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The NATO Tiger Meet 2001; Kleine-Brogel, June 19, 2001

The Annual Spotters Day, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The annual NATO Tiger Meet was this year held at the Belgian air base Kleine-Brogel. During the Tiger Meet also the traditional spotter’s day was organized. It's a tradition that during the Tiger Meet many aircraft are painted in tiger colors. This year there were many colored aircraft present from different NATO members.

This year, for the fourth time in a row the annual spotter’s day was organized at the Belgian air base Kleine-Brogel. The spotters’ day at this airbase started as a small event in 1997. The spotters’ day was at that time organized for the opportunity to photograph the Italian Starfighters at the airbase. In four years, the spotters’ day became a big event that recurs every year at this airbase in the north of Belgium. The event attracts since it has grown to its present form more than 2,000 visitors each year. The organization of the spotters’ day at Kleine-Brogel knows each year how to create the excellent photographic opportunity. The photographers are positioned in a prime location at the airbase making them able to catch the aircraft on the ground and in the air on film. During the spotters’ day were more than 31 Belgian F-16s seen at the airbase. There were over 20 of these aircraft involved in the mission during the spotters’ day. The F-16s at Kleine-Brogel are assigned to four different units, namely; the 23 Squadron, the 31 Squadron, the 349 Squadron and the OCU (Operational Conversion Unit). Also from Florennes Air Base in the south of the country, there were a number of F-16s at Kleine-Brogel during the spotters’ day. Besides the large group of F-16s also a large group of Alpha-Jets flew along during this day. A group of as many as eight aircraft flew in a tight formation over the airfield during the spotters’ day. The Alpha-Jets are assigned to the 1 Wing at Beauvechain Air Base. Only one of the Alpha-Jets was present on the ground at the Flightline. Also a CM170 Fouga Magister was present at Kleine-Brogel.

There was during the spotters’ day also a small static show on which several Belgian units were set up in a photogenic position. These groups of aircraft were not only operational aircraft, but also some preserved aircraft. There was a Starfighter present on this line. The Starfighter was of the type F-104G and has flown at Kleine-Brogel in the past. A second Starfighter is present at the gate of the airbase as a gate guard.

The same applies to the F-84F Thunderstreak which also stands at the main entrance of the airbase. On the static line was also a second F-84F Thunderstreak present. These aircraft flew in the past as a predecessor of the Starfighter and operated from Kleine Brogel Air Base. Beauvechain Air Base has also operated in the past with the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak and the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter. At the spotters’ day at Kleine-Brogel was also a Belgian C-130 Hercules present. The Belgian Air Force has twelve of these transport aircraft in use. The aircraft are all stationed at Brussels-Melsbroek where they fly at the 15 Wing. The 1 Wing had in addition to the Alpha-Jet also an SF260 Marchetti at Kleine-Brogel. This small aircraft is used for the training of the new fighter pilots in Belgium. From Liège-Bierset, there were two Agusta A-109 light attack helicopters present at the spotters’ day. These helicopters are used by the Belgian Army. Finally, there was a Sea-King present from Koksijde Air Base. These helicopters are assigned to the 40 Squadron which is the SAR unit of the Belgian Air Force.

The French air force was very strongly represented during the spotters’ day at Kleine-Brogel. The French Air Force flew along with two Mirage F1s. The two Mirages were of the type Mirage F-1CT and Mirage F1B. These aircraft are based at the French airbase Mont-de-Marsan in the south of France. The Mirages are at this airbase assigned to EC05.330. These Mirages both had tiger markings on the tail, because this unit is also a tiger unit. The French airbase St-Dizier sent two Jaguars to Kleine-Brogel for the spotters’ day. The two Jaguars are assigned to EC01.007 at this airbase northern France. The Jaguar was developed as an attack aircraft for the British and French air forces. In the future, the Jaguar will be replaced by the Dassault Rafale in France. There was only one French Alpha-Jet present during the spotters’ day at Kleine-Brogel. The Alpha-Jet is used in France for the advanced pilot training. The aircraft is based on the French airbase Tours where the aircraft is flying at EAC00.314. The Alpha-Jet is a modern jet trainer which is used in many air forces in the world as a primary trainer for fighter pilots. The primary training aircraft which is used in France is the Embraer Tucano. The French Tucano's are stationed at the French airbase Salon de Provence where they are assigned to DV15.300.

The French Air Force took also part at the spotters’ day with four Mirage 2000s. Three of these aircraft were of the type Mirage 2000C and was one aircraft was of the type Mirage 2000B. The Mirage 2000B is the two-seat trainer variant of the Mirage 2000C. The Mirages which were present at Kleine-Brogel all came from the French airbase Cambrai-Epinoy. The present Mirages were assigned to EC01.012. The Mirages on the airbase are mainly used in the air defense role. The Mirages which perform this task are painted in a blue and gray camouflage pattern. The aircraft can be equipped with different types of missiles. During the spotters’ day also four A-10 Thunderbolts of the USAFE would make some overshoots. The planes were on training at the Pampa Range near Kleine-Brogel. The air traffic controller sent the aircraft to Kleine-Brogel for a few overshoots. The Thunderbolts of the USAFE are stationed at the German airbase Spangdahlem in the Eifel area. The A-10s are there part of the 81 Fighter squadron which is part of the 52 Fighter Wing. The A-10 Thunderbolt was developed in the 70s as a replacement for the A-1 Skyraider. The aircraft was used for the close air support role and is known for its seven loops Gau-7 cannon in the nose. The A-10 has proven to be a very robust aircraft during the Gulf War in Iraq in 1991. Several aircraft were heavily damaged after they were attacked by hostile guns. In addition to the A-10, there were also two USAFE F-15E Strike Eagles at Kleine-Brogel. The Strike Eagles are stationed at the British airbase Lakenheath at the 48th FW.

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