NATO Tiger Meet 2009 Report
Monday 14th September - Friday 25th September
Anyone who had ever been to a Spottersday at Kleine Brogel in the past must have had high expectations when the location for the 2009 NATO Tiger Meet was announced. Not only do Luc Vanderfeesten and his team always manage to attract a wide variety of interesting aircraft, they also know what photographers are looking for.
reports from Kleine Brogel. Photography by the author and
Despite the fact that the gates were due to open at 8:00, there was a queue already building when the author arrived at 6:30. By the time the gates opened this queue had extended so much that it was clear it was going to be a bit busier than the previous Spottersdays that had been organized at Kleine Brogel. With 6000 visiting enthusiasts this was proved to be true indeed, despite the lack of locals who had been allowed onbase the previous Wednesday.
As the gates opened the crowd rushed to the ticket sales area where a number of lines had been set up to seperate those who had pre-ordered tickets from those who wanted to get a day ticket. Even though there were so many people standing in line it didn't take longer than 10 minutes to clear this obstacle with my pre-ordered ticket. After the yearly walk from the gate to the maintenance hangar area it was apparent that the first visitors for Sanicole airshow, which was planned for the Sunday after the Spottersday, had arrived in the shape of the Patrouille Suisse.
Continuing along the taxiway to get to the parallel runway I was pleasantly surprised to see that the organisation had put most of the specially painted tiger aircraft here rather than operating them from the shelter area.
The KB team thoughtfully had all the participants of the day's missions taxi onto the parallel runway rather than landing and taking the much shorter route through the shelter area on the opposite side of the runway to get to their parking spots, ensuring that all the aircraft could be photographed and showing once more that they know what the photographers want!
The NATO Tiger Meet Association currently has 19 'Full member' squadrons while another 10, mostly American squadrons, are considered honorary members. Furthermore there are currently 4 probationary member squadrons.
Attending the two week long 2009 edition Tiger Meet with airframes were the following squadrons:
31st Smaldeel, Kleine Brogel flying the F-16AM and hosting the event
1 Squadron NAEWCF, Geilenkirchen flying the E-3 (not present during the Spottersday)
Escadron de Chasse 01.012, Cambrai flying the Mirage 2000B/C (winners of the 2009 Silver Tiger Trophy)
21 Gruppo, Grazanisse, flying the AB-212
142 Escuadra, Albacete flying the Mirage F.1M
Jagdbomberstaffel 321, Lechfeld flying the Tornado IDS and ECR (weekend visitors only)
814 Squadron, NAS Culdrose flying the Merlin HM.1
Escuadra 301, Beja flying the F-16AM/BM (weekend visitor only)
Escadron de Chasse et d'Experimentation 05.330, Mont de Marsan flying various types but attending with the Rafale B/C and the Mirage 2000-5F
Fliegerstaffel 11, Meiringen flying the F/A-18C/D
Ala 15, Zaragoza flying the EF-18A/B
Aufklarungsgeschwader 51, Schleswig-Jagel flying the Tornado IDS
221 Squadron, Namest Nad Oslavou, flying the Mi-24V
313 Squadron, Volkel flying the F-16AM/BM
338 Skvadron, Orland flying the F-16AM/BM
211 Squadron, Caslav flying the JAS 39C/D (probationary)
59/1 Squadron, Kecskemet flying the JAS 39C/D (probationary)
Units such as the 192nd Squadron of the Turkish Air Force and 335th Squadron of the Hellenic Air Force attended with aircrew only while others were unable to attend at all due to various reasons. Various Belgian aircraft, amongst which the F-16's of 349 Smaldeel, and the Patrouille Suisse F-5E provided opposing 'Red Air' and support aircraft for the daily missions.
Flying started early in the morning with the tiger squadrons taking off for Dissimilar Air Combat Training missions against their fellow tigers in Belgian airspace. The morning sorties included plenty of entertainment with some flypasts of a formation comprising of one each of the fixed wing units taking part in the exercise as well as an airpower display performed by the helicopter units and Belgian F-16's.
For the afternoon a larger scale Tiger Meet mission into the Netherlands was planned in which the majority of the deployed aircraft took part.
All in all the brilliant weather, Tiger Meet activity and Sanicole airshow arrivals and practice displays proved an excellent day out and well worth the money, especially as the profits were donated to a good cause.
Kleine Brogel's Spottersday lived up to its reputation again and will surely be hard to beat in the future but no doubt the organisation will try their best to do so anyway!