NATO Tiger Meet 2008 Feature Report
Friday 27th June
With just nine months passing since the amazing Arctic Tiger meet at MAS Ørland in Norway, it fell to 11 Flotille at Landivisiau to host the 2008 NATO meet - Ocean Tiger. Originally destined to be held at Lechfeld in Germany, the event had to be hastily re-scheduled due to operational commitments of the hosting Tornado unit. In their operational role, 11F embark on the carrier Charles de Gaulle. However, this carrier is laid up in dry dock for most of the year, presenting an ideal and rare opportunity for a Tiger Meet to be hosted at Landivisau. The Tiger Meet is held annually to promote solidarity between NATO air forces by bringing together squadrons having a tiger's head as part of its squadron crest or emblem.
reports from the continent for UK Airshow Review. All photography by the author.
Due to popular demand by many European enthusiasts, 11F decided to host a "spotters day". This was held on Friday the 27th June in fairly autumnal weather. Initial interest in the event was shown by over a thousand enthusiasts registering. This number was eventually whittled down with just over 500 or so attending on the day. Upon arrival at the designated off-airfield car park, a steady stream of buses were on hand to ferry people to an area close to the main static display aprons. It was a typical Tiger Meet day with the first exercise departures due to be flown around an hour after entering the airfield. There was just enough time to photograph the majority of aircraft before making tracks to take up a position by the active runway. The first sight to greet on arrival was a pair of stunningly painted red & black tiger striped Super Etendards.
Apart from the host unit, the French Navy had a number of based Rafales in evidence including some of the recently withdrawn examples, which were not part of the meet. There were however some AdLa Rafale Bs and Cs from EC05.330 parked nearby, one of which sported a flambuoyant scheme with a large tiger's eye on the tail.
EC01.012 from Cambrai, who usually make a big effort to provide a specially marked Mirage 2000C didn't disappoint, with another colourful example this year. Another from the same squadron had the names of aircraft previously operated by the unit painted on the huge underwing tanks, marking their proud history. Unfortunately the recent news that Cambrai is due to close in 2012 puts the future of this prestigious unit in doubt.
The Spanish air force was represented by two units, Ala 15 from Zaragoza with their EF-18A and EF-18B Hornets, most with yellow and black striped tanks and 142 Esc from Albacete. This year saw Ala 15's elevation to full membership of the NTA after participating for the last three years. 142 Esc, the 2006 hosts attended with their Mirage F.1s, one of which was marked with very colourful artwork depicting a tiger attacking a hapless shark.
Belgian Air Force's 31 Smaldeel brought along several F-16AM and F-16BM, some with artwork which is familiar to previous attendees. During the day we were treated to some formation aerobatics by this unit on their return from the first exercise.
From Switzerland came 11 Staffel, with their amazingly decorated F/A-18, along with several other examples. JBG 32 brought their Tiger marked Tornado IDS. Although they travelled to Ørland, didn't participate in exercises last year. In a similar vein last years host-338 Sqn with their F-16AMs arrived as weekend visitors, as did the Dutch 313 Sqn.
Absentees this year included the Greek A-7s from 335 Sqn, due to currently converting to the F-16C/D, The Turkish F-16s from 192 Filo along with those from Esquadra 301 from Portugal.
Going some way to offset that disappointment and participating for the first time were 211 Squadron, based at Caslav in the Czech Republic. With their latest mount, the new Saab JAS-39 Grippen, 211 became probationary members of the association. Another Saab product from an earlier era was being operated by the JTS (Jet Training Squadron,) from Austria, another unit gaining full membership this year.
The RAF hasn't had a fixed wing participant for a while and probably won't do for some time as it is unlikely that 74 Sqn will be reformed in the forseeable future. The UK was represented by 230 Sqn Pumas and a Merlin from the 814 Sqn of the Royal Navy. The rotary wing elements are worthy participants at the meet and partake fully in the exercises throughout the week. Very much in evidence were 231.vrl from the Czech Republic with their Mi-24V Hinds, one of the examples being the blue tiger marked Hind, which has made several air show appearences over the past two years.
A welcome surprise was the appearance of a based Nord 262 of 28F, entering into the spirit of the occasion, decorated in the impressive scheme of black and white tiger stripes carried by the pair of 11f Super Etendards at Ørland last year.
There were ample opportunities to photograph most of the participants despite the limited length of crowd line and the length of grass obscuring the aircraft for lengthy periods of their take off runs. Taxying shots were made easier by several of the pilots weaving and turning to give photographers time to compose their shots. The event was very well organised and hosted by an amiable and very hospitable group of people.
Well done to all involved. Next year's event will be held at Kleine Brogel in Belgium.
The awards this year were as follows:
|Silver Tiger Trophy||Fliegerstaffel 11 Switzerland|
|Best Flying Unit||31 Smaldeel Belgium|
|Tiger Games winner||31 Smaldeel Belgium|
|Best Skit||Flotille 11F France|
|Best looking Uniform||Escadron de Chasse 01.012 France|
|Most fancy paint scheme||Escadron de Chasse 05.330 France|