Danish airshows have always been of a very high standard and this year's event at Skrydstrup Flyvestation (air base) was no exception. When the southern most base of the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) opened its doors on the 19th of June 2016 an estimated 150,000 visitors poured onto the airfield. While the weather was mild (and mostly cloudy) the audience still enjoyed an excellent and varied flying program.
It was quite plain to see, especially amongst the static displays, that the days of 200+ aircraft attending a major aviation event are now long gone. Despite this however, it was definitely worth attending if only to see the flying displays. In addition to the obligatory Danish aircraft in attendance, it was the visiting Ukrainian aircraft that caught the attention of aircraft enthusiasts. These aircraft included two Sukhoi Su-27 (NATO code: FLANKER) and one Ilyushin IL-76MD (NATO code: CANDID) with both aircraft types proving to be outstanding highlights of the show.
Due to existing tensions between the Ukrainian State and its eastern neighbour Russia, no one really expected the Sukhoi’s to actually attend, however on the Friday before the show at exactly 0902 Zulu time (11:02h CET) the silhouettes of two Su-27’s and an IL-76 appeared on the horizon, much to the joy of the crowd. The two Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27’s were from the 831st Tactical Air Brigade based at Mirgorod while the Ilyushin belonged to the 25th Air Transport Brigade based at Melitopol. The Ukraine currently has only 11 operational FLANKER’s but according to an unconfirmed report more are expected to be refurbished and returned to service in the near future. These are aircraft that have been in storage since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the subsequent independence of the Ukraine. A local company will undertake the extensive upgrade program which includes the upgrade of aircraft currently in storage.
To round off the participation of Russian built aircraft, the Polish Air Force sent two of its Mikoyan & Gurevich MiG-29A (NATO code: FULCRUM-A) air superiority fighters. These aircraft belong to the 41.ELT - 41 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (41st Tactical Aviation Squadron) based at Malbork. A large proportion of 41st ELT aircraft originally came from the German armed forces (Tactical Air Wing 73 "Steinhoff" from Rostock/Laage AB).
The "Western" side of the flying program featured the Lockheed Martin F-16 FIGHTING FALCON. In addition to a solo display by a specially painted F-16AM of Eskadrille 727 based at Flyvestation Skrydstrup, there was also a demonstration by a Belgian Air Force F-16AM and a Hellenic Air Force F-16/Block 52 (team 'ZEUS'). Interestingly, the official name FIGHTING FALCON is not very popular amongst pilots as they usually refer to the F-16 as the VIPER – a term that sounds so much cooler!
All aircraft scheduled to attend the show were present – but with one exception! A few days before the event the Danish Government announced that Denmark is to purchase the new Lockheed Martin F-35 LIGHTNING II fighter jet as a replacement for its aging F-16 fleet (28 aircraft of 48 originally planned). As the Eurofighter EF-2000 and the Boeing F/A-18 F SUPER HORNET were now out of the race (not really a big surprise), the Boeing company proved to be a poor loser by immediately cancelling the scheduled Boeing F/A-18F SUPER HORNET solo display.
On the other hand however other Boeing manufactured aircraft made provided a sensational display at Flyvestation Skrydstrup. For the very first time in the skies over Denmark (at least at an airshow) a Boeing B-52H STRATOFORTRESS was displayed before the Danish public. Even though the B-52 performed only three fly-by’s it was still a wonderful sight to see and to be honest not more can be expected from such an old dinosaur and relic from a time when the cold war was at its peak. Still, it was a great experience for spectators to watch this magnificent aircraft in the cloudy skies over Skrydstrup.
A real highlight and one hardly noticed by many of the spectators and aviation enthusiasts in attendance was an aircraft never seen before in Denmark, the CAC-13 BOOMERANG. Originally built by CAC (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation), this Australian produced single-engine fighter aircraft was designed and built in a very short period of time, in fact only 17 weeks. The aircraft was based on the CAC WIRRAWAY trainer aircraft, a modified version of the license built North American NA-16. Referred by the locals as a "Stop-Gap-Fighter", the BOOMERANG was operated by the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) in relatively small quantities with a total of only 250 aircraft of the type being manufactured. The RAAF operated the BOOMERANG in the fighter-bomber role between 1943 and 1945. The aircraft displayed at Skrydstrup was not an original but a replica based on a North American AT-6 Harvard, incorporating many of the original parts of the CAC-13. This particular BOOMERANG has been owned by Remko Sijben of the Netherlands for almost two years.
Finally, those with an interest in helicopters did not come up not too short at Flyvestation Skrydstrup. In addition to a very dynamic display by an RDAF Agusta Westland EH-101, spectators were also presented with a relic from the arsenals of the former Warsaw Pact. A Mil Mi-24V (NATO code: HIND-E) of the Czech Air Force scored not so much for her actual display, but more so for its very scary-looking paint job sporting artwork which made this particular HIND look like an alien insect from a science fiction movie ! Hopefully we will see more of this interesting machine for a quite a few more years at air shows across Europe. Of great interest to the Danish audience was very first demonstration of the latest RDAF acquisition in the form of the Sikorsky MH-60R SEAHAWK. The SEAHAWK will replace the Westland MK. 90b LYNX helicopter operated from frigates of the Royal Danish Navy. In total, Denmark has ordered nine aircraft of this type with the first three aircraft being delivered only a few weeks prior to the show. All MH-60R will be based at Flyvestation Karup (Eskadrille 723).
Verdict: The men and women of the Danish Armed Forces have shown it is possible to organise a spectacular airshow even in todays constrained climate. A top program and a friendliness the Danes are renown for made the day a very special experience for all those involved. This is not to mention the Spotters day which took place on Saturday the 18th under quite good weather conditions where 250 accredited spotters & enthusiasts were provided with a considerable amount of unhindered access the day before the show. The opportunity to photograph the flying program from the south side of the base (with the Sun to your back), was also accepted with great enthusiasm. At this point, my special thanks goes to Capt. J. Jensen and his team for a perfectly organized day!
It was only a few years ago that the Royal Danish Air Force held an airshow at one of its three air force bases (Flyvestation Karup, Aalborg & Skrydstrup) annually. Unfortunately, due to a lack of capacity and cost, these days are long gone and now these events will take place only once every two years - much to the dismay of countless enthusiasts, especially from the Scandinavian countries. As a result of this decision the next Danish airshow will be no sooner than 2018 at Flyvestation Aalborg. CU there!
Robert Kysela / CHK6
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