NATO Tigers claw their way to Norway.
After last years Tiger Meet was initially planned to be held at Orland/Norway, 338 Squadron of the Norwegian Air Force had to postpone their plans to this year. The Tiger Meet at Albacete, got me interested in this more than special meeting and the goal and history behind it. Besides this does it also attract aircrafts covered with the most remarkable paint schemes and tiger coats, so therefore for me again reason enough for me to travel to beautiful Norway. This years NATO Tiger Meet was codenamed to the much more appropriate "Arctic Tiger Meet", as the meeting was hosted at cold Orland MAS in the middle of Norway. The base is situated almost at the edge of Europe, and is one of the few NATO bases that can enjoy the spectacle of the breathtaking Polar light and is surrounded by the ocean and the beautiful countryside.
For the first time in history was the Orland MAS host of this NATO Tiger Meet, offering several very unique assets for all the participants. First of all is the weather around the airbase not the most reliable one there is, and was again showcased during the "Bold Avenger" exercise one week before the Tiger Meet. Wind directions were all over the place, hail and rain were a constant factor and a low cloud base was grounding a lot of missions. Besides that is the airspace available for the exercises to the north, twice the size of Denmark and airspace to the south equals the size of Belgium. These two factors give participants a unique opportunity to practice flying in adverse weather and in mountainous terrain, serving one of the main fNTM07s points of the NTM 07. The main operational fNTM07s will be on full integration of Helicopter, Transport and Fighters in a high threat environment while conducting MEDEVAC and CSAR. And on a typical Tiger Meet flying program you will find missions like: OCA, DCA, SEAD, CSAR, Recce, Refuelling, etc.
Early Friday morning started with a clear blue sky and low angled sunshine, which was continued during the whole day. The very unique light conditions at this position in Norway caused a very soft toned but deep colour effect on the photographs. Which gives the name "Arctic Tiger" even more meaning, and is reflected on the photographs with the very unique light conditions, and maybe the best and most remarkable circumstances to photograph in. A COMAO mission was flown in combination with an air-to-air refuelling mission for most of the participants, supported by a USAF 100 ARW KC-135 Stratotanker. A locally based E-3A AWACS was at for him known ground, as this base is a Component's Forward Operating Base of the E-3A, and was supporting the COMAO mission during the whole NTM 07. A "Open Door day" was organised by the base on Saturday, to welcome people that are living around the base or families of the stationed airmen. To show everyone a inside view of the airbase and the tasks it is involved with, like this tiger meeting.
Also this year a very colourful gathering of aircrafts were present, but all with a "Arctic" influence in their paint scheme. While most aircrafts were parked outside, was the Belgium F-16, two Turkish F-16's, Spanish F/A-18A Hornet and a completely "Tiger" covered F-5 from Norway parked in a hanger, which gave not the best light conditions. The host of this years meeting had one F-16B Fighting Falcon painted in a nice black/grey/white toned tiger scheme in the tail, and three sections of peeled of paint on the fuselage and the vertical lower fin. Also was on both sides the "Arctic Tiger 2007" logo present and the 338 Skv markings on both external fuel tanks. The German 321 Lechfeld Tigers were present with a freshly painted tiger Tornado with on both sides of the tail a different tiger, and most important a great grey and black tiger coat all over the fuselage. The French Navy and Air Force repainted all of their official Tiger meet aircrafts. With as most eye-catchy aircrafts, the two totally black and white Navy Super Etendards from the 11 Flotille, a absolute great view to see against a deep blue sky.
Another French navy aircraft was present in the shape of a Rafale B, that was put in a very nicely detailed "Arctic" colour scheme. With two different tigers in the tail section, and snow on the trailing edge of the wings & canards. The French Mirage 2000C of one of the oldest Tiger members was put in a great black/yellow/silver paint scheme, that was covering most of the fuselage. The Spanish Air Force was present with a Mirage F-1 in a total grey toned tiger coat, and a F/A-18A Hornet with a nicely painted tiger tail section. The Swiss Air Force was present with the most detailed tiger head on both of the outsides on the vertical tails, and the Staffel 11 markings on the inside of the tail. And last but certainly not least were the two Turkish F-16's. They had a very nicely detailed tail, which presented a tiger in full flight gear throwing a snow ball, both with a different background. On one tail the Turkish flag, while the other aircraft had the NATO flag and sign.
COMAO - Composite Air Operations again had priority in the flying operations of the exercise. Morning sorties were used for training, and the COMAOs were flown in the afternoons following an intense cycle of coordination, planning and detailed briefings. All this fitted into Air Task Order (ATO) and exercise scenario. The four-day-flying program included a great variety of different tasks. Fighters flew fighter sweep and escort missions within Mixed Force Fighter Operations. Fighterbombers attacked ground and naval targets, while ECR-Tornados of Fighter Bomber Wing 32 supported these missions in the SEAD-role (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences) against “hostile” radar sites and Surface to Air Missile (SAM) systems. Reconnaissance results were provided by the Recce-Tornados from Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51 ”Immelmann”. Helicopters from 230 Squadron (Royal Air Force Aldergrove) and 231 Squadron (Czech Air Force Prerov) put their effort in Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) of shot down aircrews over hostile territory and some other special operations.
After all aircraft returned from their mission, they performed a formation break over the runway, and on final a line-up with the runway to land. For the landing photographs we were positioned at the end of the runway, on a excellent position to get each participant in the view finder. Every special painted aircraft was on request of the control tower standing still for a few seconds in front of us with the aircraft slightly turned, so the best light conditions were available for photographing. However turned the specially painted German Tornado and the two specially painted French Super Etendards to early away on the first available taxi-track. But were nicely asked by the control tower to return, and show their beautiful aircraft in front of us, which was of course no problem for both crews. This showed again how all parts involved in this meeting, were eagerly trying to give and show the best of their beautiful aircrafts. In the flying missions were the German Tornado's not present, but the two 321 Squadron aircrafts flew a short local mission, after all participants returned to base. In between the large wave landing and the landing of the Tornado's, the arrival of the two birds that everybody was waiting for happened. Two completely black and white delta wing shaped birds were visible on the horizon, and marked the arrival of the two 11 Flotille Super Etendards. Shortly followed by the two Portuguese F-16's of the 301 Esquadra "Jaguares", based on the Monte Real AB, with the "15133" still wearing a worn paint scheme of a Jaguar head in the tail. After all fighters returned to base, and were put to sleep in the shelters or on the tarmac, all helicopters returned to base with a few low fly passes before landing on their landing spot.
At the end of all Tiger Meets, trophies are awarded in several categories. Of course the most important is the SIlver Tiger Trophy. This year 31 'TIger' Squadron from Belgium had the honor to take the trophy home after three years. They had to split the trophy for Best Flying Squadron with 338 Skv from Orland. The other trophies; best painted aircraft went to 11 Staffel from Switserland, the best Tiger dress was worn by the French aircrew and maintenance people from EC 01.012 'Cambresis'. The best Tiger skit was performed by the Spanish aircrew from 142 Squadron, and the "Tiger-Spirit" Award went to the German AG51. And last, won the Awacs N° 1 squadron the Tiger games.
Special thanks goes to the 338 Skv Public Relations, Major Marianne "Mary" Knutsen, and Major, Řivind Wathne for their hospitality, effort and their generous help in making this feature possible.