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The NATO Tiger Meet 2010; Volkel October 13, 2010

NATO Tigers, Hard To Be Humble; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

This year I had the opportunity to attend the NATO Tiger Meet. The Tiger Meet 2010 was held at the Dutch airbase of Volkel. On Wednesday, October 13, I attended one of the two photo days which belong to this event. It would be a great day, filled with great moments for spectacular action shots.

The NATO Tiger Meet is organized by one of the NATO countries each year. The large scale exercise is therefore held on a different location somewhere in Europe. All participating units have a picture of a tiger or other “big cat” in their unit badge. The Tiger Meet is not just a typical NATO exercise, but also a very social happening between the participating countries. During the Tiger Meet, several competitions are held among the participating countries. Examples include the highest score during CAMAO missions and the highest score for the most beautiful "Tiger Tail" which is painted on the aircraft. The points which can be gathered during the competitions can be deserved at both social games and operational exercises. These competitions are held annually in a period of two weeks. The winner of this series of competitions will be awarded with the silver tiger award. The winner of the last edition of the Tiger Meet was EC 1/12 "Cambresis" from the French Air Force Airbase Cambrai. The Tiger Meet has mainly a social character. The aim of this exercise is to generate a bigger solidarity between the NATO countries. The audience plays a big role in this event. The NATO Tiger Association demands the host country to organize a few photo days around the exercise for the press and the general public. This is done to share the tiger feeling with the rest of the world.

This year, the NATO Tiger Meet was organized by the Dutch no 313 Squadron. This unit is based at Volkel Air Base and wears the badge of the tiger on the tails of the F-16's. This unit was founded on December 1, 1953 at Volkel Air Base. After the unit was moved to Woensdrecht and later to Twenthe, it turned back at Volkel Air Base on December 2, 2005. Volkel Air Base is also the home base of the no 311 and no 312 Squadron. Several NATO countries are participating during this edition of the Tiger Meet. The no 313 squadron acts as host and participates with a large number of based F-16's. The no 31 Squadron from Belgium is participating in the exercise as

well. They operate with seven F-16's. On behalf of France two units are involved, namely: EC-1/12 from Cambrai and EC 5/330 from Mont-de-Marsan. Both units fly the Mirage 2000 and there are eight planes from France at Volkel. The Norwegians participate with seven F-16’s of the 338 Skvadron. The Czechs are participating with 4 Jas-39 Grippens of the 21.zTL which is based at Caslav. The Hungarians will join the exercise with 2 Jas-39 Grippens of the no 59 SDHR from Kecskemét. The Turks are joining with three F-16’s of the no 192 Filo which is based at Balikesir. The Germans are involved in the exercise with two units, namely: AG-51 from Schleswig-Jagel and JBG-32 from Lechfeld. Both units are participating with 3 Tornados each. The Austrians are participating in the Tiger Meet with 3 Saab-105's of the Düsentrai- nerstaffel from Linz. Finally, the F-16's of the Dutch no 312 Squadron will join the exercise as aggressors during the missions.

When I arrived at Volkel Air Base, it was very dark. The sky was not just gray, but dark gray. The weather seemed to ruin our day because the photography conditions were very poor. The first engines finally started for the Tiger Meet after one hour of waiting. The first aircraft that appeared for take-off were some Dutch F-16's and the German Tornado’s. The Tornado’s went out via the main runway and the F-16’s mostly via the parallel runway. It quickly became clear that especially the F-16’s would use the parallel runway and that these pictures would become the best of the day. Despite the very dark weather I managed to shoot some great photos of the departing planes. All aircraft took off with full afterburner because most of the machines were loaded with external load under their wings. The afterburners of these aircraft looked bright orange because of the dark weather. Behind the German tornado’s the Norwegian F-16's and the French Mirages appeared. All these aircraft departed in two ship formations from the main runway. Many Dutch and Belgian F-16's departed right after the departure of these aircraft. These aircraft departed from both runways. Finally the Czech Grippens and the Austrian Saab-105’s appeared for take-off. The Grippens left Volkel via the parallel runway; this brought me a number of unique photos. The first aircraft came in for landing right after the last departures of the morning mission. All the Tiger Meet participants were back at Volkel Air Base at half past twelve.

The gray sky changed into a beautiful blue sky just before the afternoon mission would start. It changed within 30 minutes from gray to blue. The afternoon mission was therefore totally different than the morning mission. The number of starts from the parallel runway increased drastically in the afternoon. This was of course very good for the photo quality. I therefore decided to move myself to a different position. My current position was a little further to the end of the runway, but I decided to go a bit further forward. This was the best choice I've made today. All aircraft which took off on the parallel runway tipped in front of my lens. I was able to shoot some spectacular action shots during the afternoon. Many F-16 pilots took off via the parallel runway. The Tornado’s and the Mirages decided unfortunately to use the main runway, but this did not spoil the fun. The four Czech Grippens took off from the parallel runway as well. The aircraft passed me one by one with high speed; they took off with a lot of noise. Just before they passed me, they came loose off the ground with full afterburner. The light on the departing aircraft was really great. Also the return of the aircraft resulted in a great series of photos. The aircraft which landed passed us via the parallel runway, like they did this morning. The aircraft had to wait for a longer period before they could cross the main runway. My day at Volkel Air Base was over after the landing of all these aircraft. The Tiger Meet 2010 was again a great success for me. I cannot wait until we can go again next year. The Tiger Meet is then organized by EC 1/12 which is based at the French Cambrai.

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