2016 Event Review

NATO Tiger Meet May 16-27, 2016
Location: Zaragoza Air Base, Spain
Admission: Accredited Media and Spotters only
Parking: N/A
Value: N/A
Rating out of 10: N/A


This year the annual NATO Tiger Meet (NTM) took place at the Zaragoza Air Base in Spain, located half way between the Spanish capital Madrid and Barcelona at the eastern coast. During Space Shuttle operations the air base with its 12.200ft long runway served as Transatlantic Abort Landing site. Today it is home to the Ala 31 operating the C-130H/KC-130H Hercules and the Ala 15 with EF-18M/EF-18BM Hornet. From May 16th until May 27th the latter was host to the 2016 Tiger Meet. The NTM is organized by the NATO Tiger Association (NTA). Prerequisite to become a member of the NTA is to have a Tiger's head in the squadron crest. The newest member is the German Air Force TaktLwG 74 (Tactical Fighter Wing 74), flying the EF2000 Eurofighter. They were accepted into the community on May 17th, 2016. Currently the NTA has 24 active squadrons from 17 countries.

The NTM encompasses a wide variety of missions. Usually two waves - shadow and COMAO - are flown daily, practicing multi-national and multi-aircraft operations, which reflect real world scenarios. The "shadow wave" is not as complex as the COMAO (composite air operations) wave. 

The shadow wave takes individual squadron training needs into account. For example a country has only a limited variety and amount of aircraft available to practice slow mover protection/attack. Or a squadron has specific needs to train close air support with forward air controllers on the ground or in the air. Also part of the shadow wave are Dissimilar Air Combat missions, where one or more aircraft of individual squadrons with different Rules of Engagement "fight" against each other.
COMAO missions like Close Air Support, Air Interdiction, high values asset protection, combat search and rescue (CSAR), slow mover protection, attack of maritime forces or any combination of these are the most complex and challenging type of missions. With the growing capabilities of helicopters these are an integral part of today's modern warfare. Integrated in large scale COMAO missions of up to 50 and more aircraft the helicopters are tasked with Forward Air Controlling (FAC), CSAR and an insertion/extraction of ground forces. Each aircraft - slow moving helicopters, heavy transports and fast moving jets - has to be at the exact predetermined time at the exact assigned location in order not to interfere with other assets. Independent of any ground- or air-based threats enroute.

Fifteen different types of aircraft from 23 units out of 15 countries with a total of 97 aircraft took part in the NTM. Almost 1000 sorties were flown during the twelve days. The 2016 NTM was the biggest Tiger Meet in its 55 year history.

No training without competition. The Belgian 31st Smaldeel was awarded the Silver Trophy for best overall performance; the Best Painted Tiger Aircraft was a Czech Air Force Mi-24 Hind from the 221 LtBVr. The winner of the Best Flying Unit was the French Navy Flottille 11F with Rafale M.

NATO Tiger Meet participants :
Report by Ralf Peter Walter with photography as noted for

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