Each year the European squadrons of the NATO (containing a Tiger or a cat in their crest/emblem) will have a special meeting, the TigerMeet. The TigerMeet has large social content, but it is also a genuine exercise with smaller missions in the morning and a large, multi-aircraft (~40-50) mission in the afternoon. As the Dutch Air Force Command insisted in a real large scale exercise, the F-16s from the non-Tiger squadrons at Volkel participated in the exercise as well. During the missions the annual Tiger competition was held, whereby all participants tried to score as much points as possible to win the Silver Tiger Trophy.
The NATO Tiger Association is the sponsor of the annual TigerMeet, which dates back to the 1960’s. In these early days the TigerMeet was a 1 or 2 day meeting of just a few NATO Tiger squadrons, all with a Tiger as emblem/crest. Over the years, the number of participants grew and the TigerMeet duration grew to 1 or even 2 weeks.
In 2010, a variety of normal-painted and special-painted Tiger aircraft and helicopters visited Volkel for the first TigerMeet on Dutch soil. The hosting 313st Tiger squadron had a tail of an F-16 decorated, while the Turkish Air Force had 2 F-16s completely painted in black and orange Tiger colors. The French Air Force had special orange Tiger Dassault Mirage 2000C from Cambrai and a ‘NTM 2010’ decorated Mirage 2000D, the German Air Force flew a special decorated Panavia Tornado with a block-pattern camouflage. Czech and Hungarian Gripens were present too. Other regular TigerMeet participants were Belgium and Norwegian F-16s, Austrian Saab 105’s and Dutch F-16s.
Besides jet’s, there were also helicopters participating, as the Czech MiL Hinds and the Italian AgustaBell AB-212, these helicopters flew CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) missions together with Dutch Cougar helicopters. Some regular Tigers were missing this year, like the F-18s of the Swiss Air Force, the Spanish Air Force with the Mirage F-1 and the F-18, the Royal Air Force from the United Kingdom and the French Rafale and Etendard aircraft. Preparations for upcoming Afghanistan operations and budget cuts were the reason. 2 observer squadrons were present with pilots only, the Greek (335 Sqn) and Polish (6ELT) F-16s will be present during the next TigerMeet.
One additional participant was a KC-135 from the Ohio ANG, which flew from the nearby Eindhoven AB. In order to control the Tiger missions, a E-3A from Geilenkirchen AB (Germany) flew support-missions. During 8 flying days, 644 of the 715 planned missions were flown in the various training areas. All missions were planned by the pilots, it was an exercise ‘for pilots, by pilots’, without high-level directives from command-posts. Each day another pilot was assigned as mission-planner and mission/section leader for the red and blue forces.
Most missions were flown above the North Sea, north of the Netherlands, were the blue forces gathered and refueled before ‘attacking’ the northern part of the Netherlands, ‘fighting’ their way into Dutch airspace against the opposing red forces. The participating Tiger helicopters, Italian AB-212 and Czech Mil Hind flew Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) missions with Dutch Cougar helicopters, training the recovery of downed pilots.
The overall Tiger competition of 2010 was won by the Czech 211 squadron during their 3rd TigerMeet participation and the Silver Tiger Trophy remains in their possession until the 2011 TigerMeet. The price for the best painted aircraft was for the 2 painted Turkish F-16s from 192 Filo. This next (47th) TigerMeet will take place in 2011 at Cambrai airbase in northern France, after the TigerMeet this airbase will be closed down due to budget cuts.
Tiger Meet 2010 Participants
Belgium AF: 31 Sqn F-16AM/BM
France AF:EC01.012 Mirage 2000C/B, ECE 05.330 Mirage 2000D
Czech AF: 221 Sqn Mi-24V Hind, 211 Sqn JAS-39C/D Grippen
German AF: AG 51 Tornado IDS, 321 Sqn Tornado ECR
Italain AF: 21 Gruppo AB-212ICO
Dutch AF: 313 Sqn F-16AM/BM
Norwegian AF: 338 Sqn F-16AM/BM
Hungarian AF: 591 sqn JAS-39C/D Grippen
Austrian AF: jts Saab OE105
Turkish AF: 192 Filo F-16C/D
Greek AF: 335 Mira (observer)
Polish AF: 6 ELT (observer)
Swiss AF: 11 Staffel (weekend visit of pilots)
301 Sqn Weekend Visitors
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