Tactical Weapons Meet

Tactical Weapons Meet - 2017 - F-16A Fighting Falcon 'Blackbird' - 1st Squadron 'Stingers'

In the spring of 2017 I was already planning to visit Western Europe for my first NATO Tiger Meet.  Through the European online aviation forums I found out about the Tactical Weapons Meet being hosted by the 1st Squadron 'Stingers' at Florennes AB in Belgium.  Although the spotters events were on back-to-back days and separated by 850 kilometres, the lineup of attending aircraft was too impressive to miss and I arrived at the base on the morning of Thursday June 15 having managed a brief two hour stop to sleep.

There were many aspects to look forward to about this day, but I was most excited to see the F-4E Phantoms belonging to the Hellenic Air Force and the MiG-29A Fulcrums from the Polish Air Force.  While I had recently enjoyed the sound of the Phantom's J-79 engines at the 2016 Phantom Conference held in New Mexico, it had been 16 years since I had last seen a MiG-29 and it was thrilling to watch both pairs of Cold War warriors fly during the morning and afternoon sessions with their characteristic smokey black exhausts and braking parachutes.

Aviation expanded rapidly during the Great War with many squadrons tracing their heritage back to 1917 so there were some lovely 100th Anniversary paint schemes on display.  The host Stingers called their F-16 'Blackbird' with a striking tail and yellow, grey and black stripes accenting the spine and wings.  The RAF Hawks were also celebrating the birth of 100 Squadron, albeit in a much more subdued way with just an acknowledgement across the fuselage.  The most appealing 100th Anniversary livery was worn by a French Air Force Mirage 2000-5F paying tribute to ace Georges Guynemer and although the weather was solid overcast during it's arrival, the jet stood out beautifully against the dark sky.    

This was a truly spectacular day.  The weather cooperated, the spotters were provided wonderful proximity to the taxiway and runway and there was a wonderful collection of aircraft flying throughout the day.  It was evident that a thorough job of planning went into organizing this event and it was truly a pleasure to be in attendance.