U.S. Navy delegation joines EPAF exercise
The European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) go back to the late seventies when European countries started looking for a replacement for the aged F-104 Starfighter. Belgium, Denmark, Norway and The Netherlands, became the first international customers for the F-16 and formed the EPAF. Together with the US, they started a unique multi-national development program for the F-16. Under the terms of the agreement, F-16 Fighting Falcons for the EPAF nations were to be produced locally. The EPAF members worked closely together in building, maintaining and developing the F-16s. In the early eighties, the countries formed the Fighter Weapons Instructor Training. In 2001, the EPAF got its fifth member when Portugal joined.
FWIT (Fighter Weapons Instructor Training)
FWIT is an annual training at Leeuwarden Air Base, The Netherlands, in which experienced F-16 pilots are trained to become weapons instructors. Every year, the EPAF members send some of their most talented pilots to this course. The course, which takes about six months, is divided in three separate phases; Air-to-Air, Air-to-Surface and Mission Employment. Usually, the first two phases of the course are held in the first part of the year, and the final part is held after the summer holidays. The very first FWIT was organized in 1983.
For the Air-to-Air phase of the course, the participating countries usually invite different aircraft from NATO members to participate in the course. Over the years a wide variety of aircraft was seen at Leeuwarden AB, to help to train the FWIT student.
The 1995 edition
In March 1995 the FWIT course not only brought the colorful participating F-16s from the EPAF members to Leeuwarden. But the organization managed to get some very unusual fighters for the FWIT students to train with. Three German F-4Fs from JG-72 from Rheine Hopsten and two F-15s from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. But, top of the bill, was certainly the US Navy delegation. Two F/A-18Cs from VFA-105, two F/A-18Cs from VFA-37 and two F-14As from VF-32 joined, all assigned to the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower which was in the Europe region for Operation Deny Flight over Bosnia.