Exercise Falcon Leap 2022
From 5 to 16 September the international exercise Falcon Leap took place. This yearly exercise which is all about practicing in Airborne Operations was organized for the first time in the year 2015.
This year more than 1000 soldiers from 13 different countries participated in the exercise. Falcon Leap is organized by the 11e Airmobile Brigade of the Royal Netherlands Army in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Air Force it is the largest NATO technical Airborne exercise in Europe, and is strongly linked to the commemorations of Operation Market Garden which took place in September 1944 during WWII.
Air Cargo droppings
The first week of Falcon Leap mainly focuses on the air cargo droppings. This year the droppings were carried out above training areas in Marnewaard in The Netherlands and Schaffen in Belgium.
By dropping cargo from planes, soldiers can still be supplied during deployments in places that are hard to reach. By these sort of Airborne operations it is also possible to provide food and aid packages to people in disaster areas. Various loads were dropped above the training areas, for example various container delivery systems were dropped, but also some heavy loads, this concerned one large heavy piece of cargo, which must be dropped above a certain part in the training area. Air operations took place from Eindhoven airbase located in the province of Noord Brabant in The Netherlands.
During the first week of the exercise two C-130H’s of the Netherlands Air Force 336 squadron, an Italian Air Force C-130J and a Polish Air Force Cassa 295 took part in the cargo droppings. Several missions were flown during the first week of the exercise, unfortunately some missions had to be cancelled due to bad weather conditions. The missions were flown in the morning, afternoon and in the evening.
Overview of participating aircraft during the first week of Falcon Leap:
Royal Netherlands Airforce: 336 squadron with C-130H and C-130H-30 from Eindhoven airbase
Polish Air Force: 13 Eskadra Lotnictwa Transportowego with Cassa 295M from Krakow-Balice airbase.
Romanian Air Force: Escadrila 902 with C-27J from Baza 90 Bucuresti – Otopeni airbase
Italian Air Force: 46 Brigata Aerea with C-130J-30 from Pisa San Giusto airbase
The second week of Falcon Leap is entirely devoted to the para droppings, during this year’s edition of the exercise droppings were carried out above the Hechtelse Heide in Belgium and in Houtdorperveld, Renkum and the Ginkelse Heide in The Netherlands. Several NATO countries took part in the second week of Falcon Leap. This year paratroopers from the Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, Romania, Portugal, France, Greece, the Czech Republic and the United States participated in the para droppings.
Like every edition also several military and civilian aircraft participated in the second week of the exercise, this year the United States took part with three C-130J’s from the Texas Air National Guard, the Royal Air Force was present with a C-130J Hercules C.4, the Polish Air Force with an Cassa 295, while the Romanian Air Force took part with a C-27 Spartan.
As in the first week the Italian Air Force participated in the second week with a C-130J, The Netherlands Air Force took part with two of their C-130’s. Furthermore two civilian SC-7 Skyvans and two M-28 Skytruck aircraft were used for the para droppings, last but not least is the Czech Air Force that took part with an Mi-17 Hip transport helicopter.
Each day two to three missions were flown from Eindhoven to the drop zones, the missions took place in the morning and in the afternoon.
Overview of participating aircraft during the second week of Falcon Leap:
Royal Netherlands Air Force: 336 squadron with C-130H and C-130H.30 from Eindhoven airbase.
Italian Air Force: 46 Brigata Aerea with C-130J from Pisa San Giusto airbase
Romanian Air Force: Eskadrila 902 with C-27J from Baza 90 Bucuresti – Otopeni airbase
Polish Air Force: 13 Eskadra Lotnictwa with Cassa 295M from Krakow – Balice airbase
Royal Air Force: 47 Squadron with Hercules C.4 from RAF Brize Norton airbase
United States Air Force Texas Air National Guard: 181 Airlift Squadron with C-130J.30 from Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas
Czech Air Force : 243 Vrtulníkovou with Mi-17 from Praha-Kbely airbase
The following civilian aircraft were operating out of Eindhoven airbase for exercise Falcon Leap they only took part in the second week of the exercise and were used for the para droppings
Aero Legends, Headcorn, Kent UK with C-47 Dakota
PD Air Operation Magdeburg, Germany with M-28 Skytruck
Pink Aviation Service Vienna, Austria with SC-7 Skyvan
Operation Market Garden
Like every year, Falcon Leap ends with the annual commemoration of Operation Market Garden. Operation Market Garden was one of the largest allied operations of WWII and took place in September 1944. The aim was to acquire the bridges over the rivers Maas, Waal and Rhine in The Netherlands. The bridges over the Dutch rivers where crucial points on the route of Operation Market Garden and had to be taken by the allied forces. This year marked the 78th anniversary of Operation Market Garden.
The highlight of the commemoration are the memorial jumps above the Ginkelse Heide which saw massive para droppings of allied forces on 17 September 1944. So as usual, also this year most of the paratroopers and military aircraft that took part in Falcon Leap were also participating in the massive para dropping for the Market Garden commemoration which took place on 17 September 2022 at the Ginkelse Heide.
Every year a large audience comes to watch the commemoration and also this year some veterans that took part in the para droppings for Operation Market Garden during WWII were attending the commemoration. There are not many Market Garden veterans among us anymore, the veterans who are still alive are now at least 90 years or older, it is a great honor that these veterans can attend the commemoration and pay respect to their fallen comrades.
Despite the bad weather on a few days during the first and second week of the exercise, the necessary missions were flown and large numbers of cargo were dropped in the first week. During the second week of Falcon Leap no less than 2.500 para jumps were performed above the training areas in The Netherlands and Belgium. With the massive para dropping over the Ginkelse Heide for the commemoration of Operation Market Garden the exercise could be concluded in a beautiful way.