From 2nd to 13th October, Gioia del Colle airbase, where the Italian Air Force 36° Stormo is based, hosted NATO Tiger Meet 2023. The Tiger Meet is the NATO annual exercise dedicated to the squadrons who have a tiger or another “ferocious” feline in their crest.
It was possible to attend a spotter day on Friday 6th October, an open day on Sunday 8th October and a media day on Monday 9th October. I attended the spotter day and the open day.
Just before the event, some rumours were circulating about the cancellation of the open day and the bad position dedicated to the spotters. Luckily, all those rumours were proved false. I’d only point out that the spotter day would have yielded better results with an afternoon mission instead of a morning one, and that the static display on the open day could have been angled better.
Take-off photos were taken on the late afternoon of Thursday 5th, when I was lucky enough to catch the take-off of almost all special color planes for the last photoflight of one of NTM’s official photographers.
Landing photos were taken during the Friday 6th spotter day, when we had the chance to see a 60-ships COMAO (COMposite Air Operation) and an elephant walk.
Static display photos were taken on the Sunday 8th open day.
Eurofighter Typhoon flown by the resident 12° Gruppo Caccia, with a livery celebrating both the Tiger Meet and the Italian Air Force 100th Anniversary
Eurofighter Typhoon flown by 2.Staffel of the Austrian Oesterreichische Luftstreitkraefte based in Zeltweg
The last Typhoon, flown by the German Luftwaffe’s Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 74 “Bavarian Tigers”, based in Neuburg. This squadron won both the Silver Tiger trophy for the best unit involved in the exercise, and the trophy for the best livery.
Another German participant was Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 51 with both Tornado IDS and ECR (the special one is an ECR), based Schleswig and the host of the 2024 Tiger Meet.
Despite not being a NATO member, the Swiss Air Force flew with the Hornets of Fliegerstaffel 11, based in Meiringen.
On 2 planes only the drop tanks featured a special livery.
France participated with all its armed services:
The Armée de l’Air brought Escadron de Chasse et d’Experimentation 1/30 Cote d’Argent, based in Mont-de-Marsan, winner of the Best Skit Trophy. It flew with both Mirage 2000D…
…and the more modern Rafale.
The Aeronavale brought Flotille 4F’s E-2C Hawkeye AEW planes, based in Lann-Bihoue and usually deployed on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. Flotille 4F is not part of the NATO Tiger Association (the event website listed it as an “external participant”), but in the past it flew some “tiger-themed” liveries.
The Escadrille d’Helicopteres de Reconnaissance et d’Attaque n°3 “Les Felins” of the Aviation Leger de l’Armée de Terre based in Etain-Rouvres flew both Gazelle scout and reconnaissance helicopters…
…and Tigre HAP attack helicopters, but none of them with a special livery.
Another rotary wing unit was Italian Air Force’s 21° Gruppo based in Grazzanise with HH-101, but without special liveries.
The Hungarian Air Force brought the Gripens from 101/1. Harcaszati Repulo Szazad “Puma” based in Kecskemet
Another Gripen wing, Czech Air Force’s 211 Taktcka Letka based in Caslav
A twin-seater plane had tiger-themed drop tanks
And now the most-used plane: the F-16.
The Belgian Air Component 31 Smaldeel based in Kleine Brogel (which won both the Tiger Games and the Best OPS trophy) brought the X-Tiger, at his final appearance at a Tiger Meet, since the livery was removed few days after the event.
The Turk Hava Kuvvetleri’s 192nci Filo based in Balikesir had 2 special 2 F-16 This unit won the best uniform trophy.
Portuguese Air Force’s Esquadra 301 “Jaguares” based in Monte Real
The plane on static display had a different tail livery:
Sober livery for the Polish Air Force’s 6 Eskadra Lotnicza based in Poznan, with Conformal Fuel Tanks.
Finally, Hellenic Air Force’s 335 Mira based in Araxos.
Unfortunately, the special plane did not fly at the spotter day due to the livery film separating from the tail.
However, it was possible to see a plane with tiger-themed rop tanks.
Last participant, Learjet 35 flown by the German company GFD for electronic target simulation.
An “outsider” at the elephant walk: Italian Air Force’s 202° Gruppo SIAI U-208 liaison and glider tug plane, based in Guidonia, wearing a special livery for the Italian Air Force 100th Anniversary.
Finally, a photo at the gate guardian on the outskirts of the town of Gioia del Colle, an Aermacchi MB.326.