The bi-annual Danish Air Show took place at Karup AFB, home of the Royal Danish Air Force’s (RDAF) rotary wing fleet, on Sunday 22nd June. Duncan Monk reports from a windswept, but sun drenched Karup.

Much was expected from the Danish Air Show 2014 and with a strong line up including two F/A-18 Displays, the crowds were not to be disappointed.

Built on the Jutland moors during the German occupation in 1940, it is now the main operating base for the RDAF and is a huge facility comprising over 1000 buildings and covering 2900 hectares. During the German occupation the base was known as “Fliegerhorst Grove” and was used predominately by German Fighter aircraft against Allied bombers. Many of the buildings built by the Germans are still in use.

Today there are various assets utilising this huge base, including:

  • Eskadrille 722 flying the Agusta Westland AW101
  • Eskadrille 723 flying the Westland Lynx MK90B
  • Eskadrille 724 flying the Eurocopter AS550C2 Fennec

Also based at Karup is the Flyveskolen (flying school) equipped with 27 SAAB-MFI T-17 Supporter aircraft and the Air Control Wing.

The Air Control Wing comprises of the Control and Reporting Centre Karup (CRC Karup) and the Mobile Air Control Centre (MACC) which are situated in the colossal Gyges bunker, where all military air operations in Danish airspace are controlled from.

An estimated crowd in excess of 100,000 attended the Danish Air Show, which was heavily influenced by the prospect of blue skies alongside a great line up and they were not to be disappointed. The RDAF Baby Blue Display team opened the show, flying five T-17’s in formation with Karup based helicopter’s comprising three Fennecs, a single Lynx and two Merlins.

The static park provided an interesting mix of aircraft from various era’s ranging from a Polish Mig 15 through to four Eurofighter examples and even a plastic F-35 mock up. A rare outing for the Estonian Air Force saw an AN-2 and Robinson 44 on static display. A Serbian AN-26 was a rarity and welcome addition, along with a Polish C295. The RDAF had various demonstrations on the ground, with the chance to sit inside both a F-16 and an AW101. Two SAAB Drakens from the Draken Team Karup were placed on display comprising of RF-35 ‘Queen’ AR-113 and TF-35D ‘Princess’ AT-158, which now wears a civil registration of OY-SKA. These two aircraft are in fantastic condition and able to taxi, although unfortunately that didn’t happen at the show.

The show was really a huge marketing push by the big guns in aviation manufacturing, all vying for the contract to supply the RDAF with the next generation fighter to replace it’s ageing fleet of F-16 aircraft with Boeing, Lockheed, Eurofighter and SAAB all having a strong presence. Lockheed seemed to be on the charm offensive giving away thousands of red F-35 baseball caps adorned with Danish flags together with bags, pencils, pens, and even F-35 Lego sets for the children. An F-35 test pilot was also on hand to sign posters and talk about the aircraft.

Boeing had brought it’s latest F/A-18F Super Hornet, and surprisingly gave two flying demonstrations which were unfortunately fairly high, distant and given alongside a script that can only be described as typically American.

SAAB demonstrated it’s multirole JAS 39 Gripen aircraft  which pulled vapour at every turn, whilst Eurofighter had four examples in the static park (two from the RAF, one from the ITAF and one from the German Luftwaffe) as well as a very polished aerial performance by another German example.

During the day there were a number of demos from the home team. The Lynx, Fennec and Merlin gave two differing set pieces involving insertion by fast rope, disabling vehicles and providing top cover from door mounted gunners. The AW101 Merlin also gave 2 singleton demo’s, one being an orthodox flying display, the second a Search and Rescue demo.

The fixed wing guys were not to be outdone, starting with a tidy performance from Baby Blue. A Skrydstrup based F-16AM gave a good display involving a number of flare releases and photogenic passes which was then surpassed by a superb piece of flying by a C-130J-30 Hercules. Flying low with a number of 90 degree turns coupled with two massive flare releases, first from the left side, then the right certainly made it one of the show highlights. A Nine ship of F-16’s provided a unique flyby, before they broke into separate elements and conducted an airfield attack with flares, which was done and dusted in seconds and with very little warning!

The star display of the day was without doubt from the Finnish Air Force flying the F/A-18C. The aircraft was turned inside out, showing its abilities and sheer power. With flares constantly being popped in every climb it made the Boeing F/A-18F display look woeful.

The RAF was very well represented with two 100 Sqn T1 Hawks and two Typhoons in the static park. A disappointing single high overshoot from a 8 Sqn E-3D Sentry was a big let down considering the effort needed to get the aircraft out on a Sunday to Denmark. The penultimate display of the day was given by the Red Arrows, who gave yet another polished and very appealing display to an expectant crowd. However, they were let down somewhat by the commentary given by OC Red Arrows, who seemed to get completely lost reading the script.

Other notable displays on the day came from the BAF Red Devils flying SF260s, Team Iskry flying TS-11 Iskra’s, UK based Team Raven, a Trio of Chipmunks, An-2, RVator, Fouga Magister, L-39 , L-159 and a brightly coloured German Bo-105.The show was closed by another impressive mass fly past of helicopters from team Karup.

The overall feeling was of a great family day out. The huge crowd were treated to some fantastic flying and the crews on the ground provided a great openness and willingness to interact with the public. It is a pity that this air show is a bi-annual event, for a free show you couldn’t wish for more.