NATO TIGER MEET 2017 Landivisiau, France
For the 53rd time the NATO Tiger meet has been organized, this time hosted by Flottille 11F of the French Navy at Base Aéronavale (BAN) Landivisiau situated in the West of France.
The traditional meeting of air force squadrons with a tiger in their patch is organized annually by the NATO Tiger Association in liaison with one of its member squadrons. During this exercise all different types of missions are flown: air-to-air and air-to-ground, Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) and large Combined Air Operations (COMAO). The NATO Tiger meet is one of the most important air meets at tactical level for NATO and its partner air forces. The varied mix of aircraft and nations allows participants to improve their tactics, techniques and procedures.
The Nato tiger meet has a lot of traditions such as the flag ceremonies, gift exchanges, international night and the tiger games. Each squadron always tries its best to bring at least one two-seater to NTM to enable the squadrons to exchange backseat rides.
During the NTM, aviation enthusiasts were invited on two separate spotters’ days to witness and photograph the aircraft that were participating. Low Approach attended the first of two, off course we live in a time with the well-known threats and this resulted that the parking lot was at quite some distance from the base and the security checks has been done very carefully. This created very long waiting rows but like already this is understandable. Once arrived by bus at the base we received our goodie bag and some information, before noon the weather was windy with sun spells, in the afternoon it become very cloudy so I decided to go back to the hotel and comeback another day to take photographs from outside the base.
During the NTM there are some prizes that can be won: Silver Tiger Trophy, Best Flying Unit, Best Painted Tiger Aircraft, Best Looking Uniform, Tiger Games and Best Skit. This year Belgian Air Force 31 Squadron based at Kleine Brogel won three of them: The Silver Tiger Trophy, Best Flying Unit and best looking uniform. They participated with five of their F-16’s.
Another prizewinner was the host unit 11F's amazing White Tiger that won the prize for best painted tiger aircraft. Beside the winning Rafale M from the host unit 11F we could see a lot more Marine Rafale’s during the three visits that I brought to Landivisiau.
And another prize has been given to 230 Sqn from RAF Benson for best skit.
Another participant from the French Navy was the E-2C Hawkeye from Flottille 4F stationed at BAN Lann-Bihoué. Also French but then from the Air Force were 4x Rafale B/C’s from ECE 01/30 BA 118 Mont-de-Marsan and 4x Rafale B/C's ECE 03/30 BA 118 Mont-de-Marsan. These two squadrons each brought a beautiful painted Rafale except from their normal grey airplanes. Also the French Army participated in the NTM with two squadrons the first: EHRA 3 BA from Étain-Rouvres with the SA.342M Gazelle. From the four that they brought to Landivisiau, one obtained a beautiful painting. 5 RHC from Pau-Pyrénées came to the NTM with two EC665 Tigre HAP’s also one decorated with a special tiger scheme.
The Austrian Air Force participated with three Saab J-105Öe’s from the 1 Jet Training Squadron stationed at Hörsching (Vogler) Air Base, one of which was also wearing a special tiger paint.
The Czech Air Force’s JAS-39 Gripens coming from Cáslav Air Base are well known by the aviation enthusiasts and tiger lovers for their special painted Gripens. This year they did the same with their stunning paint.
From the Italian Air force we saw four EF2000 Typhoon's from 12° Gruppo based at Gioia del Colle Air Base. A second unit from the Italian Air Force participating in de NTM were two AB-212ICO’s from 21° Gruppo based at Grazzanise Air Base.
Eight F-16’s from The Netherlands Air Force based at Volkel came to the west of France to participate in this year’s NTM. Also the Swiss Air Force was present during these two weeks with four of their F/A-18C Hornet based at Meiringen Air Base and flew with the 11 Staffel. A very special participator was the Royal Navy with two squadrons, Naval Air Squadron 814 from NAS Culdrose came with two Merlin HM.2’s and the second Naval Air Squadron 849 also from NAS Culdrose participated with the Sea King ASaC Mk.7.
The NATO took part in the exercise with an E-3A Sentry but flew directly from their home base in Geilenkirchen, Germany. I was lucky to catch him during some touch and go’s in Landivisiau. The German Air Force, The Royal Norwegian Air Force and The Spanish Air Force only came to Landivisiau for visit their friends, during my days at the fence I only saw some German air Force Tornado ECR from TaktLwG 51 based at Schleswig-Jagel Air Base and EF2000 Typhoon’s from TaktLwG 74 based in Neuburg Air Base.
Another special participant was the Draken International Aermacchi MB-339CB. The MB-339CB were built between 1991 and 2002 for the Royal New Zealand Air Force as trainer and weapons training version , equipped with laser rangefinder, radar detection, AIM-9L Sidewinder and AGM-65 Maverick capability. During military service it carried registration number NZ6470, by now nine aircraft are operational in the United States with the private defense contractor Draken International the other eight are in storage at RNZAF Base Ohakea, New Zealand.
Other visitors during my stay at the NTM were two Dassault Alpha Jet E’s and one TBM700A from the French Air Force.
To conclude I can say that there was still place for improvements during the spotters day: water and food were available from just one location on the entire base and dependent on your position in the main spotters area, visitors were faced with a walk between 1,5 and 2,5 km to get some drinks and food. For the rest everything went smooth and well so after all I left Landivisiau with a good feeling and with some nice pictures from the many colorful tigers.
The next Tiger Meet will be held at Poznan-Krzesiny Air Base in Poland from 14th May to 25th May 2018. We’re looking forward to this one. Tigers see you next year!!!
Text & photography: Dirk Geuns