Tigers roaring over Turkey
For the second time since 2005, a NATO Tiger Meet (NTM) was held in Turkey. This time, the Tigers of 192 Filo (SQN) Turkish Air Force from Balikesir used Konya Air Base to conduct the exercise.
For the first half of May, the highlands of Anatolia were the center point of this year's NATO Tiger Meet air exercise. The Turkish Air Force Base just north of the Central Anatolian capital of Konya hosted 37 aircraft from six nations.
Squadron 1 from NATO E-3A Component participated with two Boeing E-3A aircraft and used its facilities of the forward operating base (FOB). The NTM is a high value exercise and is always one of the largest European air exercises. However, this latest get together of the Tiger squadrons was one of the smallest meets in recent years. Reasons for this were real-world operations of some squadrons plus other air exercises like LION EFFORT or ARCTIC CHALLENGE, which took place at the same time or were time-wise too close to NTM.
Good coordination required
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Don Verhees, senior advisor to the NATO Tiger Association (NTA), only missed one Tiger Meet since 1977. With this rich background, he sees the need for a synchronisation of international exercises.
"In the future it will be important to coordinate the dates for high value training exercises even more," the colonel explained. "The NTA uses a five-year-plan for the NATO Tiger Meets that gives the Tiger Squadrons a reference in what year which squadron should organize an exercise. It is essential that the headquarters of the different air forces deconflict these dates with other planned joint exercises to support their units in the best possible way."
While the exercise was smaller, Colonel Verhees sees NTM 2015 from a positive perspective. "Even with fewer squadrons and less aircraft participating in this high value training exercise, the objectives were fully reached. Smaller COMAOs (Composite Air Operations) opened the chance for the aircrews to have more intense and detailed debriefings of their missions," he said. "This also contributed to closer professional and personal contacts between the participating squadrons. Being sceptical at first, I quickly appreciated the whole setup at Konya."
Konya Air Base is not only known as one of the four Forward Operating Bases/Locations (FOB/FOL) of the NATO E-3A Component, but also as a deployment air base that regularly hosts the ANATOLIAN EAGLE air exercise.
Therefore, the base is familiar with providing a wide variety of logistic infrastructure, such as accommodation, food service, planning and briefing facilities and several big ramps for parking a large number of aircraft. This was also one of the main arguments for the decision made by the TUAF staff to move the NTM to Konya instead of holding the exercise at the home of 192 Squadron at Balikesir.
Large Exercise Area
Perfect training conditions were provided with nearby training areas measuring 300 by 400 kilometers. 218 out of 278 planned missions could be flown during the two-week period. The major part of lost missions were caused by a thundershower with hail at the end of week one, that lead to the cancellation of two complete flying periods for most participants.
Squadron 1of NATO E-3A Component flew all missions as planned with two jets and two crews. Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller, the departing Component commander, used the occasion to make a short visit to Konya. During his stopover at the FOB, he could see for himself the professional setup of the exercise and expressed his thoughts about the high value of joint training.
"Multinational exercises enhance cooperation of coalition forces and are the best preparation for real-world operations all over the world," the general said. "It is good to have the NATO Tiger Meet as a unique training event among other high value exercises."
For 2016, the NTM is planned to be held in the second half of May at Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, with ALA (Wing) 15 as the host.