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NATO Tiger Meet

Posted by aaron on June 19, 2008

There are events that occur around the world that bring fighter pilots together for kickass flying and kickass camaraderie. Exercises like Red Flag and Maple Flag, competitions like Gunsmoke, no longer flown, and Hawgsmoke allow fighter pilots to fly hard and play hard. Of all these, the NATO Tiger Meet is probably the longest running and maybe most kickass event. NATO Tiger Meet has spawned other events like the Tiger Meet of the Americas and even a virtual competition, Lowland Tiger Meet. But the NATO Tiger Meet remains the gold standard of fighter events. One possible reason, it’s strictly an unofficial function. It’s neither funded nor directed by NATO offices. The host unit plans and organizes all operations of the Meet.
This weekend the 44th NATO Tiger Meet begins in Landivisiau, France, hosted by the French Navy’s Flotilla 11F. Fighter squadrons from all over Europe that incorporate a Tiger on their squadron crest or patch will make the journey to France to compete against their fighter pilot brothers. Fighter squadrons show up in tiger flight suits, tiger scarves, tiger hats and often with at least one jet painted with tiger stripes.

The NATO Tiger Association was the vision of a French Defense Minister in 1959 and became a reality in July 1961 when the very first NATO Tiger Meet, basically a social affair, occurred. That year the 79th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the United States Air Force in Europe invited the No. 74 Squadron of the Royal Air Force and the EC 1/12 Squadron of the French Armée de l`air to RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk, England. The following year, 1962, was the first year, now with eight squadrons, that the Tiger Meet became an actual military flying exercise.
This year’s Tiger Meet runs from 22-30 June. During the eight days of the meet participants will fly around 250 sorties. Flying events usually include air-to-air, surface attack, low altitude navigation, all the way up to large composite force exercises. Squadrons accrue points in accordance with the meet rules for that particular year. Flying units can also obtain points during activities, Tiger Games, planned at the weeks various kickass social events. At the end of the week the squadron compiling the most points is awarded the Silver Tiger Trophy. The 2007 Silver Tiger winner was the 31 Squadron of the Belgian Air Force. Interestingly, the 31 Squadron has won the Silver Tiger Trophy five of the last eleven Tiger Meets.
Next week should kickass! We’ll let you know how it turns out.


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