© Nicholas Thompson | German Navy | Westland Super Lynx Mk88A | 83+02

After a 10-year absence Germany played host to the 2024 edition of the NATO Tiger Meet (NTM). Like the meet of 2014, hosting duties fell with Schleswig AB and specifically Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 51 “Immelmann” (TLG 51) who opened their arms to the member units of the NATO Tiger Association (NTA). AeroResource were on hand in the variable north German weather for the 2 spotter days hosted by the NTA and TLG 51 to witness the exercise in full swing. 

A year on from providing a pivotal role in NATO’s largest post-war exercise, Air Defender 2023; Schleswig AB in northern Germany was once again home to allied aircraft for a major exercise. Since 1961 the NTM has brought allied units featuring a tiger or big cat together for an operational exchange with the hope of intensifying cooperation amongst the participants. This year’s edition saw 15 squadrons from 11 NATO and partner nations fly alongside one another in the training areas above northern Germany and the North Sea. On the ground additional personnel from Austria, the United Kingdom, USA, Portugal, and Hungary attended in an observer capacity. 

As the host unit TLG 51 was responsible for the proceedings of the exercise, developing fictious scenarios of ever-increasing complexity for the aircrews over the two-week gathering. Due to the variety of types operated by the tiger units both fixed and rotary-wing, the NTM provides the opportunity to train in composite air operations (COMAO), providing integration of the many capabilities into a complete training package. During the exercise, each unit has the chance to operate in both an aggressive and defensive capacity in sorties such as air interdiction, Close Air Support and Search and Rescue missions. The purpose of which is to focus on increasing the readiness of crews in a multi-national environment.  

The largest draw of a NTM for many is the prospect of striking special tiger schemes adorning several of the participating aircraft. And it was hosts TLG 51 that took the trophy for Best Tiger Aircraft. Painted at nearby Hohn AB, Tornado ECR 46+52 was adorned with a “Viking Tiger”, which was also the emblem of the meet. Unfortunately for the gathered media and photographers across the two spotters’ days the “Viking Tiger” proved elusive, flying just once across the 4 sorties. 

Germany’s second tiger unit Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 74 (TLG 74) “Bavarian Tigers” provided 8 Eurofighter Typhoon S’ to the exercise from their home base at Neuburg AB. Whilst the unit’s emblem does not feature a tiger or big cat, TLG 74, took over the tiger spirit when 321 squadron disbanded at Lechfeld AB. Since acquiring full membership in 2012 the Bavarian Tigers have provided several striking painted or wrapped Typhoons and 2024 was no different. Typhoon 31+06 became the “Cyborg Tiger” wearing a traditional tiger striped port side scheme whilst the starboard side was wrapped in a futuristic cyborg interpretation of the same scheme in places and the internal workings of the Typhoon in others.  

Despite TLG 51 and TLG 74 being Germany’s only tiger units they were not the only German assets taking part in this year’s edition. Marinefliegergeschwader 5 (MFG 5) made the short journey across the Wadden sea from Nordholz to Schleswig with their striking “Navy Tiger” 83+02 Westland Super Lynx Mk.88A. This was MFG 5 and the Sea Lynx’s first ever attendance at a NTM. Not joining the “Navy Tigers” from Nordholz to Schleswig were private defence contractor Top Aces who provided A-4N Skyhawks as adversaries for the exercise from their current home at Nordholz.  

The final German assets were the civilian Learjet 35’s of GFD operating in an electronic warfare configuration, designated as “jamkite missions”. These mission fits provide false target and jamming technology, as well as simulation of aircraft and weaponry.  

With NATO allies reaching a period of unprecedented level of operational tempo it was not surprising that several tiger units did not participate, and in the build-up to the exercise rumours circulated that the French Navy’s Flotille 11F would also not be able to participate due to their operational requirements. However, it was pleasing to see the Dassault Rafale M’s of 11F present at Schleswig, and the unit eventually came away with the trophy for best “Flying OPS” squadron.  

France’s contribution to NTM 24 saw two other branches of the armed forces participate alongside the Navy’s 11F. The Air Force attended with their Rafale B/Cs from EC 3/30 based at BA 118 Mont-de-Marsan whilst the army brought 3 types operated by EHRA 3; NH90 TTH Caïman, two EC 665 Tigre and four SA 342 Gazelles. The large French participation featured 4 Tiger schemes, a striking red scheme adorned the tail and upper surface of 11F Rafale M “7” whilst the Air Force’s Rafale C “138” followed host unit TLG 51’s lead with a Viking inspired tiger, nicknamed “Nordsee Tiger”. The army’s Tigre and Gazelle both wore “Tiger Fury” schemes.  

Whilst many units descended upon Schleswig for the exercise, 3 units elected to operate from their home bases. NATO’s Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) 1 Squadron based at Geilenkirchen AB kept an eye on proceedings as a command-and-control platform above the exercise area. Belgium’s 31 Squadron operated their F-16AM Fighting Falcons from Kleine-Brogel. As the Air Component awaits their new F-35s the F-16 fleet is in the twilight years of service and Belgium is also contributing heavily to the training of Ukrainian pilots ahead of their long-anticipated delivery of F-16 aircraft.  

A Squadron who has completed their transition to the F-35A Lightning II is the Royal Netherlands Air Force 313 Squadron based at Volkel AB. Participating as the first ever unit to operate the 5th Generation fighter at a NTM the squadron were welcome guests at Schleswig over the middle weekend of the meet. Operating from Volkel, a 4 ship of Lightning II’s arrived in northern Germany after the Friday morning sortie for the weekend tiger game festivities and proceeded to depart back to Volkel AB on the Monday morning. 

The weekend games and festivities saw Switzerland’s Staffel 11 awarded the trophy for best tiger uniform. Whilst Switzerland is not a NATO member the F/A-18C Hornets and personnel of the Staffel 11 based at Meiringen were celebrating 20 years of NATO Tiger Association (NTA) membership having received that honour at the 2004 Tiger meet also held at Schleswig.  France’s EC 3/30 came away with the trophy for best skit whilst it was Poland’s 6. EskadraLotnictwa Taktycznego (6.ELT) that eventually came out on top in the tiger games.  

It was also 6.ELT that won the coveted silver tiger trophy for the best overall performance at the tiger meet. Operating the F-16C Fighting Falcon Block 52+ from 31.BLT Poznań-Krzesiny Airport, 6.ELT is a multi-role combat squadron that has been kept busy on the eastern flank of NATO protecting Polish airspace from the threat posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  

Unfortunately, the other central eastern European attendee, 211 tacticka letka (211.tl) did not fare so well. The specially marked Czech Air Force Gripen the unit attended with was only witnessed on tow at various points across the days AeroResource were present, rumoured to be the result of a lightning strike early in the exercise. A CASA C295 was dispatched late in week 2 of the meet to fix the aircraft. This did however result in the Monday afternoon arrival of a replacement specially marked Gripen flying in from Čáslav.  

Rounding off the participants were Vipers of Türkiye and Greece and Eurofighter Typhoons of Italy. Whilst the Greek Fighting Falcons of 335 Mira opted for subdued tiger markings on the drop tanks, the Turkish F-16s of 192 Filo in contrast bought 2 fully tiger painted aircraft that are not new to regular NTM attendees but certainly still draw attention. Finally, the 4 visiting Typhoon F-2000A’s of 12° Gruppo “White Tigers” only joined for week one of the exercise departing for home early on the Monday morning of week 2.  

Attendees of the two spotterdays were also treated to unexpected flypasts by 2 Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters, with one carrying an AN/ASQ-235 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS). The pair from HSC-21 Det.3 “Wild Dogs” were transported by C-17 to nearby Hohn AB ahead of NATO’s BALTOPS exercise. The detachment will be working with allies to perform airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), logisticsand airborne photography. 

As forementioned the AeroResource members were in attendance for the NTM Spottersdays. Just as the tiger games and military exercise are a concrete part of the NTM, as are the spottersdays and as such have become a regular date in the aviation media and photographer’s calendar. Attendees were granted access on the 7th and 10th June and gathered in an enclosure alongside Schleswig’s cross runway. Organised in conjunction between TLG 51 and the NTA the layout was familiar to those who had attended NTM 14. Expecting the morning wave to taxi past the photographer area it was a shame to see the majority of NTM 24 aircraft return direct to parking without taxiing past the area. But thankfully, Friday 7th afternoon sortie rectified this. All the gathered tiger special schemes departed in 3-minute intervals for a photo sortie and on return all special schemes taxied past the photographer’s area. The trend continued and Monday 10th saw all bar 2 of the morning wave taxi back to parking via the secondary runway. Attendance across both days provided a well-rounded view of the exercise and everyone involved in the days must be commended for the hospitality provided to ensure the smooth movement of the 1500 photographers who gathered on each day.  

Flying Participants Operating from Schleswig AB

UnitBasedAircraft Type
Taktische Luftwaffengeschwader 51 „Immelmann“
German Air Force
Schleswig ABTornado IDS/ECR
IAI Heron
6. Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego
Polish Air Force
31.BLT Poznan/Krzesiny ABF-16C/D Fighting Falcon
335 Mira
Hellenic Air Force
Araxos ABF-16C/D Fighting Falcon
192 Filo
Turkish Air Force
Balıkesir ABF-16C/D Fighting Falcon
Taktische Luftwaffengeschwader 74 „Bavarian Tigers“
German Air Force
Neuburg ABEurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon
Flotille 11F
French Navy
BAN LandivisiauRafale M
Escadron de Chasse 3/30
French Air Force
BA118 Mont-de-MarsanRafale B/C
Escadrille d’Hélicoptères de Reconnaissance et d’Attaque n°3
French Army
BA Etain-RouvresNH90 TTH Caïman
SA 342 Gazelle
EC 665 Tigre
12° Gruppo
Italian Air Force
Gioia del Colle ABEurofighter Typhoon F-2000A
Fliegerstaffel 11
Swiss Air Force
Meiringen ABF/A-18C Hornet
211 Taktcká Letka
Czech Air Force
Čáslav ABJAS 39C/D Gripen
Marinefliegergeschwader 5
German Navy – External Non-Member Participant
Nordholz ABSuper Lynx Mk.88A
GFD – Gesellschaft für Flugzieldarstellung
Civilian – External Non-Member Participant
Hohn ABLearjet 35A

Flying Participants Operating from Other Locations

UnitBasedAircraft Type
31 Smaldeel
Belgian Air Force
Kleine-Brogel ABF-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon
313 Squadron
Royal Netherlands Air Force
Volkel ABF-35A Lightning II
Flying Squadron 1 (AEW&C)
Geilenkirchen MOBE-3A Sentry
Top Aces
Civilian – External Non-Member Participant
Nordholz ABA-4N Skyhawk

Observer Participants

230 Squadron
Royal Air Force
RAF Benson
2 Staffel
Austrian Air Force
Zeltweg AB
Esquadra 301
Portuguese Air Force
BA5 Monte Real
101/1. Harcászati Repülő Század
Hungarian Air Force
Kecskemét AB
United States Marine Corps – External Non-Member Participant
MCAS Cherry Point

No sooner than NTM 24 ended it was announced that NTM 25 will be hosted by Esquadra 301 “Jaguares” at Beja AB, Portugal. Beja played host to NTM 21 amidst the global covid pandemic when travel restrictions and covid tests were still the norm. AeroResource look forward to Beja again having the chance to host a NTM so soon beneath Iberian sunshine and once dates are announced are sure to pencil-in attendance. 

You can find out more about the NATO Tiger Association here; https://www.natotigers.org/ 

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