Air Forces to provide examples of the much-loved 'Tonka' at European airshows
Arriving for display in the static park is this Tornado IDS from Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 33 (TLG 33) of the Luftwaffe at Büchel Air Base
Upon completion of the role demo, the equivalent of the U.S Air Forces 'heritage Flight' took to the skies
Made up of a single Supermarine Spitfire, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-35A Lightning II
The Dutch NH.90s are operated by the Defence Helicopter Command's 860 Squadron at Naval Air Station De Kooy
A CH-47D Chinook with an under-slung load hovers over the airfield
is another ex-military aircraft now sporting a civilian identity. The aircraft is an ex-East German Air Force trainer, one of many of the type that was once the ultimate fast-jet trainer for Warsaw-Pact countries. Now carrying serial NX139LE, the aircraft is captured banking in hard in between a thunderstorm.
A Dutch F-16AM leaves a huge jet of hot air behind it as it blasts out of Volkel in full afterburner
The aircraft is one of many that took part in the Role demo
The Role Demo is a regular feature of Lucthmachtdagen and is also a very popular event amongst the thousands of spectators. Multiple launches of F-16 Fighting Falcons, simulated airfield attacks by the F-16s, para-drops of both men and cargo from C-130 Hercules, support CH-47D Chinook and AS.532 Cougar helicopters providing support to the ground troops by carrying both additional personnel and other equipment all add to the excitement. Normally AH-64D Apache helicopters also provide support with the associated pyrotechnics giving the 'attack' a touch of realism, but as already mentioned they were noticeable by their absence due to them being grounded. But the F-16s provided plenty of flares to keep the crowd interested, and the C-130 even got in on the action at the end by also giving the crowd a huge shower of flares to round off the event.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning shows off its prowess at Luchtmachtdagen 2019
Without doubt the 'must-see' aircraft at this year's show were the F-35A Lightning IIs of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Two F-35As flew from the United States to attend the event, prior to entering frontline service with the Klu in 2020, when the first aircraft are due to arrive at Leeuwarden Air Base. The two aircraft (#F-001 and #F-008) eventually arrived just hours before the show, finally landing at Volkel late Thursday evening after experiencing problems with the original KDC-10 that was sent to the U.S to provide aerial refuelling for the trans-Atlantic crossing. The KLu sending a second KDC-10 across the 'pond' to support the deployment, resulting in a delay to their arrival. Both F-35A Lightnings are currently used as test aircraft with the 323 TES (Test & Evaluation Squadron) at Edwards AFB, California.
Something you don't see too often in Europe is a flying display by a Boeing C-17A Globemaster
The 452nd Air Mobility Wing, Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC), from March Air Reserve Base, flew on both days of the show, impressing the crowds with a demonstration of this large aircraft's agility
Amongst the Dutch F-16s taking part was #J-642, which had recently received a specially painted commemorative
tail to honour 40 years of the Fighting Falcon in service with the Royal Netherlands Air Force
The day before the airshow provided some nice opportunities to photograph arrivals from outside the base
This twin-seat F-16BM Fighting Falcon from the Royal Norwegian Air Force was one such aircraft
The Royal Netherlands Air Force Luchtmachtdagen (Air Force Days) returned to the North Brabant region of the Netherlands in 2019 at Vliegbasis Volkel. Last held at Volkel in 2013, plans were put in place during 2014 to make the once annual airshow a biennial event that rotates around the various Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) bases across the country. However, due to a "lack of capacity due to deployment during missions" the show was not held in 2017 and 2018, thus returning after a 3-year absence. In 2019 the 'Air Force Days' were held on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th June, with a 'Spotters Day' on Thursday 13th, which gave aviation enthusiasts an additional opportunity to 'get their fill', with flying demonstrations from Dutch and foreign aircraft and a static show of aircraft on the ground, and unlike the majority of airshows around Europe, the event is free for everyone.
The immaculate and historic Cessna O-2A #N590D/67-21300 is seen on final approach at Volkel on 13th June 2019
Closing the report for Volkel 2019, we end with one of the RNLAF's two KDC-10 tanker aircraft
With just a few short months left before the aircraft is withdrawn in December this year, #T-264 performed a flypast with it refuelling boom lowered. I have had the pleasure of flying in this particular aircraft, a classic airliner converted to an air-to-air refuelling aircraft that has served the RNLAF for many years. The KDC-10 will be the only such aircraft operated by the Dutch, as they will be replaced by a pooled fleet of Airbus A330-MRTT aircraft, owned and operated by a number of NATO-member countries. I for one will miss them!
With the McDonnell-Douglas F-4 rapidly diminishing in numbers around the world, the Hellenic Air Force Phantoms are always popular attendees at any airshow, especially those that wear special schemes
Skyline Aviation provides high performance aircraft support to government and corporate clients, offering tailor-made solutions in electronic warfare training, JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) training, target towing and radar calibration services; operating from its home base at Eelde, Netherlands. The Aero-Vodochody L.39ZO that attended Volkel
Sporting some rather smart yellow 'smokewinders' on its wingtips, this F-16AM gets airborne for the role demo
The F-16 will gradually be replaced by the F-35A in RNLAF service over the next few years
As if the Draken wasn't impressive enough, the mighty AJS-37 Viggen surpasses even that
The AJ-version of the Viggen was produced as a ground-attack aircraft and entered service in 1971, whilst the AJS-version with upgraded avionics began to enter service from 1993 onwards
Rotary-Wing Assets ............
In 2007 the aircraft changed into Dutch hands and was transferred to Hunter Flying at Exeter, where she had Dutch military markings applied. In 2008 DHHF got permission from RNLAF to operate a second Hunter from Leeuwarden AB alongside its two-seater T.8C #N-321, and the aircraft was flown to Leeuwarden in April 2009.
Also on display from the AMI was one of their recently delivered trainer aircraft from 61º Stormo
Operating alongside the fleet of T-339 trainers, the T-346A is part of the Italian Air Force's la Scuola di Volo (Flight School), based at Galatina air base, Lecce
The Belgian Air Component displayed this nicely painted F-16AM Fighting Falcon, which carried a tail scheme to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day; also carrying black/white invasion stripes
The Austrian Air Force provided two Pilatus PC-7 trainer aircraft, both painted in special schemes
The aircraft above also gave a spirited flying display on the Friday
The SK-35C Draken (#35810) was built in 1962 and is one of only 25 of the two-seat trainer versions built
The Draken was Sweden's first jet fighter capable of achieving Mach 2
Another historic ex-Dutch type on display was this DHC-2 Beaver. Operated between 1955-74, the nine Beavers delivered to Holland were actually owned by the Army, but operated by the Air Force as liaison aircraft.
After the type was withdrawn from service #S-9 was maintained in airworthy condition and is operated by the RNLAF Historic Flight at Gilze-Rijen air base
The Spanish Air Force's 142 Escuadrón is based at Los Llanos, near Albacete as part of Ala.14. In 1986 the unit became a member of the NATO Tiger Community and the Eurofighter Tifón above is decorated in special markings to demonstrate the unit's membership
Luchtmachtdagen Volkel 2019
The aircraft operated by the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight (SwAFHF) include a number of unique aircraft, particularly as they are preserved and maintained in flying condition. They include Draken and Viggen aircraft designed and built by SAAB, both types demonstrating at Volkel. The SwAFHF also operate flyable Hawker Hawker Hunter, D.H Vampire, SAAB 105, SAAB Lansen, SAAB Safir, Harvard and Bulldog aircraft. Pilots and technical staff are all ex-Swedish Air Force personnel SwAFHF, with operations led by a board authorized by the Swedish Transport Agency. The aim of the SwAFHF is for the aircraft to be painted and equipped as at the time they flew with the Swedish Air Force. The aircraft all carry civilian registrations, allowing them to operate outside of their homeland without the restrictions placed on military aircraft.
As with many airshows in recent years, the number of participating aircraft has dropped considerably in comparison to years gone by. The reduction in aircraft numbers in service with most air forces has obviously been the main reason behind this, but re-equipment plans has also had an impact. Introduction of the F-35 and new tanker aircraft in the shape of the A330-MRTT being examples. As older types are withdrawn and newer types replace them, normally in fewer numbers, this undoubtedly has an impact on what is available to show the public; add this to general fiscal budgets and the impact is clear. This was very noticeable at Volkel where the large numbers of civilian aircraft present almost outnumbered the military types on show.
As previously mentioned, two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs flew from the USA to participate in Luchmachtdagen 2019. Aircraft #F-001 is the oldest F-35 aircraft owned by the RNLAF, having rolled off the production line in Fort Worth 1st April 2012 and making its first flight 6th August the same year. Although this is the second time this particular aircraft has visited the Netherlands (having also been at the Leeuwarden airshow in 2016), it is planned that the aircraft will remain in the U.S as a test & evaluation aircraft for the remainder of its lifespan. The aircraft currently sports a special tail scheme commemorating the 70th anniversary of 323 Squadron and carries outlines of the five aircraft flown by the unit throughout its history - Gloster Meteor, Hawker Hunter, Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, General Dynamics F-16 and of course the F-35.
Flares aplenty as the RNLAF F-16 Fighting Falcons thrill the crowds
The static display was dominated by the first Airbus A330-MRTT for the Multi-national Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF). The aircraft was still in its primer paint and awaiting addition of its serial T-054. The aircraft is scheduled to join the fleet in June 2020 when it will be delivered to Eindhoven air base
The F-35A participated in the flying displays on both days of the show; taking part in the Role Demo along with the F-16s and also as part of a Heritage Flight with a F-16 and Spitfire
The role demo commenced with parachutists jumping from a C-130H Hercules of the RNLAF's 336 Squadron
The Herc' then did a cargo-drop of containers over the airfield in support of the parachutists
The Dutch Hawker Hunter Foundation (DHHF) was established in 2005 by a group of military aircraft enthusiasts with the aim to operate and conserve a Hawker Hunter jet, both as a tribute to this classic fighter aircraft and also as a memento to the history of the Dutch Air Force squadrons that operated the type.
DHHF’s single seater F.6 (N-294) was manufactured at Hawker’s Coventry production facility in 1956. The aircraft joined the Royal Air Force's 247 Squadron in 1957 as #XF515 and later that year was assigned to 43 Squadron at RAF Leuchars. The aircraft later went to RAF Brawdy, where it was used for training purposes. It was then modified to F.6A standard by strengthening the wings and the addition of a brake chute, finally retiring in 1995. After extensive restoration by Kennet Aviation at North Weald, XF515 took to the sky again in 1998 in 43 Squadron markings under the civil registration G-KAXF.
#F-008 is the last U.S-built F-35 for the Dutch Air Force, making its first flight from Fort Worth 15th April 2019
The remaining F-35s on order for the RNLAF will be produced at the Cameri facility in Italy
Another AMI aircraft was this Eurofighter Typhoon from 37º Stormo based at Trapani, Sicily. The Typhoon is used primarily
by the AMI in the air-to-air role, unlike the Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR.4s which very much have a 'swing-role' capability
The Royal Air Force Puma HC.2 is a medium support helicopter operating with Joint Helicopter Command (JHC)
The aircraft is used in a variety of combat roles, including the tactical movement of troops, weapons, ammunition and stores on the battlefield, as well as the extraction of casualties and medical emergencies
Not wanting to be outdone in the flares department, the C-130 Hercules brought the role demo to a dramatic end
Highlights of Luchtmachtdagen 2019 included appearances by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows, the Swiss Air Force Patrouille Suisse and the Armée de l'Air Patrouille de France. Historic older types on show included the impressive Swedish Air Force Historic Flight with their Saab Draken and Saab Viggen, plus a Hawker Hunter F.6 in Royal Netherlands Air Force markings, all of which gave flying demonstrations. As is the norm with Luchtmachtdagen events, the Dutch Air Force flexed its muscles during the much anticipated Air Power Demo, which included the new Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, a pair of which had flown all the way from the United States where they are currently conducting tests prior to being formally introduced into RNLAF service, plus large numbers of the ubiquitous F-16; with both the Cougar and Chinook helicopters also taking part.
Also providing a F-35A Lightning II for this year's event was the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI)
Strangely though, the aircraft was displayed in the static park in a somewhat difficult position for the general public to see or photograph. But of course you can rely on us to get an image of it to show you