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Objectives of the COMAO Missions; Poznań-Krzesiny, May 18, 2018

The NATO Tiger Meet 2018, part 2; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The NATO Tiger Meet is one of the largest military exercises which takes place annually in Europe. Every year the European Tiger units send their aircraft to the Tiger Meet to train intensively together. During the Tiger Meet 2018 in Poland, various CAMAO war scenarios were flown which imitate contemporary reality of war.

Also this year in Poland this year’s the Tiger Meet was held with the aim to promote European cooperation. The units which participated came from all corners of Europe. The Polish host, the 6.elt, flew with six F-16s during the missions. In addition to the Poles, Belgium (31 Squadron), Greece (335 Mira) and the Netherlands (313 Squadron) also flew along with their F-16s. Besides the F-16 users, there were also three Eurofighter users who participated in the NTM2018. The countries participating with the EF2000 Eurofighter were Germany (TLG-74), Italy (12° Gruppo) and Spain (142 Escadron). In addition to the Eurofighters, the Germans also used Tornado’s from TLG-51. Hungary and the Czech Republic were both present with their Saab JAS-39 Gripens (59/1 Squadron & 211 TL). The French Navy participated in the NTM2018 with five Rafale Ms (11 Flottille) and the Austrian Air Force flew along with three Saab 105Öe's (1 JTS). The Swiss Air Force was the only participant who is not a member of NATO. This country flew with the F/A-18 Hornet (Staffel 11) from Meiringen. All these fighters were based at Poznań-Krzesiny. The whole exercise is coordinated by an E-3 Sentry. During the Tiger Meet, there are usually also a number of helicopters present which support the missions. The British flew during the missions with a Merlin HM2 (814 NAS) and a Puma HC2 (230 Squadron). The Italians also had two helicopters at Poznan in the form of two AB-212ICO helicopters (21° Gruppo). Finally, the Czechs were present with two Mi-24 "Hind" helicopters (221 LtBVr). The Czechs only participated in the first week of the Tiger Meet.

Most of the aircraft and helicopters which participated in the NTM2018 were stationed at Poznań-Krzesiny. In addition to these airfields, Tiger Meet missions were also flown from the airfields of the Polish Air Force Powidz, Mirosławiec, Świdwin and Malbork to support the missions. Besides these main participants in the Tiger Meet, there are also many other Polish units of the air force and the army involved in the NATO Tiger Meet.

Examples are the armored and mechanized troops of the army, the Polish airmobile troops, the Special Forces (GROM), anti-aircraft batteries (8 Koszaliński and 4 Zielonogórski), reconnaissance forces, communication posts, the logistics and medical units. Finally, helicopters from the 56th Air Base in Inowrocław are also involved in the exercise. These helicopters flew along with the Tiger Meet participants which flew missions from Poznań-Krzesiny. Therefore when organizing an exercise like the Tiger Meet, there is a lot more happening than just flying missions with fighter planes. For the participating countries and army units, it is therefore crucial that training missions are prepared extensively. There was already a very large logistical operation required to get all participants of the Tiger Meet to Poznan. This concerns not only the flying in of the aircraft and their material, but also the preparation of the airbase on their arrival.

For the participants of the NATO Tiger Meet 2018, the joint training is the main goal of the entire meeting according to Colonel Rafał Zadencki. The main objectives during the NTM2018 were to gain more knowledge during combined air operations through active involvement in mission planning. This means that the participants of the NTM2018 will be assigned to their mission or role and that they will implement the mission planning themselves. Force integration is the result of this way of working. The participants learn to solve various problems during the course of the exercise. As a result, the entire training course is largely focused on the execution of COMAOs (Combined Air Operations). Indirectly, the training is aimed at improving and training the skills of NATO cooperation. Zadencki said this will be done in accordance with relevant procedures and doctrines. The pilots of the combat aircraft must also work closely with transport aircraft and helicopters during the exercise. Air defense missiles and IADS (Integrated Air Defense System) will also be added during the exercise to make the COMAO scenarios even more realistic. The Polish Army was also involved in the scenarios to deepen the level of cooperation. This deployment during training is related to FACs/TACs (Forward/Tactical Air Controllers). These aspects were mainly used in CAS (Close Air Support) missions. The entire exercise included a scenario of an international crisis in the context of conventional and hybrid warfare.

The training missions consisted of defending a designated area or a border defense. Part of the combat aircraft were also used for the protection of other aircraft during escort missions. During the operations, aircraft were coordinated in the air by IADS to gain and maintain air superiority and to protect their own forces on the ground. During the attack missions, specialized aircraft were deployed in the SEAD role to eliminate enemy defenses. Other attack aircraft could therefore attack and disable the important enemy positions according to Zadencki. During the NATO Tiger Meet 2018, a total of nearly 1000 flights were performed and the participants spent over 1600 hours in the air during the scenario missions. Two missions were carried out daily, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning mission often included the COMAO training and was therefore the largest flight of the day. Zadencki explained that during the entire NATO Tiger Meet 2018, eight missions of this caliber were planned. Over 50 training missions took place as part of the so-called "Shadow Wave" flights, with parts from the different participating countries practicing separately. During the exercise polygons were used in Drawsko, Pomorskie, Ustka, Nadarzyce, Żagań and Biedrusku. Special Forces and a few other military units also operated in other selected areas outside these training grounds. The airspace was reserved for the NATO Tiger Meet organization and extended from Poznań to Mazury and from Poznań to the Baltic with two extra zones for missions above water.




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