NATO Tiger Meet 2012, Ørland, Norway Report

Friday 1st June - Saturday 2nd June 2012

The current economic situation in Europe resulted in a relocation of the 2012 Nato Tiger Meet from Monte Real in Portugal to Ørland in Norway, so instead of basking in the possibly balmy Iberian sunshine, those attending the spotters day and Tiger Meet airshow journeyed north to catch up with proceedings at MAS Ørland, situated on a peninsular at the mouth of Trondheimsfjord.

A fully insulated Michael Hall reports for UKAR. Photography by the author and Ian Matthews.

The relocation wasn't the only symptom of the financial woes. A thinner than usual line up was evident with only Germany, France, Switzerland, Turkey, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czech republic, the U.K., the U.S and of course the hosts Norway sending aircraft to Ørland. Adding to the usual fighter aircraft and helicopters this year were a pair of NATO E-3A AWACS from Geilenkirchen and a brace of KC-135Rs from the Ohio ANG, no doubt taking advantage of the spare ramp space available on base. One notable absentee for this meet was the recently disbanded EC 1/12 Cambresis who as one of the three founding members of the Nato Tiger association could always be relied upon to embrace these occasions with some stunningly decorated aircraft.

A "spotters" day was organised for June 1st by the base to enable around 500 or so pre-registered photographers access to view the assembled participants doing their stuff. Once everyone had signed in with their 200 Norwegian Kroner, they were transported by the bus-load to the ramp side fire station before walking en-mass to take up position midway along a line marked only by uncut grass parallel to main runway. By the time everyone was on base the early morning snow and sleet cleared up and the sun broke through just in time for the departing KC-135Rs. We were also treated to a practice display by a Norwegian Sea King before the main event got under way. The main launch of the day followed from about 10:00 am, the specially marked airframes interspersed with "cooking" examples that were taking part in the exercise.

Unlike the previous meet in Ørland it wasn't possible to brief the assembled enthusiasts as to what was going on due to the sheer numbers involved. Communication appeared to be conducted by word of mouth and telepathy but everyone seemed to be able to be in the right place at the allotted times. None of this detracted from the photo opportunities afforded and as it transpired what could have got out of hand ran almost seamlessly. As soon as the last aircraft was airborne it was back to the fire station to be transported to the Northern taxiway to photograph the first wave returning. This whole procedure was repeated for the afternoon launches which started at around 14:00. By this time the sun had moved to the opposite side of the roughly north-south aligned runway and some enthusiasts decided to go outside the airfield to capture the departures and subsequent returns in a favourable light but missing out on the taxiing aircraft. A practice by four Belgian F-16s of 31 Smaldeel filled the time before the main Tiger formations returned from doing their photo shoots. This included an airfield attack and some formation aerobatics.

Some of the schemes were quite stunning, notably the "Ice Blue" Tornado of AG51 and the striped Rafale of EC5/330. The Turks of 192 Filo had marked up a pair of F-16s - a "C" with a blue tail and a two-seater "D" with a predominately red tail complete with very professionally created cartoon tigers. The Dutch also made a good effort with their tiger tail in red white and blue. The Belgians of 31 Smaldeel had modified their scheme from last year by replacing the "50 years" script on the tail with "31 Tigers". Not to be outdone the Norwegians of 338 Squadron decorated the tail of yet another F-16 with a tiger scheme. The 230 Squadron Pumas of the RAF managed to hide successfully from the gathered enthusiasts on the day - I can't imagine it's just because they're embarrassed by their equipment.

An airshow was held on Saturday the 2nd June which drew an amazingly large crowd considering the effort needed to actually get to Ørland. Numbering well over ten thousand strong the ferries and roads had probably not seen the like before. A theme of the show was Norway celebrating 100 years of air power. Among the additions to the assembled NTM aircraft was a pair of Vampires of the Norwegian Historic flight who were seen practising the previous evening up to around 22:30 - taking advantage of the late evening sun! Unfortunately one burst a tyre on landing meaning a spare had to be located to enable it to display in the afternoon. The Sea King was involved in a rescue late into the night which meant unfortunately it couldn't display but there was an immaculate, clean example in the static park. Other notable Norwegian participants were a P-3 Orion, a new NH-90, a Falcon 20ECM and the spectacularly painted F-16 display aircraft which used flares to good effect.

A pairing of the Rafale and Czech Gripen was an unusual but welcome display item as was the appearance by the Duxford based Plane Sailing Catalina. A nice formation of one of the Norwegian Vampires flanked by two twin seat F-16s celebrated 100 years of flight training was a welcome "heritage" style display item.

Usually when there is changeable weather the action coincides with the foulest available. Luckily at Ørland the reverse was true or so it seemed for the time we were there.

At the award ceremony the following units were recognised:
NATO Tiger Meet 2012 Patch
Silver Tiger Trophy:31 Smaldeel, Belgium
Best Flying Unit:Fliegerstaffel 11, Switzerland
Tiger Games Winner:N°1 Squadron, NATO
Best Skit:230 Squadron, United Kingdom
Best Looking Uniform:Aufklarungsgeschwader, 51 Germany
Most Fancy Paintscheme:Aufklarungsgeschwader, 51 Germany

If you missed this years event and are "pining for the fjords," another opportunity will hopefully be available as Ørland are due to host next years meet between 17th & 28th June 2013, one for your diary!