NATO Tiger Meet
The NATO Tiger Meet is an annual military exercise that brings together Tiger-themed squadrons from all across Europe with the goal of promoting NATO solidarity, fostering relationships amongst NATO personnel and creating a better understanding of the objectives and problems of NATO partners.
The original Tiger Meet was held at RAF Woodbridge in 1961 and featured three participating units; the 79th Tactical Fighter Squadron from the United States Air Force flying F-100D Super Sabres, Escadron de Chasse 1/12 from the French Air Force flying the Super Mystere B2 and 74 Squadron from the Royal Air Force flying the Lightning F.1.
Today there are 23 active member squadrons from all across Europe and a bundle of honorary and disbanded members from militaries around the world.
A typical Tiger Meet will feature tiger stripes everywhere, from clothing to cars, participants to spectators and especially aircraft, as fuel pods, tails and even full aircraft get painted specially to show off squadron pride with the hope of winning the coveted Silver Tiger Trophy.
I had been following the Tiger Meet for many years and had even registered and made arrangements to attend the 2016 edition in Zaragoza, Spain, but it wasn't until June of 2017 that I was finally able to enjoy the festivities in person. The meet was held in Western France at the Naval Base in Landivisiau and hosted by their Dassault Rafale Squadron, the 11th Flotille. The locally based Navy Rafale M's were joined on the ground and in the air by French Air Force Rafale B and C models and since I had never seen this type of fighter it was great to have so many in attendance. They were also the most colourful aircraft on base, the Navy painting a striking white with black striped 'Arctic Tiger' and the Air Force providing jets with some colour representing their two squadrons.
Fourteen squadrons from nine countries participated in 2017 flying a variety of aircraft from transport helicopters to modern fighters. Unfortunately, apart from the Rafales, there was minimal tiger-themed colour on display, which were a few more grey jets than I was hoping to see. Despite this I was thrilled to have finally made it to this event and truly enjoyed the energetic atmosphere amongst the squadrons and spotters. The base access and proximity to so many European military aircraft was fantastic and I hope to return on a regular basis.