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The NATO Tiger Meet 2011, Part 2; Cambrai-Epinoy, May 16, 2011

The International Tiger Games; Text and Photograph’s by Alex van Noye

A major NATO exercise was held at Cambrai-Epinoy next to all the painted aircraft and the social part of the NATO Tiger Meet. I was present during one of the missions during the exercise on May 16, 2011. It is normal that about 1500 spectators are present during the exercise of the NATO Tiger Meet.

On Monday, May 9, 2011, the Tiger Meet 2011 was officially launched during the flag ceremony. The start of the Tiger Meet took place in the afternoon after the arrivals of all the participants for the exercise. This Tiger Meet would be one of the biggest ever. Unfortunately, there were some participants who could not participate during the Tiger Meet. This was related to the current situation in Libya. The squadron which were absent due to this conflict were; the no 31 Squadron from Belgium, the no 313 Squadron from the Netherlands, the no 11 Flotille from France, the no 21 Gruppo from Italy and the no 338 Skvadron from Norway. There was also positive news, because the no 335 Mira of the Greek Air Force was officially accepted as a full member of the NATO Tiger Association. The Tiger games took place again in the weekend between the two weeks of the exercise. The Tiger Games are a number of innocent games with the crews of all countries who will face each other during the games. Especially the ground crews of the participating countries are competitive during the Tiger games. The purpose of these games is fun and creating international team spirit within the NATO. The winner of this year’s Tiger games was Fliegerstaffel 11 from Switzerland. There are also a few awards to win during the Tiger Meet next to the Tiger Games. One of those awards was for the best skit. The best skit award is given to the participant who has the best performance and best show during the Tiger Meet. The intention is to give a small show with much humor. The winner of this award this year was the no 301 Esquadra from Portugal. Another award during this show is the award for the best uniform. This award was won by the French Escadron de Chasse et d'Experimentation 5/330 from Mont-the-Marsan. The most important award for the photographers is the award for the best painting. The award was this year won by the Germans from Aufklarungsgeschwader 51. Besides all these awards for fun, there is also an award for a more serious part of the exercise. This is the award for the best flying during the exercise. The award for the best exercise result was this year won by

the Portuguese 301 Esquadra. The final award is for the best overall performance. The Silver Tiger Award is for the overall winner of the Tiger Meet. Also this award was won by the 301 Esquadra from Portugal. This unit won most of the prices this year.

This edition of the Tiger Meet was another Tiger Meet with some beautifully painted aircraft. The French participated with 3 specially painted aircraft. The host of the Tiger Meet at Cambrai EC 1/12 participated with two special paint Mirages. The Tiger aircraft of this unit was completely gray. The tail of this aircraft was black with gray stripes and a yellow and black striped line ran over the back of the aircraft. This was a very modern version of a Tiger painting. The second aircraft of the unit contained only a special tail paint bearing the image of the Tiger. The German Tornado from Aufklarungsge- schwader 51 was the most beautiful aircraft of the Tiger Meet. This tornado was completely painted black and on the tail was the black panther of the unit visible. This tornado won the award for the best color scheme at the end of the Tiger Meet. The Gippens of the Czech Air Force were beautiful. All aircraft had big cat eyes on top of the canard wings. The Germans of Jagdbombergeschwader 32 from Lechfeld flew a Tornado which was completely in tiger colors. This tiger aircraft was my favorite paint during the complete Tiger Meet. The French Tiger of Escadron the Chasse et d'Experimentation 5/330 was a remarkable aircraft. This Mirage 2000-5F had a big tiger over the entire back of the aircraft. Especially the fuel tanks were a nice addition to the scheme. On the tanks were large claws of the tiger visible.

The weather was unfortunately not the best weather you can have for an exercise at the spotter’s day of May 16. The sky today was very gray. On the one hand it is a shame that the weather was not better, but on the other hand it offers the opportunity for great action shots of airplanes which take off with full afterburner. Today I had the opportunity to shoot many planes with full afterburner. Also the participants of the airshow from last weekend would depart today. This extra aircraft were parked on the same flight line as the participants of the Tiger Meet. The first 2 aircraft which were departing were 2 Spanish Mirage F-1s and 2 French Rafales. The German EF2000 wanted to leave, but this aircraft had a malfunction during start-up. Later in the afternoon it was able to fly home. All aircraft would fly today with the exception of 2 aircraft. Unfortunately the 2 Slovak Air Force MiG-29s stayed behind on the flight line. Too bad, because this were exactly the aircraft where I came for. At the beginning of the morning I finally scored my first Tigre helicopter on photo. Conditions were not ideal; the distance with the departing helicopter was quite big. I had hoped that the helicopters would fly along the flight line, but this was unfortunately not the case. The first Tiger Meet participants appeared soon after the departure of the visitors of the air show. The distance to the taxi track was very close; I needed my 28mm lens for some of the shots. Normally I am not a fan of this, because I think those pictures which were taken with a telelens are nicer on photo. Some of these pictures did not look wrong. The advantage of a short distance to the taxi track is that I could take head on pictures of the taxiing planes. The runway was with 250 meters distance quite far away. The cloudy day was an advantage with this big distance. Heat haze plays a big role during photography over big distances; it can ruin the photos. Our position along the taxi track was ideal, because we were halfway the length of the runway where the planes came loose from the ground. This resulted in a few spectacular photos in combination with the afterburners and the nice background. A number of 50 aircraft took off for the Tiger Meet mission. Also a Polish Hercules landed in the afternoon. This aircraft brought a new engine for one of the Polish F-16s. All aircraft were back at Cambrai at the end of the afternoon. This edition of the Tiger Meet was another great success. I cannot wait for next year at Monte Real in Portugal to go for the Tiger Meet of 2012.

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