We Have Been To NATO Tiger Meet 2021 And Here Are The Most Interesting Aircraft We Found There.

NATO Tiger Meet 2021 Beja
The special F-16 of the Portuguese Air Force. (All images: David Parody)

Our correspondent David Parody went to Beja, Portugal, for NATO Tiger Meet 2021.

NATO Tiger Meet (NTM) is one of Europe’s most famous and loved among the aviation enthusiasts community, multinational exercise attended by squadrons sporting Tiger (or feline) emblems. As often explained, although it usually includes Spotters/Media Day and, sometimes, an Open Day for general public, NTM is not an air show: all types of air-to-air and air-to-ground and a wide variety of support missions are part of each Tiger Meeting, whose goals are the “creation of a high-level tactical exercise, where participants can train realistically; practice day and night operations in a multi-domain environment, against air, land and sea threats; maximize integration and interoperability with NATO members & Partnership for Peace Members, and share learning points; creation of an environment promoting the well-known “Tiger Spirit”, which respects the NATO Tiger Association Traditions and Customs.”

However, the main difference between NTM and many other “traditional” exercises is that many aircraft taking part in the maneuvers, at least one (but usually more than one) per participating unit, sport Tiger markings, Special Tails or flamboyant tiger-themed paint schemes.

This year’s edition, NTM 21, organized by the Portuguese Air Force, is underway from May 2 to May 14, 2021,  at Air Base No. 11 (BA11), in Beja. The Portuguese airbase was planned to host the NTM in 2020, but the exercise last year was cancelled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

NATO Tiger Meet 2021
Commanding Officer, Major Driller, of 301 Squadron.

NTM21 host unit is the Squadron 301 “Jaguares” of the Portuguese Air Force. At NTM 2019, which took place in Mont-de-Marsan, France, the Portuguese unit, flying the F-16 was awarded both the “Silver” trophy Tiger ”and the“ Tiger Spirit ”award.

NATO Tiger Meet 2021
NTM 2021 is underway at Beja AB, Portugal.

Nine “Tiger” squadrons from 8 allied nations for a total of more than 50 aircraft and around 1,000 military personnel are scheduled to take part in this year’s Tiger Meet that, as usual, will also be supported by several “external” units, including Esquadra 751, performing troop insertion with its EH-101 Merlin helicopters; and the civilian Cobham Aviation with its Special Mission Falcon 20 jet.

NATO Tiger Meet 2021
Portuguese F16 MLU with squadrons 50 anniversary tail.

The Game Plan

The NTM’s program is basically always the same: two waves are flown, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The first ones are usually the most complex COMAO (Composite Air Operations) and the second ones are the so-called Shadow/Panther missions (the first are performed during the day the second are night missions), smaller scale events which usually involve junior pilots. There are also some night operations, this year planned on May 4, 5 and 6, 2021.

NATO Tiger Meet 2021
Portuguese F16 MLU with squadrons 50 anniversary tail.

COMAO missions cover the entire spectrum of air operations with broad force involvement as part of the same package: from the air defense of a specific area to the offensive operations against all types of targets (both maritime and land), all the missions require the participants to cooperate and face threats to ingress and egress a simulated contested airspace.

NATO Tiger Meet 2021
Swiss Air Force F/A-18C Hornet with NTM tail.

Shadow and Panther missions are smaller scale missions, where specific operations will be trained. Some examples are: CAS (Close Air Support), in coordination with ground troops; Vehicle Interdiction or Hostage Rescue, where a helicopter will command the operation with the support of fighters; Basic Fighter Maneuvers (BFM) and DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat Training).

NATO Tiger Meet 2021
The Italian special Eurofighter Typhoon.
NATO Tiger Meet 2021
Tiger tail.

Tiger Meetings also offer some nice exchange opportunity for aircrew to fly orientation missions aboard allied aircraft.

Media Day

On May 3, 2021, our contributor David Parody had the opportunity to attend the Media Day at Beja and shoot the photographs you can find in this article.

Among the most interesting, eye-catching liveries of NTM 21, we can’t but mention the one of the Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon with the 12° Gruppo (Squadron) with the Siberian/White Tiger as well as the host nation’s F-16 MLU jets: the full Tiger special color of the Esq 301 along with the other F-16 Viper sporting the 50th anniversary tail.

NATO Tiger Meet 2021
The Tiger-themed F-2000A of the Italian Air Force.
NATO Tiger Meet 2021
Polish Air Force F-16C Block 52+
NATO Tiger Meet 2021
Swiss Air Force F/A-18C Hornet with NTM tail landing after a mission.
NATO Tiger Meet 2021
Greek Air Force F-16C Block 52+ with NTM paint scheme.
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Dutch Air Force was also to attend with some F-16’s from 313sqn. However several teammembers tested positive for COVID-19 right after arrival in Portugal. Decision was taken by the RNLAF to send the whole detachment home.

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