NATO Tiger Meet 2019
The NATO Tiger Meet is one of the most important air meets at the tactical level for NATO and partner air forces. The varied mix of aircraft and nations allows participants to improve their tactics, techniques and procedures and takes interoperability to the next level. Since the 1960s, the training of "Tiger Squadrons”, aircraft and helicopter squadrons featuring a tiger in their patch, is organized annually by the NATO Tiger Association in cooperation with one of its member squadrons. The multinational and joint training environment increases flying skills in highly sophisticated and challenging scenarios, friendship and partner relations among squadrons. Traditionally this large exercise takes place in May, June or July and lasts two weeks. Today the NATO Tiger Association consists of 24 full members, 10 honorary members, and 7 disbanded members. All of these members have a tiger as part of its squadron crest and often have brightly painted aircraft with recognizable tiger stripes. The most beautiful paintings during this Tiger Meet were from the Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 51 of the German Air Force, the Escadron de Chasse 3/30 'Lorraine' of the French Air Force and the Escadrille d'Hélicoptères de Reconnaissance et d'Attaque n°3 of the French Army.
The 2019 edition of the NATO Tiger Meet was held at the Mont-de-Marsan Air Base (LFBM) in France. The Mont-de-Marsan Air Base (Base aérienne 118 Mont-de-Marsan) is located approximately 2 km north of Mont-de-Marsan, in the beautiful Landes department of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in southwestern France. This airbase, which is named after the French test pilot Colonel Constantin Rozanoff, is home to the Escadron de Chasse 2/30 Normandie-Niemen and the Escadron de Chasse 3/30 'Lorraine' Dassault Rafale fighter units of the French Air Force. In the past this airbase was also home to France's first operational squadron of nuclear bombers, the Dassault Mirage IV-A. Besides fighter units the Mont-de-Marsan Air Base also houses the French aeronautical research and test centre (CEAM), an air defense radar command reporting centre, and an air defence control training site. The base is one the largest air bases of the French Air Force and employs around 3.500 people. This makes the Mont-de-Marsan Air Base the largest employer of the Landes department.
Because the annual Tiger Meets are the most publicity visible aspect of the NATO Tiger Association, a spottersday is also organized which attracts photographers and aviation enthusiasts from all over the world. For military aviation lovers and photographers these Tiger Meets are definitely the most awaited event of the year because of the variety of beautiful painted aircraft. The 2019 edition of the Tiger Meet spottersday took place on Friday, May 17. Around 1,700 people attended this well-organized event that took place on a special zone at the air base between the runway and taxiway. From this place, everyone had a fantastic view of the taxiing aircraft and the fighter jets taking off.
Despite the rainy weather, the present spotters were able to see how dozens of fighter jets in the morning and in the afternoon left the airbase to carry out their mission. In addition to the fighter jets that participated in the Tiger Meet, the present spotters could also see numerous other aircraft and helicopters such as a Merlin HM. Mk2 helicopter from the 814 Naval Air Squadron of the British Royal Navy, a Boeing E-3A Sentry AWACS aircraft of the NATO, a Pilatus PC-21 trainer aircraft of the French Air Force and two Bell 212 helicopters from the 21° Gruppo of the Italian Air Force. At the end of the day, spotters, photographers and visitors were treated with a beautiful show of the Patrouille de France.
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens