2006 – NATO Tiger Meet 2006

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Gilles Denis travelled to Albacete AB, Spain for the 2006 NATO Tiger Meet

Mirage F.1M C.14-64 14-37 Ala 14 Escuadron 142 20060929LEAB 2750.jpgThis year’s annual gathering of tiger squadrons took place at Albacete-Los Llanos AB, Spain. Hosted by the resident Escuadrón 142 of the Spanish Ejército del Aire, the NATO Tiger Meet 2006 took place from 25 September till 2 October. It is the second time that the Tiger Meet is organized by Escuadrón 142 – the first time was in 1992. Equipped with Dassault Mirage F.1 since 1980, Escuadrón 142 is part of Ala 14 together with Escuadrón 141. Both squadrons are due to fly the Mirage F.1 until 2015 when the first Eurofighter is due to arrive at Albacete.

Participants arrived at Albacete on Monday 25 September. Turkey sent four F-16C/Ds from 192 Filo based at Balikesir. France brought four Mirage 2000B/Cs from Cambrai’s EC 01.012, and 2 Mirage 2000-5s and two Rafale Bs from EC 05.330 at Mont-de-Marsan. Four Belgian F-16AM/BMs of 31 Squadron made the trip to Spain and Norway also sent four F-16s belonging to 338 Skvadron based at Ørland. Portugal’s Esquadra 301 recently moved from Beja to Montijo to operate the new F-16AM/BMs being delivered to the Força Aérea Portuguesa and four of their aircraft took part in the Tiger Meet. The two German tiger squadrons sent seven Tornados (four from 1./JBG-32 at Lechfeld and three from AKG-51 at Schleswig-Jagel). The only other fighter jets taking part were the resident Mirage F.1Ms, with four aircraft being provided for every mission.

F-16C 93-0678 9 AJU 192 Filo 20060928LEAB 1572.jpg
Mirage 2000C 115 12-YM EC 01.012 20060928LEAB 1597.jpg
Rafale B 307 330-EE EC 05.330 20060928LEAB 1331.jpg

Helicopters came from 230 Squadron of the Royal Air Force (two Puma HC.1s) and from 231.vrl of the Czech Republic (four Mi-24s and one support Mi-17). All the participants were controlled during the missions by a single NATO E-3A AWACS deployed at Torrejon AB and manned by a crew from 1 Squadron/NAEW&CF. This year was a colourful Tiger Meet with no less than thirteen aircraft wearing some kind of tiger colour scheme. It ranged from the completely black and white-painted Mirage 2000 from Cambrai to just a few tiger patches worn on the tail of a Portuguese F-16.

Starting on Tuesday 26 September, two COMAO-type missions were flown every day except on Friday where only a single mid-day mission took place. The weekend was devoted to social activities. A static display of tiger aircraft was set up on Sunday when Albacete AB was open to the public for a few hours. The local community was able to come close to the aircraft that made so much noise during the week… The Tiger Meet 2006 came to an end on Monday 2 October when all participants departed back to their home base. Next year’s Tiger Meet should be hosted by 338 Skvadron at Ørland AB, Norway.

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The author would like to thank the Spanish Air Force’s Communication and Social Relationship Office for making this visit possible and the pilots and ground staff of Ala 14 at Albacete for escorting him around their air base.

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