Despite the calender showing 19 June, it’s a gloomy day in northern Germany. It’s perhaps illustrative of the current times of international turmoil. But, at the airbase of Schleswig-Jagel, another sign of the times is visible. French Rafale and German Typhoon fighters share the runway, with Swiss F/A-18C Hornets and Belgian F-16s doing the same. This international cooperation at its best, and it’s a NATO show of force at the same time. This is the NATO Tiger Association’s sharpening its claws during Tiger Meet 2014.
For Polish 6. Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (ELT) from Poznañ and Hungarian 59.1 squadron from Kecskemét, the current Tiger Meet is the first as full members of the Tiger Association and its ‘Tiger, Tiger, Tiger’-credo. The Polish fly the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D block 52, while the Hungarians fly the Saab JAS 39C/D Gripen. Both squadrons have been participating in the Tiger Meet for quite some years. On Monday 16 June, their full membership was announced.
The sight at Schlewig-Jagel was one that seemed futuristic 15 years ago: 3th, 4th and 4.5th generation fighter aircraft sharing the runway. In the past Rafale and Typhoon battled out their battles on the international defence market, now they fly together with the same cooperative purpose. As German Typhoons lift off, they immediately rocket straight into the vertical, with afterburner flames lighting up the gloom. French Dassault Rafales follow their lead.
Saab Gripens from the Czech Republic also take off for an dissimilar air combat training (DACT) mission against German Typhoons. Swiss Hornets team up with Belgian F-16s and German Tornados. All in all, over fifty fighter aircraft are involved in Tiger Meet 2014. Some of these war machines are adorned with truly beautiful artwork.
The Tiger Meet may be illustrative of joint operations by western air forces, its roots go back quite a long way. The very first unofficial Tiger Meet was held in 1960 in the UK, followed by the first full on Tiger Meet in 1961. The NATO Tiger Association now consists of 23 full member units, 16 of which where present at Schleswig-Jagel, representing Germany, Poland, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Turkey, Czech Republic, UK, the Netherlands, Norway, Hungary and Austria. The current Tiger Meet runs until Friday 27 June.
© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest