Exercises Frisian Flag, Cold Response cancelled due to COVID-19

The Dutch Ministry of Defence (MoD) has cancelled Exercise Frisian Flag – which was due to be hosted at Leeuwarden Air Base from March 23 to April 3 – in an effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In a press release, the MoD said: “[Defence] takes measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands but must guarantee any serious effort (such as airspace surveillance). Therefore, it is not possible to provide the necessary support for the exercise.

Units and personnel from the nation’s other provinces, along with international air arms, were to take part in the exercise scheduled to take place in the Dutch province of Friesland, and posed a risk in spreading the virus further in the Netherlands.

Frisian Flag Cancelled (Dutch F-16) [Dutch MoD] #1
A Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16AM Fighting Falcon - serial J-197 (c/n 6D-104) - from 312/313 Squadron, in flight. Dutch MoD

In addition to Frisian Flag being abandoned, the Dutch MoD has cancelled its participation in the Helicopter Weapon Instructors Course (HWIC), which was to take place in Germany. The MoD added that the course will be rescheduled later this year.

The cancellation of Frisian Flag follows an announcement from the Norwegian military on March 11 that Exercise Cold Response – hosted by Norway – will be discontinued due to the COVID-19 threat. Dutch participation in the international exercise was scheduled to end today.

The Dutch MoD has also announced the cancellation of a media day for the large-scale Exercise Defender 2020, which was planned to take place on March 14. The event itself is also likely to be cancelled too.

With regards to COVID 19, the Dutch MoD said: “The [defence organisation] closely monitors the situation regarding the distribution of COVID-19 and follows the advice of the [Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)]. For each exercise, it is considered whether it can continue, possibly with additional measures, or whether it will be [cancelled].”