Exercise Report : Exercise Iniohos 2016 - Andravida, Greece
Exercise INIOHOS 2016
USAFE and Israeli fighters returned to Andravida for HAF exercise, Greece
George Karavantos visited the Hellenic Air Force's 117 Combat Wing at Andravida which hosted the annual Iniohos exercise in April 2016.
On April 4 to 14, the Hellenic Air Force hosted a medium-sized multinational exercise named "Iniohos 2016" at the base of 117 Combat Wing in Andravida, home of the Greek Phantoms.
In this exercise the HAF along with the two other participating Air Forces took advantage of some of the most suitable and at the same time most challenging airspace in Europe for conducting these large scale air operations, a wide variety of air defense systems and remarkable mix of modern aircraft and ordnance combined with considerably experienced crews.
During the ten days, the Hellenic Air Force launched fighters from all Tactical Air Commands and with the other two participating Air Arms accumulated a total of over 700 sorties, day and night. In the exercise's scenarios strike packages faced all available air defense systems, provided by all branches. The HAF cooperated with aerial assets from the Hellenic Army and the Hellenic Navy. All together they struck various target types, ranging from tanks and frigates to air bases or other high-value assets.
Greece is the perfect place for hosting such exercises since the rough terrain of Greece in combination with the Aegean Sea offers a great landscape for mission planners and crews to simulate different kinds of scenarios. Also, there are no densely populated areas and no competing air traffic to compromise the realism and the quality of training. Another encouraging factor is the excellent weather of Greece which offers the ability to fly and train at all altitude.
The "Iniohos" exercise dates back to the late 80s, when it was established as a small scale air warfare exercise with only aircraft of the HAF. Initially the participating aircraft were deployed to 110 CW in Larisa, but in later years each aircraft operated from its home base. In 2005, “Iniohos” was transformed into a medium scale exercise, involving all three branches of the Hellenic Armed Forces. On November 2013, the Single Base Concept was adopted for Iniohos and the selected host for this kind of event was 117 CW at Andravida air base. It was also decided that “Iniohos” would become an Invitex exercise, meaning that other nations could be invited to participate in the exercise.
Last year, both the Israeli Air Force and USAF Europe accepted this invitation and deployed to Greece to take part in "Iniohos 2015". Obviously the results were beneficial for all them as they both returned to Andravida this year to participate for a second time. This year, in addition to the major participation by almost all HAF Squadrons, there were twelve Israeli F-16C/D Fighting Falcons from different squadrons and one Gulfstream 550 for the Airborne Early Warning & Control role (AEW&C), along with the two Greek EMB-145H aircraft. Also an E-3A AWACS from the NATO AEW&C Flight was orbiting the exercise areas contributing in this role as well. For the second consecutive year, twelve USAFE F-15E Strike Eagles deployed to Andravida along with approximately 260 airmen from the 492nd Fighter Squadron of the 48th Combat Wing based at RAF Lakenheath, UK.
Bilateral cooperation between USAFE as well as Israeli AF and the HAF has been rehearsed many times in the past and has proven excellent. Both air arms have many similar traits to the HAF so joint composite operations can be accomplished. The French Air Force was also invited, but due to operational commitments including the operations in Syria, they were not able to participate. There were however some French military officials to observe the exercise with great interest and who assured Greek officials that they will be coming to Andravida next year.
Each day a different mission in a different warfare scenario was flown. On a single day more than 120 sorties were made in six different waves. Two in the morning, two in the afternoon, one in the evening and one during the night. Some of the missions were:
- Counter Air Operations
- Fighter Sweep
- Anti-Surface Force Air Operations.
- Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR).
- Interdiction of Air Defenses
- Air strikes against high value targets
During the exercise, flight crews of the three nations, air defense systems personnel, and Special Ops members exchanged their views and ideas. Despite the fact that they speak different operational languages, they share common objectives. The results of “Iniohos” exercise 2016 have been excellent and once again the conclusions was drawn that this kind of exercise helps improving the joint operations capabilities. Chief of Hellenic Air Force General Staff, Lieutenant General Christos Vaitsis clearly stated that the goal is for "Iniohos" to become the largest multinational exercise in the European theatre.
HAF 117 Combat Wing
117 Combat Wing was formed on March 4th, 1961 at Andravida airport, south of the air base at Araxos, the home of 116 Combat Wing. On April 5th, 1974, the first F-4E aircraft arrived for 117 CW, with deliveries completed by the end of the year. Under the 117 CW two squadrons were to fly the Phantoms, these are 338 and 339 Squadrons that remain operational to this day.
338 Squadron, named "Ares", and 339 Squadron, named "Ajax", were both formed in 1952 at Elefsis AB as Fighter Bomber Squadrons equipped with the F-84G Thunderjet, the first jet aircraft of Hellenic Air Force. Nowadays 338 Squadron’s primary role is air strike, while 339 Squadron is focused on interception.
HAF F-4E Phantom II
The significant change brought about by the introduction to service of the Phantom II and the lessons learned by the US from the Vietnam War, led the HAF to reform its tactics and gave rise to a new tactical doctrine. For its time, the Phantom presented the ultimate fighter-bomber featuring two seats, twin engines, powerful performance, large payload and state-of-the-art weapons systems for day and night operations.
After 23 years of Phantom II operations over the Aegean Sea, the HAF decided to upgrade the F-4E. In late 1997, the “Peace Icarus 2000” program began, providing both structural reinforcement of the aircraft and quality improvement of their electronics. The Avionics Upgrade Program (AUP) also dramatically improved the mission effectiveness of the Phantom. 36 Phantoms were selected for the upgrade and EADS was awarded the contract, mostly due to its experience gained from the similar but less extensive upgrade of the German F-4F. While only one aircraft travelled to Germany for the tests of the upgrade, the rest of the Phantoms were upgraded at the Hellenic Aviation Industry factory in Tanagra.
Main features of the AUP were the integration of the advanced Raytheon AN/APG-65 radar, Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) system, new computers, navigation and communication systems along with new color multi-function displays. The upgraded aircraft gained the ability to equip AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9L and AGM-65 Maverick missiles. On December 18th, 2002, the delivery ceremony of the first upgraded aircraft was held at the Hellenic Aviation Industry facilities, and so began the integration of the upgraded aircraft in 117CW. The program was completed in 2004 with all upgraded aircraft wearing the "Aegean Ghost" paint scheme. Nowadays around 30 F-4E AUP aircraft are still in operation with these two Squadrons.
Despite its age, the Phantom II can still remain a potent opponent in modern warfare. The incorporation of the AMRAAM in the F-4E Avionics Upgrade Program (AUP) provided the fighter with third-generation air combat capability. AUP allows the Phantom to perform excellently in interception, CAP, and fighter sweep missions. The experience of 117 CW pilots over all those years forms the advantage over the opponent. Also another advantage to this old jet is the Litening targeting pod which offers capable passive sensors, in particular for CAS and support of CSAR missions.
The saturated environment staged for the “Iniohos” sometimes favors older-generation aircraft such as the Phantom. These jets can take advantage of the chaos that typically prevails, with dozens of aircraft changing positions and altitudes, in order to overcome their inherent design drawbacks and still inflict damage to the enemy. Phantom crews know this very well. Their true weapon is their experience on the type and their well-development tactics.
The revolution started by the F-4E back in the 1970s in the way the Air Force operated resulted in the establishment of new objectives and the development of advanced tactics that completely changed the tactical philosophy of the HAF. Still today, 40 years later, the Phantom remains an important part of the HAF’s air power and will continue to serve a vital role in the defense of Greece.
Report and photos by George Karavantos ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 2 May 2016
2 May 2016 Improved photo captions