NATO Tiger Meet

Cambrai, France, 6 June 2003



The week between 2 and 6 June 2003 saw the 39th edition of one of NATO's oldest exercises. NATO Tiger Meet, or NTM for short, was staged this year at the French Air Force's Base Aerienne 103 at Cambrai-Epinoy. Home to Escadron de Chasse 1/12 "Cambresis", nowadays equipped with the Mirage 2000RDI, Cambrai played host to a collection of NATO jets some of which were decorated as the ferocious feline for which the Exercise has been named.  

First held at RAF Woodbridge in 1961, the Tiger Meet started life as a social gathering of pilots from NATO units which had a tiger in their unit's emblem. Over the years, the Tiger Meet evolved into a real flying exercise. During the last few years, Tiger Meets were incorporated into larger scale exercises like Clean Hunter. However, a fine tradition, namely spraying one of one's aircraft in a tiger paint scheme has remained throughout the decades. As these schemes are often quite temporarily, Tiger Meets are sought after events for many photographers. Fortunately, NTM 2003's hosts recognised this. Apart from combining the 2003 Tiger Meet with an Open Day and Airshow on Sunday 8 June, Cambrai was opened to enthousiasts on Friday 6 June. This enabled those who visited Cambrai on that particular day to whitness the last morning launch of the Tiger Meet and see some participants for Sunday's airshow arrive to boot. The pictures below have all been shot on the Friday.

As stated, Tiger Meets are no longer just social gatherings. EC 1/12 had set up a Combined Military Air Operations exercise code named Cambresis 03 to keep the tigers busy during the week. Nevertheless, not all members of the Tiger club showed up, notable absentees being the USAF's 494 FS (F-15E), the Royal Netherlands AF 313 sq (F-16AM), the Spanish Air Force's 142 Escadron (Mirage F.1M) and the Italian Air Force's 155 Grupo (Tornado F.3). The Italians and the Spanish did show up at the Air Show on the Sunday.

NTM03 trophies were issued as follows: 

Silver Tiger Trophy:  31 sq Belgian AF from Kleine Brogel

Best Flying Trophy:  230 sq RAF from Aldergrove

Tiger Games        :  AG 51 Luftwaffe from Schleswig-Jagel

The French organisers are certainly to be complimented for their initiative, so a big "merci beaucoup" is absolutely due. It can only be hoped that this initiative will be followed by other bases in the future, including Schleswig-Jagel which will organise 2004's Tiger Meet. 



All pictures (c) Hans Rolink.


Most spectacular of all the Tiger colour schemes during NTM 03 had been applied to Mirage 2000RDI 83/12-YL from the host unit EC 1/12. See how detailed it has been done, including the glint in the tiger's eyes. Unfortunately, this Mirage broke down before it could fly it's mission on 6 June. In a helpful move it was towed along the fence line enabling all photographers to take a look at it.

Another Tiger Meet participant and also from France flying Mirage 2000's is EC 5/330 from Mont de Marsan. This is a Mirage 2000-5F 77/330-AX modified from an older Mirage 2000C. It's tiger scheme is a bit less eye-catching, but still a joy to see. 

The Belgian Air Force's 31 squadron from Kleine Brogel is a very enthousiastic Tiger Meet participant. It has organised the Tiger Meet on many occasions, the last time being in 2001. The Belgian painters limited their handywork to the fin of F-16AM FA-93. However, they had a surprise in the shape of differing schemes on either side of the aircraft. The left side shows a leaping tiger while the right side..... 

shows a head on view drawing of an F-16 superimposed on a tiger's body. 

On quite some occasions one can not help to wonder how many Air Force painters have missed an artist's career. 

The Tiger Association welcomed French Navy's Flotille 11F within it's ranks some years ago. ALthough 11F's badge features a sea horse, the unit was accepted because of it's frequent emabarkation in the aircraft carrier Foch. This World War I era French general was nicknamed "Le Tigre". Super Etendard Modernise serialled 38 is seen here taxiing out for it's mission on Friday 6 June 2003.

And the winner is....

Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 "Immelmann" from Schleswig-Jagel, at least as far as the Tiger Games were concerned. Despite having a panther as it's mascot, AG 51 has been a Tiger Meet regular for some years. This year AG 51 repainted Tornado 43+96 in this striking tiger scheme. AG 51 will host NTM 2004.

The Portuguese Air Force's Esc 301 sent among other this Alpha Jet A 15226 to Cambrai. The Portuguese delegation also included 15250, seen in 2001. 15226's tiger livery is somewhat less auspicious, being limited to the underwing fuel tanks. 

This year's addition to the Tiger club as a full member is Norway's 338 Skvadron from Ørland. 338 Skv has taken the place of 336 Skv which was disbanded some time ago. The badge on the fin denotes "F-16MLU 100% quality".

The Turkish Air Force's 192 Filo, part of 9 AJU from Balikesir, is another F-16 operating member. This Block 50 displays the unit's toned down tiger head on the fin beneath a full colour tiger stripe. The Turkish F-16's did not fly on the Friday.

Although Switzerland is a neutral country, the Swiss Air Force's Fliegerstaffel 11 is a Tiger Association member. The Swiss brought two single seat F/A-18C and a two seat F/A-18D to Cambrai. In this picture J-5023 taxies back after it's mission. Please note that the jets were merely flown by Flst 11, the F/A-18's do not belong to any squadron in particular.  

FA-122, the previous Belgian F-16AM in tiger livery. Both it and FA-93 were sent to Cambrai. Like FA-93, this aircraft also displayed  two different schemes on either side of the fin.


With the tigered Mirage 2000RDI in the background, Mirage 2000B 528/12-YQ taxies out. All EC 11/12 Mirages had a tiger band on the fin top.