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 NATO Tiger Meet 2010 - RNLAF Volkel Netherlands

On Wednesday 13th October our very own Mr.Flory and myself  jumped on a plane and made the short hop over to Holland for the annual NATO Tiger Meet. Below are some images and a bit about our grand day out.

                  NATO Tiger Meet Patch 2010                                                        

          This years Tiger Meet patch                               Volkel Air Base                                  RNLAF 313 Sqn hosts Unit Badge


   From the 4-15th October the annual NATO Tiger Meet (NTM) was this year hosted by 313 Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force at the Volkel Air Base near Uden, southern Holland. Over 50 aircraft participated in this years event, from F-16's to Mil-35 helicopters, the skies were never quiet. Other participating aircraft were a Ohio ANG KC-135 tanker from nearby Eindhoven airport, and a NATO E-3 AWACS operating from it's base at Geilenkirchen. The E-3 could be seen circling the base for most of the day watching and directing the various missions taking place.

   The Base is currently also home to 311 and 312 Squadrons of the RNLAF, all flying the F-16. Along side the RNLAF, the United States Air Force's 703rd Munitions Support Squadron, part of the 52nd Fighter Squadron are also based here. The base has two parallel runways 06L/24R & 06R/24L, and during the mass launches both were used for take-offs which made choosing a spot for photography slightly more challenging. Fortunately aircraft were only recovering onto 06L which made life some what easier.

    The Tiger Meet itself first came about in the early sixties when the French Defense Minister, M.Pierre Messmer wanted a closer relationship between the NATO members. At the same time the 79th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the USAF in Europe was looking to establish a closer relationship with the RAF, especially with 74 Squadron that also possessed a 'Tiger' as part of it's Squadron badge. The French Air Force were soon to join, and these three units became the founding members of the NTM. The membership quickly grew to eight  with the requirement now that each Squadron have a 'Tiger' as part of it's unit badge. Since it's conception, the Tiger Meet has changed little. The main aims being to improve the solidarity of the NATO members, the creation and maintenance of team spirit and camaraderie between participating members and the exchange of experiences and cooperation in line with the military goals of NATO. At present there are 20 full members of the NTM, sadly not all could be present this year, with ever increasing budget constraints and on going conflicts, this was inevitable.


The Trip

   With good old Ryanair offering the return journey for only £20, and with Volkel only being a half hours drive from Eindhoven, this years Tiger Meet was a must visit.  Our journey started at London's Stansted Airport, once through security and after a coffee to try and wake us we boarded our flight for the short 40 minute hop over to Eindhoven. The weather wasn't the best on our arrival, a low cloud base and temperature didn't make for a good days photography. As we only had hand luggage we were soon through passport control and heading for the car rental offices, this is where the fun began. For some reason i decided to step into the path of an oncoming bus, only for Phil to grab my back pack and save the day!. After the guys had stopped laughing at me i then realised i'd left my driving license at home! But the Dutch being of the free and easy types they let me have the car anyway!

   Once we had located our chariot for the day we set off for the 35km drive to Volkel. On arrival the first wave our fighters were just launching, normally two missions are flown each day, one in the morning and one after lunch. With 50 or so aircraft to launch it can take up to an hour to get all the aircraft up in the air, you then have around one and a half hour's before the recoveries start taking place. This gave us plenty of time to find a good vantage spot to shoot from. The Dutch are very much like the UK with regards to enthusiast's and photography around the base was no problem at all. 

After a short wait a four ship of F-16's could be seen on approach, each aircraft then broke off for landing. First up were the host's.

J-009 F-16AM 313 Sqn RNLAF Call sign 'KING'

93-0696 F-16D 192 Filo Turkish Air Force Call sign 'KAPLAN'

93-0692 F-16C 192 Filo Turkish Air Force Call sign 'KAPLAN'

291 F-16AM 338 Skv Royal Norwegian Air Force Call sign 'ARTIC'

G-FRAW Falcon 20 FR Aviation

FA-87 F-16AM 10W Belgian Air Force Call Sign 'SILVER'

97  115-YK Mirage 2000C EC02.115 French Air Force Call sign 'AIRMAX'

During the break for lunch the weather improved considerably. We headed back to the car for a spot of lunch before the sound of jet engines had us returning to the perimeter fence. Once back in position i quickly realised i had left my camera hanging on the fence back by the car! I don't think i've run so fast since school but luckily for me it was still there, thankfully that was my three near misses for the day! After my pulse had returned to somewhere near normal, the afternoon launch then began.

RF-26 Saab 105 Austrian Air Force Call sign 'Cowboy'

F-16AM's from the Norwegian Air Force

692 F-16BM 338 Skv Norwegian Air Force Call sign 'Sonic'

9245 JAS.39C Czech Air Force Call sign ' GRIFIN'

J-136 F-16AM 312Sqn RNLAF Call sign 'KING'

FA-132 F-16AM 10W Belgian Air Force Call sign 'Bronze'

J-055 F-16AM 313Sqn RNLAF Call sign 'KING'

658 F-16AM 338Skv Royal Norwegian Air Force Call sign 'Sonic'

671 F-16AM 338Skv Royal Norwegian Air Force Call sign 'Sonic'

Unfortunately whilst we waited for the aircraft to return, the cloud returned to spoil the day. It's not only fixed wing squadrons that attend the Tiger Meet, present were AB212 Huey's from Italy and Mil-35's from the Czech Republic. The Mil sadly evaded us but the Italians didn't disappoint.

MM81375 AB212AM 21Gr Italian Air Force Call sign 'Dust'

80 103-LI Mirage 2000C EC01.012 French Air Force Call sign 'AIRMAX'

525 118-AM Mirage 2000B ECE05.330 French Air Force Call sign 'BULLET'

668 118-IG Mirage 2000D ECE05.330 French Air Force Call sign 'BULLET'

46+29 Tornado ECR JBG32 German Air Force Call sign 'STUKA'

And one for the Armour guys, i think its a YPR-765 'PRAT' Anti-tank Armoured Vehicle.

  With the light now gone and with only the Falcon 20 left to return we decided to pack up and head back to Eindhoven for our flight home. After the usual free-for-all when boarding Ryanair flight we were soon back at Stansted, fortunately i only live a 10 minute drive away but poor old Phil had 200 or so miles and didn't arrive home until 01:30 the next morning! 

  Again the Tiger Meet didn't disappoint, the organisational teams always seem to have the enthusiasts in mind making for a great day out. Next years Tiger Meet will be held at Cambrai in northern France, only an hour or so from Calais, I hope to see many of you there!

Marcus & Phil