31 Squadron combines operations with NATO Tiger Meet 2011 at Cambrai

This years edition of the Nato Tiger Meet took place at Cambrai Air Base in France, starting on the 9th of May 2011. The meeting was destined to be a significant one for several reasons: it’s the NATO TIGER ASSOCIATION’s (NTA) 50th birthday, 31 Fighter Bomber Squadrons 60th birthday and the last meeting for French host squadron EC 01.012 “Cambrésis”, that will be disbanded at the end of the year. In addition, EC 01.012 was one of the three founding squadrons of the NTA and is 31’s sister squadron. 31 joined just one year later as 4th member. After EC 01.012 closes it’s doors, the French tiger spirit will live on in EC 01.007 “Provence”, flying Rafales from St-Dizier.

The NATO Tiger meet is known as the largest international air power exercise over European soil. Honoring this tradition, more than 60 aircraft from 15 different nations landed at Base Aérienne 103 for this years exercise. That can most certainly be considered a great show taking into account all the squadrons that cancelled due to the start of Operation Odyssee Dawn and Unified Protector over Libya. The same was true for 31Smd, with 6 pilots based in Araxos (Greece) for the whole duration of the NTM and it seemed inevitable that 31 would cancel too. However, with some extra effort and tiger spirit a limited one-week participation was managed including the FA-87 in it’s 50/60th birthday special paint. Short on jets, 31 did roll in the new Jaguar painted in the same birthday scheme as the jet, turning a lot heads on the way.

Although each participating pilot from 31Smd was limited to about one flight, the squadron was able to put it’s weight into the operations by providing two Airboss’, Detco “Garfield” and veteran tiger “Bère”. By filling these posts, they were a great aid to pure Air Defense squadron EC 01.012 in organizing the large COMAO’s. This way the operational level increased every day, fulfilling the prime mission of the NTM.

The participating Crew Chiefs showed their “can do” mentality as well and solved technical problems swiftly using limited equipment and collaborating with among others their Portuguese counterparts. Another distinction goes to Crew Chief “Tieu” for whom it would be his last tiger meet, totaling a massive 22 participations! To celebrate this he was rewarded in the proper Tiger fashion!

During the weekend the squadron kept up its Public Relations at the Airshow that was held on the airfield of Niergnies nearby. A horde of tiger fanatics came to the show to see the participating jets fly by. On Sunday 31 fought bravely at the traditional Tiger Games, with nice results for such a small team.

Finally, it was quite hard to bring home any awards due to the limited participation. Nevertheless, the beautiful paintjob on the FA-87 got a rewarding 2nd place among around 20 contenders. Awaiting final planning of the squadrons operations in 2012 as well as the recent change of hosts fromPortugal to Norway, it isn’t sure what next years participation will look like. One thing is sure though: the hunger to be the best in coming Tiger Meets has only grown stronger!

The Tigers of 31 will be back!