Flying Tigers stretch their claws in Germany
The ‘Flying Tigers’ of 814 Naval Air Squadron are rightfully proud, sometimes even fanatical, about the orange and black striped figurehead on their squadron badge, so when the chance came to attend the ‘NATO Tiger Meet’ in Schleswig, Northern Germany, their famous tiger spirit sprung into action.
814 Naval Air Squadron, usually based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwalltry to attend the Tiger Meet every year because it provides valuable training and the opportunity to work with other nations and a variety of aircraft. The NATO Tiger Meet is a large scale exercise of fast jets and helicopters belonging to the many squadrons in NATO that have a tiger emblem on their unit badge. Having celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011, the NATO Tiger Association’s annual meeting routinely provides one of the largest air exercises in the NATO calendar in Europe. This year’s event featured 17 different squadrons operating nine types of fast jet, four types of helicopter and an E3 Sentry Surveillance aircraft to watch over them all.
The twice daily missions covered a wide range of profiles from dog-fighting to ground attack and close air support, to the movement of troops, anti-ship warfare and combat search and rescue. The Merlins of 814 Naval Air Squadron, with their “eye in the sky,” optical camera and their sonars replaced with rows of troop seats, quickly adapted from their traditional role of submarine hunting to become the workhorses of the Tiger helicopter force moving troops in and out of landing sites. The opportunity to show off their maritime environment skills saw the Merlin tasked with locating a German frigate in the North Sea which was then ‘engaged’ by the fighter aircraft.
The main aim of the Tiger Meet is to promote interaction amongst the NATO allies, to share tactics and ideas and to ensure that when the time comes to work together on operations there are already strong relationships between the nations. 814 Naval Air Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Commander Stu Finn said, “The two week exercise, operating with so many different aircraft and on such a scale, has been of huge benefit to my aircrew and engineers in terms of growing their experience and we have forged many close friendships with our NATO allies, bonded together with the ever pervasive Tiger Spirit.”
“Tiger Meet has been an incredible opportunity for us to operate in a different role and to demonstrate the considerable versatility of the Merlin aircraft to our NATO allies,” said Lieutenant Will Legge, an 814 squadron pilot. “For me the highlight has been flying alongside the Mi24 Hind helicopters of the Czech Air Force and the interaction with the fast jets.”
With the exercise over for another year the Flying Tigers of 814 have returned to Culdrose to continue their support to UK operations at home and overseas, but not without taking away with them a considerable amount of knowledge and experience gained from their NATO partners, as well as a renewed stock of Tiger Spirit. After all, the Squadron has a saying; “Paw me, claw me, 814 me!”
The general public will be able to meet members of 814 Naval Air Squadron and the other Culdrose based units at this year’s Culdrose Air Day on Thursday 31st July. For further information, including updates on the list of participating aircraft, please visit www.culdroseairday.com