NATO Days 2012 - Ostrava / Czech Republic

On the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd of September 2012 (for the 12th time now), NATO Days was held on the grounds of the airport of Ostrava-Mosnov. This event is not an air show in the traditional sense but rather a showcase of all branches of the armed forces of NATO and its allies. It all started in 2001 at the convention center in the city of Ostrava - Special Forces and Military Police made presentations in the local area initially to 10,000 people. In order to be able to offer the interested audience spectacular demonstrations, it was decided in 2003, that the event would relocate to the airport area of ??Ostrava. At that time the display of a Mil Mi-24 HIND was the highlight of the show, which attracted 25,000 visitors. And so the audience interest grew steadily, not least because of the increasingly international field of participants. This year 's edition made up of 19 nations’ participation and over 208,000 visitors created new records that make NATO Days one of the biggest military events in Central Europe.
In this article we will, however, deal only with the flying participants and there were some 250 minutes of concentrated action in the air and a few rarities in the static performance show to see. Premieres this year included items such as the flight demonstration of the legendary strategic bomber Boeing B-52H STRATOFORTRESS, in-flight refueling of a Czech Saab JAS-39 GRIPEN by a French Boeing C-135FR STRATOTANKER, the demonstration of the newly established RAMEX DELTA team flying two Dassault MIRAGE 2000 N, and outside of Turkey the rarely sighted SOLOTUERK display on a Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40 FIGHTING FALCON as well as rare pieces at the bottom of the Estonian Air Force, represented by an Aero L-39 ALBATROS and an Antonov An-2, just to name a few.


The gates to the display area opened to the already numerous waiting visitors at 8:30 am and shortly after nine o'clock the flying program began. This was the same on both days, and commenced with the Austrian Eurofighter EF-2000 TYPHOON Surveillance Wing from Zeltweg. As usual at gigs for the Austrian Eurofighter in neighboring countries, the aircraft took off directly from its home base. However, they confined themselves this time not to a few flybys but showed a very handsome full display. Immediately afterwards followed a Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29AS (NATO Code: FULCRUM) from the Slovak Armed Forces. This would not be the only appearance of this machine. Together with a second FULCRUM the fighter pilots from the 1st squadron from Sliac showed that despite the use of flares, the audience could not be wanting more. However, the Alenia C-27J SPARTAN presented by the Italian Air Force was not to be overshadowed. When does one see someone flying a twin-engined transport plane performing rolls and loops? After the first of four displays of the Royal Air Force (in addition to the Beechcraft KING AIR 200, there was the famous RAF RED ARROWS as well as the TUCANO SOLO DISPLAY TEAM to see) there followed the first major appearance of the Czech Air Force. Starting with a flyby of the flying inventory there was a Czech air refueling demonstration of a local Saab JAS-39 GRIPEN to see. Fuel was served by a Boeing C-135 FR STRATOTANKER of the French Arm‚e de l'Air. Once noon arrived it was heralded with a helicopter display by an Austrian Air Force Sikorsky S-70A BLACKHAWK and a Swiss Aerospatiale AS-332M1 SUPER PUMA and demonstrations of ground forces who marched more peacefully than their air bound colleagues, stood in the afternoon at the Airpower pure program. The beginning was the newly founded SOLOTURK display team. The occasion celebrated the (2011) 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Air Force – the team flies in a black, gold, and silver decorated Lockheed Martin F -16C Block40 FIGHTING FALCON. For the high quality demonstration provided, it merited the gain of the King Hussein Memorial Sword trophy at last years ROYAL INTERNATIONAL AIR TATTOO in Fairford – this speaks for itself in terms of the quality of its flight demonstration.


After a no less spectacular performance of an Italian Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon came the next highlight - two Sukhoi Su-22M4 FITTER from the Polish Air Force. Once the most widespread of the Warsaw Pact bombers, this aircraft is operated today only by Poland, and of the variously modified airframes there are currently still about 45 pieces in inventory. With the numerous flybys the swept wing fighter were demonstrated very well, in which the aircraft flew into each different angle of its swept wings. Another treat was the French RAMEX DELTA team on two Dassault MIRAGE 2000N. This newly founded team presented itself for the first time outside the country's borders and showed very well the excellent properties of this low-flying fighter bomber, which can be equipped in an emergency with nuclear weapons. In a significantly higher weight class, the following program was to settle - the eight-engined bomber Boeing B-52H STRATOFORTRESS. Two aircraft of the 307th Bomb Wing of the U.S. Air Force Reserve came to the "NATO DAYS" one of which was parked in the static and also available for tour. After these dinosaurs in aviation history there is no successor in sight for miles, the last aircraft will remain in service until at least 2040, and thus are among the longest serving aircraft in the history of military aviation.


There was a somewhat older bomber as the next program piece to see, namely the restored (in many hours of meticulous work) North American B-25J MITCHELL, built in 1944, by the FLYING BULLS. As a regular at Ostrava one could even consider almost the Koninklijke Luchtmacht`s (RNLAF) F-16 DEMO TEAM, which has for years been painted in Orange colour with her aircraft as a welcome guest on European airshows. This year there was another aerobatics team in the flying program to see, namely the RAF RED ARROWS, which six years ago celebrated its premiere in Ostrava. A tragic accident last year denied the REDs the year’s airshow season with a full team, and they therefore presented only with seven aircraft. The Royal Air Force was further represented with their solo display teams like the Shorts Tucano T Mk.1 and the BAE HAWK T Mk.1A, each in very nice special finishes. The Czech armed forces simulated a hostage rescue from the air, in a raid of two Mil Mi-171s (NATO Code: HIP) covered by a Mil Mi-24V (NATO Code: HIND) controlled the battleground situation from the air. The final point of the very varied and spectacular show was a solo display of Aero L-159 ALCA.


Conclusion: For the aviation enthusiast the NATO DAYS are as follows; first, there is no filler in the flight program and further the aircraft through the role demonstrations involving the armed forces presents themselves much more realistic than traditional airshows. The only criticism of the organizers should mainly come from the perspective of the photographers who are faced with an all too close to the fence/barrier in the static display. The participants and the program offered the NATO DAYS was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the season!

Christian Spreitzer / CHK 6 Austria


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