The NATO Tiger Association was established in 1961 with the aim of improving solidarity between NATO members and to create and maintain team-spirit and camaraderie between participating members. This meeting also serves to promote professional relationships amongst NATO personnel and the creation of better understanding of NATO military objectives and also help solve any problems between NATO partners.

The association is made up of squadrons that contain a Tiger or big cat in their squadron crest. Today the association comprises 24 full and 10 honorary members, with 7 members now disbanded. The exercises are held on an annual basis with an alternate association providing the host base. It has become tradition at each Tiger Meet for at least one of the aircraft from each participating country to be specially painted in a Tiger paint scheme and countries compete to win the best looking aircraft trophy among others.

Next year the Tigermeet will be hosted at Landiviseau (France) by 11F

june 2017

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NATO Tiger Meets have evolved into a very high standard military exercise where the participants fly missions throughout the combat spectrum. Training provided includes air combat, use of weapon ranges and low level flying to name but a few. The major benefit of Tiger Meet is that participating units have the opportunity to train in Composite Air Operations (COMAO) scenarios, where a large number of aircraft of different types and roles, all work together to achieve the objectives of a single mission.

In recent years a growing number of Tiger squadrons who operate helicopters have attended Tiger Meet and their addition into the exercise has proved to be a major benefit. They act as Forward Air Controllers, insert and extract ground forces, and also provide a Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) role. In addition to their role within the COMAO scenarios the helicopter force often practices with local army and Special Forces.

For NATO countries unable to attend the large scale ‘flag’ exercises held in North America, ‘Tiger Meet provides an alternative for them to attend a multinational exercise. During Tiger Meet 2016 over 1000 sorties were flown during the 2 weeks, proving to be as demanding for the ground crews as the aircrew. In an ever changing world where NATO countries have found themselves working together on operations on a more frequent basis, the value of this training and social interaction cannot be underestimated.

This NATO Tiger Meet 2016 was the largest to have taken place in the history of the association featuring 90+ aircraft from Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.

Tiger Meets have proved to be a fantastic public relations exercise for NATO who hold popular ‘spotter days’ where press and aviation enthusiasts from around the world can attend and view the aircraft operating at close quarters.

So, on 20th May, Steven Harrison-Green, attended the 2016 NATO Tiger Meet held at Zaragoza Air Base in Spain.
During this years Tiger Meet the ‘spotters’ day was scheduled for the Friday at the end of the first week of the exercise, and a short ‘Open House’ air show was held on the Saturday for the local populace and the enthusiasts who remained. On the ‘spotters day’ we arrived at Base Aerea Zaragoza (Zaragoza Air Base) at 0730 for what should have been an 0800 start. We experienced very quickly the frustrations of language barriers with our Spanish hosts seemingly unaware what was meant to be happening and unable to communicate to us what they wanted us to do. After a lot of shrugging of shoulders, pointing and saying “si” around 1500 ‘spotters’ of multiple nationalities were eventually directed through a single 12 x 12 tent and to the edge of the runway for the morning launch.

The morning launch saw each of the specially painted Tiger jets and helicopters take to the sky for a photoshoot, returning after an hour and taxiing past the assembled photographers.


The UKs sole participant, a Puma HC2 from 230 Squadron did the UK proud by pirouetting at close proximity to the crowds providing some good photographs.
Following this we were able to peruse the various merchandise stands, of which there were many happy to empty my wallet of European currency. We were also granted limited access down the side of Zaragoza’s huge southern parking apron, on which were parked the exercise aircraft.

The afternoon started mostly with confusion with conflicting information as to what was going to happen. When it was suggested that we were all to be removed from the site after lunch due to a lack of Spanish security able to police us there were very understandably some very unhappy people who had paid a lot of money and travelled huge distances to attend. Thankfully the organisers saw sense and allowed us to remain on the base for the afternoon to view the mass launch of a COMAO sortie. They wouldn’t however allow us the vantage points that we had for the morning, which now had fantastic sunlight, instead placing us a lot further back behind a row of bushes which obstructed view. After a fine example of rampant spotter shrubbery arranging, the restricted view was cleared which allowed us to get shots of the aircraft as they returned to the parking apron. The Polish and Turkish F-16 crews in particular were very into the spirit of the occasion, adding Tiger striped elements to their flying gear, positioning their aircraft and posing for photographs. Following the final landing we were quickly hurried out of the gate to allow preparations for Zaragozas open day that was held the following day and was attended by over 40,000 people.

Tiger Meet 2016 awards were awarded to:
1. Silver Tiger Trophy: 31 Smd, Belgian Air Force
2. Best Looking Tiger uniform: 21° Gruppo, Italian Air Force
3. Best Looking Tiger Aircraft: 221 LtBvr, Czech Air Force
4. Best Skit: 338 Skv, Royal Norwegian Air Force
5. Best Flying ops: 11F, French Navy
6. Tiger Games: 31 Smd, Belgian Air Force

Next year the Tigers will deploy to BAN Landiviseau, France, where French Navy Dassault Rafale Squadron 11F will host NATO Tiger Meet 2017.