Through the SAR Co-ordination Centre, the Command is responsible for search & rescue operations throughout the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR). Aerial fire-fighting missions generally demand a huge amount of resources, especially in the summer time, when the risk of fires throughout the country is much greater. During this period, a large number of the Command's aircraft deploy to various airfields around the country in order to cover the entire territory, including Crete and the numerous small Aegean islands. The HAF's MEDEVAC missions are performed by a number of different aircraft types, primarily the Aerospatiale AS.332 Super Puma, Agusta A.109 and Bell 212 helicopters, but also including the Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport.
As mentioned before, 383 MEEA (Mira Ιdikon Epichiriseon Aeropyrosvesis/Special Operations & Air Fire Fighting Squadron) operates the CL.415 water-bombers at Thessalonik-Mikra Airport, and was formed on 16th May 2003 as a result of the splitting of 355 MTM at Elefsis. The Squadron currently has seven CL.415 aircraft in its inventory, one of which has a Multi-Purpose (MP) configuration adapted for search and rescue missions. Delivery of the CL.415 aircraft initially commenced in January 1999 to 355 MTM at Elefsis, which originally operated the type prior to the formation of 383 MEEA.
One of 384 MED's Super Pumas is seen practicing with the aircraft's winch at Elefsis on 8th June 2016
The aging Agusta-Bell 205s still provide a reliable and efficient SAR capability for the HAF
Many of the Squadron's aircraft operate from bases around the country, providing search and rescue
Although designated as a transport squadron, 355 MTM somewhat belies its true purpose, as the Squadron does not actually operate any transport aircraft. With the extremely hot and dry weather experienced in the majority of Greece and its islands in the Aegean, particularly during the months of July and August, the primary role of 355 MTM is to provide aerial fire-fighting duties. Operating a fleet of Canadair CL.215GR water-bombers, the aircraft mostly operate autonomously during the summer months from a number of bases strategically based around the country, with detachments at Andravida, Heraklion, Larissa, Limnos, Tanagra and Nea Anchialos.
The first CL.215s were delivered to the Air Force in 1974 and were initially allocated to 359 MAEDY (Mira Exipiretisis Dimosion Ypiresion/Public Services Air Support Squadron) to form a fire-fighting flight. In December of 1975 the aircraft were transferred to 355 MTM, and of the 13 aircraft remaining in service at that time, we understand that only around eight are currently still operational. The aircraft are now between 25-40 years old and maintaining their airworthiness is a formidable task for the squadron maintainers, particularly in these times of austerity. For a short period of time, 355 MTM also operated the HAF's more modern fleet of CL.415 water-bombers alongside the veteran CL.215s. However in May 2003, 383 MEEA was formed to operate the CL.415s, with the aircraft moving to Thessaloniki at the same time under the auspices of 113 Combat Wing.
The other helicopter squadron at Elefsis is 358 Mira Erevnas Diasosis (MED/Search & Rescue Sqn), which operates a mix of Agusta-Bell AB.205A, Bell 212 and Agusta A.109E helicopters. Around a dozen AB.205s remain in service, together with four Bell 212s and a similar number of Agusta A.109s (which are currently withdrawn, awaiting upgrade) . Now this is where things get a little more complex; although the unit is designated as a SAR squadron, the Bell 212s operate primarily in the VIP transport role and are painted in a white/blue colour scheme similar to that worn by the VIP Gulfstream and ERJ-135s of 352 Mira. The Agusta A.109E Powers, which were delivered in 2004, were originally operated by the SEAV (Sminos Elikoteron Amesis Voithias/MEDEVAC Helicopter Flight) in the air ambulance role until 2012, when they transferred to 358 Mira. They are still in use in the air ambulance role and retain their SEAV red/white colour scheme, however they are all currently undergoing major overhaul at Hellenic Aerospace S.A in Tanagra. So the only aircraft operating as true SAR in the Squadron currently are the AB.205s, which much like the Super Pumas of 384 Mira, operate from detachments around the country, including some of the Greek islands.
The primary mission of Hellenic Air Force Support Command (HAFSC) is to provide an airlift capability for the Hellenic Air Force, Army and Navy. A secondary role performed by the Command is to provide Search and Rescue (SAR), fire-fighting and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) flights. Additionally, the Command has the responsibility to provide full logistics support to the Hellenic Air Force, covering aircraft and helicopters, radar and electronics, weapons, vehicles and ground support equipment, whilst also providing general infrastructure to the Greek military. In order to accomplish its national tasks, HAFSC aircraft fly a wide range of missions, at the same time providing support for the country's obligations to the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and other international institutions.
Seen on the 352 MMYP apron at Elefsis, is the Squadron's Embraer 135LR
352 Squadron's aircraft all carry names, and #209 is appropriately named 'Elefsis'
The AS.332C-1 Super Pumas are primarily used by 384 MED for SAR and CSAR duties
Note the emergency flotation devices fitted to the aircraft above
The last of the three M-18BS two-seat Dromaders delivered to the HAF is seen in the image above
The M-18BS' are used as training aircraft for pilots within 359 MAEDY (Copyright HAF/Ian Harding)
One of 384 MED's Super Pumas seen during a mountain-rescue operation
#2056 is the sole CL.415MP operated by 383 MEEA
Initially two such aircraft were operated, but one was lost in an accident on 23rd July 2007
A 358 MED AB.205A hover-taxi's out at Elefsis (copyright HAF/Ian Harding)
The major Support Command air base is located at Elefsina, some 11 miles (18km) west of the Greek capital, Athens. Home to 112 Pteriga Makhis (112 PM/112 Combat Wing), Elefsis Air Base is without doubt the mainstay of Hellenic Air Force Support Command, and as such has a diverse inventory of aircraft located at the base, with six squadrons currently assigned to the wing, operating no less than nine different aircraft types. As Greece is such a large country, it relies heavily on its transport fleet to provide much needed logistical support to its military, and 112 Combat Wing is of primary importance in the day to day operations of the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) in particular.
The mainstay of the transport fleet has for many years been the venerable C-130H Hercules
#746 is seen taxying out at Elefsis on 8th June 2016
The winch on the Super Puma is put to good use when rescuing people from ships in distress
The image above showing a crewman being rescued from a cargo vessel that has run aground
Providing both strategic and tactical transport, Search and Rescue (SAR), fire-fighting, MEDEVAC and VIP transport missions, the squadrons at Elefsis make the operations undertaken extremely important to the Hellenic Air Force, with regular transport and liaison flights operating between Elefsis and the many bases dotted around the country. Jetwash Aviation Photos was once again given unbridled access by the Hellenic Air Force Chiefs of Staff to report on the day to day operations of Hellenic Air Force Support Command, providing an insight into the Command's diverse missions and the wide variety of aircraft types flown.
A Coast Guard Super Puma seen demonstrating its rescue capability utilising the aircraft's winch
The four Coast Guard Super Puma's are flown by 384 Mira crews
Using the Super Puma's NVG capability, this image is shot from the cockpit of an aircraft on approach to Elefsis (Copyright HAF/M. Peros)
Operating as the Hellenic Air Force's VIP transport squadron is 352 Mira Metaforas Ypsilon Prosopon (MMYP). The Squadron is equipped with a single Grumman Gulfstream 5 and two Embraer ERJ-135 aircraft. The Gulfstream 5 was delivered to 352 Mira in March 2003, supplementing the two existing Embraers. The two Embraer aircraft in service are of similar design, but consist of two sub-types; a single ERJ-135LR, which has the ability to carry up to 35 passengers; and an ERJ-135BJ, which has a carrying capacity of 15 passengers. The first Embraer aircraft delivered was the ERJ-135LR, which joined the fleet in January 2000, followed in July 2002 by the ERJ-135BJ. In addition to the Squadron's primary role in providing VIP transportation to Heads of State and Government officials, it also has a secondary role as a MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) provider.
The 384 Mira Erevnas Diasosis (MED/Search & Rescue Squadron) was formed in February 2007 operating eight Aerospatiale (now Airbus Helicopters) AS.332C-1 Super Puma helicopters. The Squadron's primary missions are Search & Rescue (SAR) and Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR), with secondary missions that include providing an emergency medical service (EMS), together with light transport and VIP missions. A total of 12 aircraft are in service at Elefsis, four of which are operated on behalf of the Hellenic Coast Guard.
The SAR role is carried out by the Squadron's Super Pumas in conjunction with the aging Agusta-Bell 205 fleet of 358 MED. The Super Pumas are equipped with a nose-mounted Bendix 1500B radar, giving a 360 degrees search range, a Thales Chlio S Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) system, a Spectrolab search light and a 272kg capacity hoist. As mentioned, four of the AS.332C-1 Super Pumas (aircraft #2464, #2509, #2519 and #2520) are operated on behalf of the Coast Guard and the fleet operates from a number of SAR detachments. The HAF aircraft are also used for CSAR duties and have the capability to use night vision goggles (NVG).
One of 384 Mira's Super Puma's is seen on the ramp at Elefsis in June 2016, with one of the Wing's AB.205s in the background
Note the high-power search light and winch, both essential for SAR/CSAR duties
This close-up clearly illustrates the boat-shaped hull of the CL.215
The aircraft was photographed at Andravida Air Base whilst on a summer detachment to the base
As well as its fire-fighting role, the Squadron also conducts search & rescue missions throughout the Mediterranean. Since its establishment, the Squadron has participated in fire-fighting missions in France (2003) and Portugal (2004), while the crews and Squadron’s aircraft also contributed to fire-fighting in Turkey (TURPAS refinery after the earthquake of 1999) and Cyprus (2001-2002), when they served with 355 MTM. As with 355 Squadron, the unit's aircraft deploy to other bases during the summer months, such as Andravida, Heraklion, Souda, Rhodes, Karpathos and Kalamata.
In 2006 the Squadron 'split' from 112 CW and moved the airport in Thessaloniki, under the auspices of 113 Combat Wing. The Squadron’s main role of aerial fire-fighting, is a very demanding task, especially during the filling-up of the water tanks from sea, and during airdrops, taking into account that an airdrop takes place from an altitude of approximately 100ft.
For SAR missions, two rescue personnel are added to the crew and the aircraft is equipped with a life-raft for picking up survivors. In addition, the CL.415s also carry out light transport missions, and because of their multi-purpose amphibious role, the CL.415MP is often used to transport the 31st Search & Rescue Operations Squadron and the Hellenic Navy Underwater Demolition Teams. The single CL.415MP is equipped with advanced electronic tracking systems (FLIR, Radar, SLAR) and also a navigator, a flight mechanic and rescue personnel.
Search & Rescue Operations
The Hellenic Air Force's Search & Rescue (SAR) fleet is currently comprised of two helicopter squadrons, 358 SAR Squadron (with AB.205 and AB.212 helicopters) and 384 Squadron (with Super Puma helicopters). During the SAR missions, which are co-ordinated in conjunction with the Ministry of Commercial Shipping, a Navy diver is included within the rescue crew. In addition to the helicopter fleet, the HAF also utilises its fleet of C-130, C-27J, CL.215, and CL.415 aircraft to ensure timely coverage over the entirety of the Greek mainland and its many islands. To ensure total coverage, the units are located around the country on a 24-hour alert, 365 days a year. During 2014, a total of 134 missions were executed with a total of 243 flight hours, with 66 people being rescued.
Also based at Elefsis is the 31st Search & Rescue Operations Squadron, an independent squadron under the command of the Chiefs of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff (HAFGS). During peacetime, operational control is exercised by HAFGS 'A’ Branch Director, with administrative control through the HAFSGS Deputy Chief. The 31st Squadron's mission is to maintain the efficiency and readiness of the relevant units within the SAR community, undertaking personnel training and maintenance of the assets and systems required to conduct the HAF's SAR operations, battleground operations and specialized operations as and when required. The Squadron was formed in 1998 as the 31st Special Operations Squadron, being re-named as the 31st Search and Rescue Operations Squadron in 2008.
The personnel training is multi-faceted and plays a leading role in the Squadron’s activities during peacetime, following the HAF’s institutional creed of "Be trained as you will fight". The training is divided into three phases; Initial, Specialized and Sustained, and includes a wide range of activities conducted in schools of all the three branches of the Hellenic armed forces. Additionally, a wide range of co-operative and joint-training with hand-picked units both at home and abroad, helps to supplement the training.
The Squadron's missions and operations include; Providing emergency medical care, Casualty recovery and evacuation, Establishing communications for the squadron’s operational support, Airbase Protection – guarding of special targets – suppression of enemy commando action, Co-operation during hijacking operations with the support of HAF aircraft, Protection of transport operations both at home and abroad, Participation in humanitarian missions, Target designation in enemy territory, and Sabotage/destruction of high-value targets. (The following images are all courtesy of M.Peros/HAF)
Hellenic Air Force
'Backbone of the Greek Air Force'
One of 358 Squadron's Bell 212s gets some post-flight attention on the Elefsis ramps
Four such aircraft are flown by the unit and all wear this smart white/blue colour scheme
The upgrade included; a partial 'glass' cockpit; a new electronic flight information system (EFIS); flight management system (FMS); a new traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS); new electronic warfare (EW) systems, including a missile proximity warning system (MPWS); and a new radio and radar. Other systems installed during the upgrade included; GPS/inertial navigation; improved weather radar; new auto-pilot; new Identification-Friend or Foe (IFF); a digital engine control system and an enhanced ground proximity warning system. The first three aircraft were converted by SPAR, with Hellenic Aerospace Industry S.A (HAI) at Tanagra, completing the remaining 12 aircraft. During their upgrade the aircraft also received an overall grey colour, scheme similar to that applied to the C-27J Spartan aircraft. In recent years the Squadron has participated in a number of humanitarian and peace keeping missions and operations, with participation in a number of multi-national operations in Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Three Dromaders from 359 MAEDY are photographed here at Kalamata Air Base, one of the regular summer detachments for the unit
The second transport squadron at Elefsis is 356 MTM, operating the HAF's fleet of Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft, two versions (C-130B and C-130H) of which are currently on strength. Twelve brand new C-130H Hercules aircraft were delivered to the Hellenic Air Force from 1975 onwards, with five older C-130B aircraft being taken on charge in August 1992, from ex-U.S Air Force stocks at AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group), Arizona. The C-130Bs were added to the inventory to supplement the existing C130H aircraft, two of which had been lost in accidents.
Founded in March 1968, another unit that comes under the auspices of Hellenic Air Force Support Command is 359 MAEDY (Mira Exipiretisis Dimosion Ypiresion/Public Services Air Support Squadron), which is located at Tatoi-Dekelia Air Base. Having initially formed at Elefsis, the Squadron moved to nearby Tatoi in August 1970, and the Squadron currently flies the small Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze (PZL) M-18B Dromader in the fire-fighting and agricultural activity (crop-dusting and seeding) roles. Deliveries of the Dromader aircraft commenced in July 1983 (aircraft which the Hellenic Air Force acquired as part of a debt repayment from Poland), supplementing the Grumman AgCats (withdrawn in December 2010) that were already in service with the unit. A total of 30 single-seat M-18B Dromaders were delivered to 359 Mira, later supplemented by three, two-seat M-18BS models in July 2002, but due to the extremely hazardous role these aircraft perform, a total of 11 have been lost in accidents and so 22 aircraft remain in service with the Squadron. As with the CL.215 and CL.415 aircraft, the Dromaders are deployed around the country to various locations during the summer months to combat the risk of forest and scrub fires.
This 354 Squadron C-27J Spartan is seen undergoing maintenance in the unit's purpose-built hangar at Elefsis
During June 2016, 384 Squadron painted one of their Super Pumas to commemorate its upcoming 10-year Anniversary
Aircraft #2509 received this rather smart paint scheme at Elefsis, and is seen here during the celebration
In addition to the actual fire-fighting role, as a means of prevention, the HAF also executes patrol flights for the spotting of forest fires. This ensures direct intervention from both land and air forces, contributing effectively in the protection of the countryside and surrounding towns and villages. In addition to the CL.215 and 415 aircraft, the HAF also provide ground units (both vehicles and personnel) where the need exists, these forces normally being placed under the command of the Hellenic Fire Department. During 2014, a total of 807 patrol and fire-fighting missions were flown with a total of 1,744 hours of flight time, and as if to demonstrate how dangerous the fire-fighting role is, just over a week after our visit to Elefsis, one of 355 MTM's CL.215 aircraft crashed on 26th June at 11.09 am local time. Operating from Nea Anchialos Air Base at the time of the accident, aircraft #1111 was unfortunately 'lost' in the accident whilst participating in a fire-fighting mission in the northwest Attica region. Through the skill of the pilots, the two-man crew both survived and there were no fatalities or injuries on the ground.
The Bell 212s are used primarily as VIP transports, however they also provide a secondary MEDEVAC role
The single Grumman Gulfstream V provides long-range executive transport for the HAF
Prior to delivery of the Gulfstream and Embraers, the HAF relied upon antiquated types such as the C-47, NAMC YS-11 and Dornier Do.28
We would like to thank the following for their assistance in completing this article;
Caroline Makropoulos (British FCO, Athens)
Capt. Richard Blackwell (British FCO, Defence Attaché, Athens)
Brig. General Fotios Tzallas (Commander, 112 Combat Wing)
and a special thanks to Col. Michail Peros (Force Protection Director, 112 Combat Wing)
The C-27J Spartan is based on the older G.222 aircraft manufactured by Alenia and bears a striking resemblance to that aircraft. The addition of C-130J associated technology, along with other improvements in conjunction with Lockheed-Martin and Alenia Aeronautica (Finmeccanica), who have developed and manufactured the aircraft, and which features two Rolls-Royce AE 2100D2 engines derived from the engines powering the C-130J cargo aircraft, give it unbridled reliability and performance.
C-27J Spartans of 354 MTM sit on the Squadron's ramp at Elefsis
354 MTM resides on the eastern side of Elefsis, with a newly constructed hangar and ramps built specifically to accommodate the aircraft
Two Canadair CL.215s are seen on the threshold of Runway 36 at Elefsis
The aircraft were about to depart on a fire-fighting mission on 8th June 2016, returning some 1.5 hours later
Elefsis is the only Hellenic Air Force base permanently housing transport units, with two squadrons providing both tactical and strategic transport. The first squadron is 354 Mira Taktikon Metaforon (MTM/Tactical Transport Squadron), operating the Alenia-Aermacchi C-27J Spartan. The Squadron’s mission is to provide medium-lift, tactical transport duties for both the HAF and other branches of the Hellenic Armed Forces. Having previously operated the Douglas C-47 Dakota and the Nord 2501 Noratlas, the Squadron had disbanded in April 1982, later reforming at Elefsis in January 2005 to coincide with the introduction of the newly delivered C-27J Spartan, with the first aircraft arriving 4th August of the same year. The HAF initially ordered 12 of the Italian-built C-27Js, but later reduced the order to eight.
Assigned to 112 Combat Wing is this C-27J Spartan #4118 (Copyright HAF/Ian Harding)
356 MTM's Hercules fleet was supplemented in 1992 when five C-130B models were purchased from ex-USAF stocks
C-130B #300 is seen at Elefsis in June 2016 wearing the now standard light-grey colour scheme
Super Puma 'Elephant Walk' at Elefsis
All of the HAF's remaining C-130 fleet underwent an upgrade programme between 2006-2010, with a new self-protection suite being fitted and an electronics upgrade. The upgrade was completed in conjunction with the Canadian company, SPAR Aerospace, which had maintained the Canadian Air Force's fleet of C-130s for some time.
Note the Dromadery (Camel) painted under the cockpit of the PZL M18B (above), after which the aircraft is named
The humped cockpit gives a clear indication as to how the aircraft got its name
The Alenia C-27J Spartan is operated by 354 Squadron at Elefsis
This particular aircraft is preparing to depart on a mission to the island of Skyros
Eight C-27s are in service with 354 MTM at Elefsis
The aircraft providing medium-lift tactical transport to the Hellenic Air Force