NATO Tiger Meet started in the 1960’s with just 3 squadrons from the USAF, RAF and the French Armée de l’air at RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk. It’s purpose is to promote solidarity between NATO air forces with membership limited to units which have a tiger as part of its squadron crest. There are currently 24 full time, 10 honorary and 1 probationary member units of the association. NATO Tiger Meet’s annual meet moves around the member squadrons home bases and this year it was the turn of 11F of the French Marine Nationale based at BAN Landivisiau to host the two week exercise. This year two spotters days were held, one each week and I traveled to North West France for the second one.
After issues with security checks at the first spotters day, it seemed to have improved greatly this time with more Gendarme available to check people through. Having said that I will still in the field (once I found it) at 5.30am with the first few cars and through understandable very tight security by 6.15am. It was then a hours wait in the holding pen before the mad scramble to the coaches but this still meant I was on base shortly after 7.30. With further improvements to the goodie bag and lunch token collection I avoiding any further queues for the rest of the day.
Two tents housed the squadron sales tables and I picked up a bag full of squadron coins and the odd patch. The Nato Tiger Meet goodie bag included with the entrance price featured a branded tshirt, hiviz, pen, patch and lanyard. Collecting this on arrival meant you had your lunch ticket ready for very easy collection of your food bag later. There was also a crepe stall, water taps and portaloos with the only downside being the long walk to the crowd line which unfortunately didn’t have any facilities on hand.
The crowd line, facing north for perfect sun position for photographers during the day, ran for around 600 meters and there was more than enough room for the 600 or so attendees with the slight elevation as you went further back meaning it wasn’t always better to be right on the fence and there was always enough room to move around during the day. The only issues being raised areas between the taxiway and runway and uncut grass due to nesting birds meant it was difficult to get unrestricted shorts of the aircraft on the runway.
The morning wave started with the launch of the French E2 Hawkeye around 9.10am followed by the Dassault Falcons and 4 Typhoons. With the exception of the Host 11F Rafale who launched next in pairs and later the Austrian SAAB 105’s all other squadrons went up one aircraft at a time. The Helicopters who left towards the start of the wave lifted well to the west but did return down the flightline, with a slow turning approach as they passed.
The launches were very spread out and it took until around 11am before all the aircraft were out, with the first of the recoveries, a run and break to land from the 4 Typhoons at 11.30am. The remaining aircraft came in over the next hour with the Rafale and Hawkeye in formation overhead.
The aircraft for the SHADOW wave started to taxi out around 14.40 and thankfully included the Marine Rafale 11F’s Arctic Tiger schemed aircraft which hasn’t flown in the morning wave. As she took off the Artic Tiger banked left to give a nice topside to the crowd at the far end of the crowd line before regaining the standard right turn away from the airfield. Following it the Escadron de Chasse 3/30 special scheme gave a nice wing wiggle (which was otherwise largely missing all day) as she took off. There was then a large gap before the next part of the wave launched at 4pm which was to be the most frantic part of the afternoon with aircraft launching and recovering in succession.
The highlight being the 3 ship Rafale featuring the Artic Tiger, Escadron de Chasse 3/30 and Escadron de Chasse et d’Expérimentation 01/30 ‘Côte d’Argent’ special scheme performing a series of photo calls on the taxi way for the crowd. As they did this for a second time the special scheme Tigre, Gazelle and AB212 returned down the flightline to join the photocall.
Although the day was slow at times and lacked mass launches and any special fly pasts, the organisers had made great efforts to avoid a repeat of any of the problems faced in the first week and the wide variety of aircraft and special schemes especially from the host nation made this NATO Tiger Meet a resounding success.