NATO’s annual excuse to get busy with its paint pots and get creative occurred in late June when the majority of the organisation’s tiger squadrons gathered in northern Germany for the 2014 NATO Tiger Meet. This year’s event was hosted by the recently renamed Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader (TaktLwG) 51 at Schleswig-Jagel Air Base, 100 kilometres north of Hamburg. TaktLwG 51 had previously been known as Aufklärungsgeshwader (AKG) 51, until 1 October 2013 when all German Air Force units were renamed. Chris Wood and Karl Drage report from a chilly northern Germany.
TaktLwG 51 is the German Air Force’s only reconnaissance unit and has also taken over the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defence) role following the disbandment of JBG (Jagdbombergeschwader) 32 in March 2013. Consequently it operates both the IDS (Interdiction Strike) and ECR (Electronic Combat and Reconnaissance) versions of the Tornado.
The last time that Schleswig had been the venue for the Tiger Meet was in September 2004, and whilst this year’s event may not have been blessed with the 2004 weather, it was a considerably larger exercise, and took place over two weeks.
It followed the same pattern as recent years with participants arriving on Monday of the first week, flying two daytime missions on working days until the Thursday of the second week, when flying stopped for the prize giving and various social events. Participants then headed home the following day.
Most of the fast jet units brought five aircraft, including a two-seat version, and typically flew four in each mission. Virtually every squadron brought a specially-painted aircraft, a few of which had been seen before but most were new for this year.
Eagerly anticipated and most impressive was the Eurofighter EF2000 from the Bavarian Tigers of TaktLwG 74 at Neuburg, which rather put to bed all the rumours that you couldn’t paint Typhoons! It also won the prize for the best paint scheme, beating off stiff competition from the hosts, and the French.
As has become the norm there were also a small number of helicopters taking part, to provide a Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) element to the exercise.
On the first day of the exercise 59/1 Puma Squadron of the Hungarian Air Force and the 6th Fighter Squadron of the Polish Air Force became full members of the NATO Tiger Association.
NATO Tiger Meet 2014 participants:
Austria: Jet Trainer Squadron, Linz-Horsching; 4x SAAB 105OE
Belgium: 31 Smaldeel, Kleine Brogel; 4x F-16AM, 1x F-16BM Fighting Falcon
Czech Republic: 211 Tactical Fighter Squadron; Caslav 3x JAS 39C, 1x JAS 39D Gripen
221 Tactical Squadron, Namest Nad Oslavou; 2x Mil 24V Hind, 1x Mil 171Sh
France: 11 Flotille, Landivisiau; 5x Rafale M
EC 1/7, St Dizier-Robinson “Provence”; 1x Rafale B, 2x Rafale C
ECE 05.330, Mont de Marsan “Cote d’Argent”: 2x Mirage 2000-5F, 1x Mirage 2000B
Germany: TaktLwG 51, Schleswig–Jagel; Tornado ECR, Tornado IDS (4 aircraft assigned for each mission)
TaktLwG 74, Neuburg an der Donau; 6x Eurofighter EF2000, 1x Eurofighter EF2000(T)
Hungary: 59/1 Puma Squadron, Kecskemet; 4x JAS 39C, 1x JAS 39D Gripen
NATO: No 1 Squadron, Geilenkirchen; 1x E-3A Sentry (operating from Orland in Norway)
Netherlands: 313 Squadron, Volkel; 5x F-16AM Fighting Falcon
Poland: 6th Fighter Squadron, Poznan-Krzesiny; 5x F-16C, 1x F-16D Fighting Falcon
Switzerland: Fliegerstaffel 11, Meiringen; 4x F/A-18C, 1x F/A-18D Hornet
Turkey: 192 Filo, Balikesir; 3x F-16C, 2x F-16D Fighting Falcon
United Kingdom: 814 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Culdrose; 2x Merlin HM1
Additionally GFD (Gesellschaft fur Flugzieldarstellung) provided a Learjet 35 for aerial target services and a German Army Tiger from Khr (Kampfhubschrauberregiments) 36 at Fritzlar operated with the helicopter element for some missions.
Additional aircraft from various tiger squadrons appeared at Schleswig during the course of the exercise, and on Friday afternoon three Portuguese F-16AMs from Esquadra 301 at Monte Real also arrived. They stayed for the weekend, departing on Monday morning.
The weather proved uncooperative during the later part of the first week, with strong winds and storms resulting in some curtailment of flying operations. However, Friday morning saw 48 fast jets take to the skies; a sight not often seen in Europe these days.
Two spotters’ days were organised during the event, one during each week, to enable photographers and enthusiasts to watch the activities close up. The first one was plagued by the weather which resulted in fewer aircraft than planned taking part in the missions. However, most of the non-flying, special-schemed aircraft, as well as most that did fly, were taxied past the spotters’ enclosure, providing an excellent opportunity to view and photograph the aircraft and the magnificent artwork.
There was also a families day on the Friday of the first week.
Prize winners were as follows:
Silver Tiger Trophy: Fliegerstaffel 11 Switzerland
Best Flying Unit: 6 Fighter Squadron Poland
Tiger Games Winner: Escadron de Chasse 1/7 “Provence” France
Best Skit: 59/1 Puma Squadron Hungary
Best Looking Uniform: Fliegerstaffel 11 Switzerland
Most Fancy Paint Scheme: Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 74 Germany
Tiger Spirit Award: Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 51 Germany
The 2015 Tiger Meet is scheduled to be hosted by 192 Filo of the Turkish Air Force at Konya Air Force Base next May, which should at least guarantee some warmth and sunshine. This will make a pleasant change from the last three years which, with the 2012 and 2013 Tiger Meets being held in Norway, have seen a lot of rain and low temperatures.