NATO Tigermeet 2017

Base Aéronavale Landivisiau, France

June 2017 witnessed the 53rd edition of NATO Tiger Meet (NTM) hosted by Flottille 11F of the French Navy at Base Aéronavale (BAN) Landivisiau, Western France. The widely anticipated exercise is one of Europe’s most important strategical meetings steeped in many traditions attended by upwards of 50 aircraft from 12 different NATO and partner nations. AIA visited during the first week of the exercise to report on proceedings.

NATO Tiger Meet is an annual event which gathers squadrons from across Europe who possess a tiger within their squadron emblem, or in some cases a close link to a tiger. Within these squadrons, crew and staff will spend many hours designing and painting a special colour scheme which is applied to one or more airframes destined to participate in the exercise. Of course this makes NTM an event very attractive with a number of different special schemes warranting the attendance of aviation enthusiasts across the world.

Staged from Monday June 5th to Friday June 16th 2017, the objectives of this year’s Tigermeet were for the aircrews to exchange, transmit, strengthen and improve operations between different nations by training in over 800 complex aero maritime exercises and joint operations. NTM sorties would replicate realistic conditions with a primary objective to operate as part of a coalition force consisting of diverse assets when the time comes to respond to a crisis. Having all the aircrews and ground personnel in one location allows for all nations to interact and familiarise themselves amongst each other. It also gives them the chance to learn first hand about procedures used by other nations, the chance to fly in the back seat of each other’s aircraft assisting in the gain of further knowledge and understanding. This strengthening of relations is also extended to security, intelligence, information and maintenance staff. Operating this way will in circumstances of conflict, enhance logistics and air operations across a multinational coalition force.

Participation in this years exercise consisted of the following:

Nation Aircraft Unit Home Base
Austrian Air Force 3x Saab J-105Öe's 1 Jet Training Squadron Hörsching (Vogler) Air Base
Belgian Air Force 5x F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon's 31 Squadron Kleine Brogel Air Base
Czech Air Force 4x JAS-39C/D Gripen's 211 Squadron Cáslav Air Base
  1x Mi-24 Hind 221 Squadron Námest Air Base (Visiting Only)
French Army 4x SA.342M Gazelle's EHRA 3 BA d'Étain-Rouvres
  2x EC665 Tigre HAP's 5 RHC BA Pau-Pyrénées
French Air Force 4x Rafale B/C's ECE 01/30 BA 118 Mont-de-Marsan
  4x Rafale B/C's ECE 03/30 BA 118 Mont-de-Marsan
French Navy 8x Rafale M's Flottille 11F BAN Landivisiau
  1x E-2C Hawkeye Flottille 4F BAN Lann-Bihoué
German Air Force 4x EF2000 Typhoon's TaktLwG 74 Neuburg Air Base (Visiting Only)
  3x Tornado ECR/IDS TaktLwG 51 Schleswig-Jagel Air Base (Visiting Only)
Italian Air Force 4x EF2000 Typhoon's 12° Gruppo Gioia del Colle Air Base
  2x AB-212ICO's 21° Gruppo Grazzanise Air Base
NATO 1x E-3A Sentry 1 AEW&CS Geilenkirchen (Flying from Home Base)
Royal Netherlands Air Force 8x F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon's 313 Squadron Volkel Air Base
Royal Norwegian Air Force 2x F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon's 338 Skv Ørland Air Base (Visiting Only)
Royal Air Force 1x Puma HC.2 230 Squadron RAF Benson
Royal Navy 2x Merlin HM.2's 814 Naval Air Squadron NAS Culdrose
  1x Sea King ASaC Mk.7 849 Naval Air Squadron NAS Culdrose
Spanish Air Force 2x EF-18 Hornet's Ala 15 BA Zaragoza (Visiting Only)
Swiss Air Force 5x F/A-18C/D Hornet's Fliegerstaffel 11 Meiringen Air Base

 

This year’s host squadron, Flottille 11F, is a front line combat unit of the French Aeronautique Navale, considered to be the oldest fighter unit of the French Navy. 11F is equipped with the Dassault Rafale M with its main mission being land and sea based assault, 24 hours a day. To mark hosting the event, 11F put together a sublime special scheme on the Rafale coded 36, which was dubbed the ‘Arctic Tiger’. This inevitably won the prestigious award of best painted Tiger aircraft at the exercise.

During the two-week period, a vast selection of sorties were flown which grew increasingly more complex as the exercise progressed. Missions included all types of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat whilst support operations compromising of Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) and large Composite Air Operations (COMAO’s) were carried out at the same time. Other scenarios saw the use of weapons ranges, Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT), low-level navigation sorties plus mixed formation flying. Typical sorties would see a large amount of aircraft depart (in the region of 40+), remaining airborne upwards of two hours before returning to BAN Landivisiau. With two waves per day, the flight planners would make sure each sortie involved various aspects of air combat.

In addition to the air assets taking part in NTM 2017, the French Navy Multi-Mission Frigate (FREMM) Aquitaine and the Dutch destroyer HNLMS De Ruyter participated at sea in conjunction with the aircraft. Their role was joint operations and major inter-alliance training off the coast of Brittany. With NTM taking part at a French Navy facility and being so close to the coast, this provided the opportunity to add a different element to the flying exercises. Both warships exercised in various anti-aircraft and anti-surface combat procedures to add an extra dimension to the NTM training schedule.

Tigermeet over the years has developed many traditions which all participants enthusiastically buy into. Upon arriving to the exercise, day one see’s a flag raising ceremony where all units gather with the Detachment Commander (DetCo). A band plays the national anthem of all the participating nations while their respective flag is raised. During the opening ceremony, the hosting Base Commander will make a short welcoming speech before the visiting General declares the meet as open. Ending the ceremony, the host Squadron Commander makes the 'Tiger -Tiger -Tiger' call which dismisses the gathered personnel. At the end of the meet there is a closing ceremony where much of the same happens in reverse, culminating in each nation’s flag being lowered to their national anthem before higher command wraps up the exercise.

Another aspect of the exercise that has become a tradition of sorts is for each squadron to bring at least one two-seat aircraft to NTM. The squadrons then trade backseat rides giving opposing units plenty of opportunity to “check out the competition” and to learn how procedures are undertaken by their counterparts. Further to this, International night is the most recent tradition introduced back in 1994 at Cambrai, France. On a certain evening an International Night is scheduled where each squadron showcases their food, drink, music and dress typical of their native country. At the end of the two week flying period, crews gather to enhance social ties between units whilst participating in the traditional Tiger Games.  This includes a mixture of sports and activities that allow the crews to engage in a bit of healthy competition whilst relaxing and having fun.

During NTM, aviation enthusiasts were invited on two separate spotters’ days to witness and photograph the aircraft that were participating. This provided a great chance to get up closer to the day to day operations of the exercise illustrating what it was all about, the spirit and traditions involved and of course various photographic opportunities. Tigermeet 2018 will be hosted by 6 ELT of the Polish Air Force at 31 Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego, Poznan-Krzesiny.

 

 

Credits: Article and photography by Darren Willmin