The Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon has been the backbone of Hellenic Air Force air defence now for a number of years. Equipping four wings, with a total of eight squadrons at Araxos, Larissa, Souda and Volos, the aircraft are all F-16C/D variants, but of differing sub-types (Block 30, Block 50, Block 52+ and Block 52M). With all of the F-16 squadrons participating in Iniohos 2018, the exercise provided an ideal opportunity to capture all the various Blocks and different squadron markings.
This rather incospicuous Beech 200 Super King Air actually belongs to 135 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force
It is based at Sde Dov airport on the outskirts of Tel Aviv
F-16 Fighting Falcon
'Backbone of the Hellenic Air Force'
Just yards from the runway, we capture one of 338 Squadron's Phantoms just prior to recovery after a morning mission
The RAF Typhoons from 3 (Fighter) Squadron, RAF Coningsby, operate in both the air defence and the offensive support role, hence their 'FGR' designation (Fighter, Ground and Reconnaissance). By 2019, the RAF Typhoon fleet will take on more roles that were once the premise of the Tornado fleet that is slated for withdrawal. The RAF will add a new AESA radar, the long-range air-to-air Meteor missile, Brimstone air-to-ground missile and the Storm Shadow cruise missile to its existing arsenal, which with the Paveway IV laser guided bomb, the LITENING III targeting pod and the ASRAAM air-to-air missile, will make the aircraft arguably the world's most potent fighter aircraft.
A Block 30 F-16C from 330 Mira is captured on an evening departure during Iniochos 2018
330 Mira is one of three squadrons based at Volos with 111 Combat Wing, but the only squadron in the HAF that flies the Block 30, which were delivered under the 'Peace Xenia I' contract back in 1989
343 Mira's sister squadron at Souda Bay, Crete, is 340 Mira
Both squadrons fly the Block 52+ version of the F-16
The 'Madhatters' made by far the largest contribution of any squadron at Iniochos,
bringing 13 aircraft from the United Kingdom
Designed to simulate modern, complex and intense air operations both day and night, Iniochos gives its participants an opportunity to conduct combined air operations (COMAO) against ‘Red-Air’ forces, which aside from airborne adversaries, also consists of a variety of both short- and long-range Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems such as; Hawk, Velos and Patriot batteries; Man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADS); and the Advanced Short Range Air Defence (ASRAD) system. All kinds of modern operations are executed during Iniohos including; Offensive Counter-Air (OCA); Defensive Counter-Air (DCA); Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD); Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR); Air Power Contribution to Land Ops (APCLO); Air Power Contribution to Maritime Ops (APCMO); reconnaissance missions; urban Close Air Support (CAS); Dynamic Targeting (DT); air strikes against high value and Time-Sensitive Targets (TST); together with protecting and targeting High Value Airborne Assets (HVAA).
Making up the HAF contingent was 337 Mira at Larissa with their Block 52 F-16 Fighting Falcons
337 re-equipped with the aircraft in 2007, having previously flown the F-4E Phantom II
One of the five AMI Tornados seen in full afterburner as it departs Andravida for an afternoon mission
The official VIP/Media Day was held at the Fighter Weapons School hangar on 20th March
One of the 6-strong UAEAF Mirage contingent is seen completing a 'go-around' at Andravida
The United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAEAF) Dassault Mirage 2000s that attended Iniochos 2018 reportedly came from 71 Squadron at Al Dhafra Air Base. Six Mirage 2000-9EAD single-seat aircraft participated in the exercise, the first time these particular aircraft had been involved and following on from the succesful debut of the UAEAF at Iniohos in 2017 with their Lockheed-Martin F-16Es.
During the Dubai Airshow 2017, Thales announced their intention to sign a contract to modernize the Mirages with a new electronics package, including mission computers; fire control radars; electronic warfare suites; Optronics® systems; communications, navigation, and identification systems; cockpit displays; and helmet-mounted displays.
71 Squadron is part of the UAE's Western Air Command, one of two Mirage 2000 squadrons that can be found at Al Dhafra Air Base, east of Abu Dhabi. The 2000-9EAD is a customised version of the Mirage 2000-5 with additional air-to-ground capabilities.
With Andravida's control tower in the background, a Phantom is seen with the large brake-chute deployed after touching down
Colonel Antonios Panidis, Hellenic Air Tactics Center Commander, told an invited audience on 20th March; “Today’s security situation challenges air forces across the entire spectrum of their capabilities. Allied countries rely on airpower to deliver a rapid and precise response to complex challenges; hence operational training must address this widening of the spectrum, especially in a time of military budget constraints.”
The USAF contingent was once again made up by the 492nd Fighter Squadron
from the 48th Fighter Wing 'The Liberty Wing' at RAF Lakenheath, UK
The Royal Air Force took part in Iniochos for the first time in 2018, with four BAe Typhoon FGR.4s from 3 Squadron making the journey from RAF Coningsby in the U.K
The Israeli’s have subsequently participated in each of the annual exercises since then, with each year also seeing a steady increase in the number of countries taking part. The air base at Andravida has recently seen some expansion take place due to Iniochos, with the construction of additional apron space and accommodation. There are also rumours that an ACMI-range may be constructed, and with a number of additional countries showing an interest in participating in Iniohos, together with those who have already supported it, it may be that some additional funding from NATO or Greek allies outside of the alliance could be forthcoming. Iniohos has expanded over time to provide a challenging and demanding high-threat environment for the participants, with the inclusion of simultaneous Hellenic and international naval and land-based exercises. A fully simulated combat environment is provided to the participants of Iniochos, together with the opportunity to use ranges over both land and sea, which includes the whole of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) and the live weapons ranges at Chrisoupolis and Kastellorizo.
F-15E Strike Eagles from 492FS/48FW at RAF Lakenheath made up the USAF contribution at Iniochos, with 13 aircraft participating
Both 341 Mira and 347 Mira at Nea Anchialos fly the Block 50 F-16C/Ds delivered under the 'Peace Xenia II' agreement in the late 1990s
The Block 52+ F-16s of 340, 343 and 337 Mira are easily identifiable by their very distinctive 'Have Glass' paint scheme
The difference between the radar cross section of the older Block 30s and the latest Block 52+ is a claimed 30% reduction
The third squadron at Nea Anchialos is 330 Mira, which flies the oldest F-16s in the HAF inventory
Held at Andravida Air Base, home of the Hellenic Air Force's Air Tactics Center, exercise Iniochos 2018 took place 12-23rd March and saw aircraft from the Royal Air Force, Cyprus National Guard, Israeli Air Force, Italian Air Force, United Arab Emirates Air Force and the United States Air Force operating in conjunction with the host nation. As Iniohos aspires to become one of the most important exercises in Europe and the Mediterranean region, it provides participants with a high level of training and a unique experience. Having never reported on this annual medium-scale INVITEX before, Jetwash Aviation Photos decided to venture to the Greek mainland once again to report on the activities at this year's event.
United Arab Emirates Air Force
The second squadron at Araxos is 336 Mira, which also operates the Block 52M version of the F-16C/D
The Block 52M is the most modern fighter aircraft in the HAF inventory
On display at the VIP/Media Day was F-4E Phantom II #71744, which was recently painted to mark the disbandment of 339 Mira
The personnel and aircraft of 339 Mira merged with 338 Mira on 31st October
The unit now has approximately 25 Phantoms on strength
The second Block 50 operator at Volos is 341 Mira
One of their F-16C's is caught here just after recovering from a morning mission
The Israeli participation at Iniochos '18 was rather muted in comparison to previous years. Firstly, only four IAF aircraft were involved; Lockheed-Martin F-16C Barak from 117 Squadron based at Ramat David Air Base. Support was provided by a Beech 200 King Air and an ELINT configured Gulfstream that made a fleeting visit during the exercise. In previous years the IAF had anything up to 12 fighter aircraft present, together with a Gulfstream and Boeing KC-707 involved. The IAF aircraft also arrived at Iniohos 2018 later than all the other participants and their involvement was very much played down by both the Israeli and Greek authorities; in fact the original Iniohos 'patch' didn't even include an Israeli flag and neither personnel nor an aircraft were involved in the VIP/Media event on the morning of 20th March, unlike all the other participants. Exactly why this was the case is far from clear, but nonetheless their continued participation was more than welcome once again.
Going on to explain how Iniohos has expanded in recent times, he told us; “In 2014 a new concept was implemented with a medium scale INVITEX type single-base concept exercise. The single-base concept brings together hundreds of participants in face-to-face planning, briefing and debriefing, thus maximizing training benefits and promoting co-operation and exchange of ideas on tactics between participants with different experience. The exercise is characterized by an intense battle rhythm that is designed to test all aspects of operational capability in supporting a high tempo of operations and maximizing the operational use of limited air assets. Participants are exposed to multiple threat environments such as anti-access area denial, where long-range surface-based air defence systems, 3rd generation ‘Red’ aircraft and TBM form a multi-layer challenge for allied forces. Iniochos also leverages the exceptional flying environment of Greece, which displays large volumes of airspace and a variety of terrain to present four distinct theatres of operations. Today we are on the seventh day of operations. Forces participating are; the Hellenic Armed Forces (Air Force, Army, Navy and Special Operations), Cyprus National Guard, Italian Air Force, Israeli Air Force, Royal Air Force, United Arab Emirates Air Force and the United States of America Air Force.”
Four F-16C 'Barak' from 117 Squadron made up the Israeli Air Force contribution at Iniochos 2018, somewhat smaller than in previous years
Making their way from Souda air base, Crete, the two squadrons of 115 Combat Wing also bought four aircraft each
Both units (340 Mira and 343 Mira) fly the F-16 Block 52 with their very distinctive 'Have Glass' paint scheme
During Iniochos, the aircraft are split into ‘Blue’ (friendly) and ‘Red’ (enemy) forces, with the majority of HAF Combat Wings involved in the exercise simulating ‘Red-Air’ forces. The Andravida-based Tactical Weapons School (Scholio Oplon Taktikis-SOT), a subordinate unit of the Air Tactics Center (Kentro Aeroporikis Taktikis - KEAT), uses its instructors to assist participating pilots with their mission planning and tactics, whilst also acting as ‘Red-Air’ adversaries. Iniochos missions normally involve three waves of aircraft each day, which take off in the morning, afternoon and evenings. The exercise scenario begins with a crisis situation that escalates to a full war, giving participants the opportunity to be trained in full scale day and night operations. Whilst the participants are exposed to non-stop fighting, information flow affects every aspect of the mission, thus creating a realistic environment where the air crews’ tactical flexibility in decision making is challenged to the full.
A pair of F-15E Strike Eagles from the 492nd Fighter Squadron perform a 'run and break' over Andravida
The Royal Air Force attended Iniochos for the first time in 2018,
bringing four British Aerospace (BAe) Typhoon FGR.4 aircraft
#307 is seen heading out for a short afternoon mission at Andravida
The markings at the bottom of the vertical fin celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the squadron
Delivered under the Peace Marble II agreement with the United States, the Tsvah Haganah le Israel / Cheil Ha'avir (Israel Defense Force/Air Force) was supplied with 75 Block 30 model F-16C/D's, the first F-16C arriving in October 1987. The first F-16D (aircraft #031) was delivered on 21st December 1987. Of the 75 aircraft delivered under the agreement, 51 were F-16Cs and 24 were F-16Ds (locally known as the 'Barak'). Something unique to IAF F-16 squadrons is that they only fly either single-seat or twin-seat models; 117 Sqn being a single-seat unit.
Like all other F-16 squadrons, 337 Mira at Larissa operates both single-seat C-models (below) and twin-seat D-models (above)
Following withdrawal of the RF-4E Phantom in 2017, 337 is the sole squadron still operating at Larissa as part of 110 Combat Wing
Two of the RAF Typhoons are seen being prepped for a morning mission by the ground crews
Sadly the RAF fleet is becoming devoid of any squadron markings and are rather drab due to the lack of them
Sister squadron to 331 at Tanagra is 332 Mira, which operates the older version Mirage 2000EG
Rumours have persisted for many years that these aircraft would be upgraded, but as yet nothing has materialised
Following the disbandment of 339 Squadron last October, 338 is now the sole operator of the iconic F-4 Phantom II in Europe
One of their aircraft is seen 'blasting' out of Andravida on 20th March during Iniohos
A 492FS F-15E Strike Eagle head's out of Andravida during Iniochos
The United Arab Emirates Air Force participated for the second year running; this time with six Dassault Mirage 2000-9EAD
At its inception in the 1980’s, Iniochos (Charioteer) began life as an annual Hellenic Air Force (HAF) small-scale Air Warfare exercise. The main goal was to create a realistic training environment for the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) fighter squadrons in accordance with Greek national Operational Doctrines and Plans. In 2013 the HAF decided that Iniohos would be expanded to an INVITEX-exercise, with invitations being sent to other air forces asking if they wanted to participate in the annual event. At the same time, the HAF decided to run future Iniohos exercises on a ‘Single-Base’ concept, with Andravida chosen as the ideal location for the exercise. As the home of the Kentro Aeroporikis Taktikis (KEAT-Hellenic Air Force Air Tactics Center) and having large amounts of available airspace in the area where Andravida is located, it proved ideal. In 2015, allied and other international air forces participated for the first time, with the Israeli Air Force being the first to take advantage of the Greek's offer.
The two squadrons from nearby Araxos (335 Mira and 336 Mira) each bought along four F-16 Block 52M Fighting Falcons
One of the Israeli Air Force F-16s is seen blasting out of Andravida during Iniochos '18
Aviation assets involved in 2018 included all the HAF fighter squadrons, together with USAF F-15E (492FS/48FW), UAEAF Mirage 2000-9 (71 Sqn), RAF Typhoon FGR.4 (3 Sqn), Italian AF Tornado IDS (6 Stormo), Cyprus National Guard AW-139 (460 Mira Erevnas Diasosis/MED- Search and Rescue Squadron) and Israeli AF F-16C (117 Sqn). The 76 aircraft involved flew over 1,000 sorties during Iniohos 2018, involving 30+ waves of aircraft, together with 20+ helicopters, 10+ naval units and 10+ SAM units. In excess of 200 aircrew and 1100 maintenance and support personnel were involved, with the exercise being run in conjunction with the Hellenic Army’s LIVEX-'Polifomos' and the Hellenic Navy's LIVEX-'Astrapi'.
117 Squadron, the ‘First Jet Sqn’, was the first in the IAF to operate jet aircraft in the form of the Gloster Meteor F.8 and T.7. The squadron also claimed the first ‘kill’ by an IAF jet aircraft on 1st September 1955 when it claimed two Egyptian Air Force De Havilland Vampires. Having flown the F-16A from July 1980, it also claimed the world’s first F-16 ‘kill’ on 28th April 1981 when a Syrian Mi-8 helicopter was shot down. The unit re-equipped with the F-16C ‘Barak’ variant in 1986, the squadron’s aircraft undergoing upgrade to the Barak-2020 improvement programme between 2010 and 2012, which involved an avionics and communications upgrade similar to that in the F-16I.117 Squadron’s F-16s are Block 30 standard, with the squadron specialising in the air superiority role, its secondary role incorporating delivery of precision-guided munitions such as the JDAM and Rafael Spice air-to-ground weapons.
Leaving an impressive afterburner trail, this Mirage 2000-5EG from 331 Squadron at Tanagra, roars out for an early evening mission
We would like to thank the following for their assistance in completing this article;
Caroline Makropoulos (British FCO, Athens)
Hellenic Air Force General Staff, Athens
Lt. Col. Ioannis Floros (117 CW)
Maj. Konstantinos Kyritsis (KEAT)
Maj. Apostolos Tsolis (117 CW)
W.O Konstantinos Sarakinis (KEAT)
FWS: Lt. Col. Athanasios Gkioles (HAF FWS)
Five Panavia Tornado IDS from 6° Stormo at Ghedi air base made up the Aeronautica Militare Italiana contingent
Having participated in Iniohos 2017 with AMX aircraft, the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI-Itaian Air Force) sent five Panavia Tornado Interdictor Strike (IDS) from 6° Stormo at Ghedi. Whilst the British Tornado fleet diminishes rapidly and the German Air Force also sees their fleet numbers in decline, the AMI intends to retain their fleet until at least 2025 when it is finally replaced by the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II. Forty of the AMI's Tornado fleet underwent a Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) programme recently, enabling the aircraft to operate with the Rafael RecceLite and LITENING III pods. This allows the Tornado to deliver precision-guided munitions such as the GBU-24 laser-guided bomb, the GBU-32 JDAM and the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile.
With Iniochos taking place at Andravida, there was of course some of the 'home team' involved
Needing no introduction, 338 Mira with the mighty F-4E Phantom II
111 Combat Wing is the only HAF fighter wing to operate three subordinate squadrons
Two of them, 347 Mira (above) and 341 Mira flying the Block 50 version of the Fighting Falcon
He went on to explain the Iniochos ethos; “In 2013 the HAF decided a different approach to operational training adapted to the security situation so as to meet the following challenges; to develop interoperability and standardization between HAF units and allied nations air forces; to promote jointness (sic), especially in air-land and air-sea integration of tactics, techniques and procedures; develop integration of legacy and modern assets in the modern battlefield; prepare air crews for the future battlefield, to fight in a contested environment.”
A 335 Mira 'Tigers' F-16C from Araxos Air Base power's out of Andravida
The late afternoon sun catches this 343 Mira F-16 from Souda Bay perfectly as it heads out for
a mission past the Andravida control tower
114 Combat Wing at Tanagra brought along four Mirage 2000s from 331 Mira and 332 Mira
This 332 Mira Mirage 2000EG is seen just after touching down on Runway 16 at Andravida
One of the UAEAF 71 Squadron Mirage 2000s seen landing during Iniochos '18