Araxos, home of the worlds last flying A-7 Corsair II’s
A report on our visit to Araxos Air Base in Greece , home of the worlds last flying A-7 Corsair II’s.
In 1936 Araxos Airport was beïng build and at the begining of April 1941 the runway was ready to receive aircraft flights. Araxos was the first radar base in Greece and was set up in the same period as the first aircraft flights were received. 17 Years later, in 1958 the decision was made to modernize the Airport so it could serve jets. It was April 1962 when the 116 Combat Group / 336 Fighter Bomber Squadron was formed at Araxos. This squadron flew the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak. After only two years of flying the F-84F from Araxos they were replaced by the F-104G Starfighter. In May 1969 the 116 Combat Group was renamed to 116 Combat Wing. In June 1977 the 335 Squadron from 114 Combat Wing based at Tanagra was redeployed to 116 Combat Wing with their F-104G Starfighters. In 1992 the replacement of the F-104’s by the A-7E and TA-7C Corsairs started. In March 1993 the F-104G’s were retired and the delivery of 62 A-7’s was completed by September 1994. In April 1993 the squadron was renamed to 335 Fighter Bomber Squadron which was fully operational with the A-7 in September 1993. 336 Fighter Bomber Squadron achieved this in June 1995. The A-7 Re-training Flight was established in November 1996 and strarted to operate in March 1997. In December 2001 the Supreme Air Council decided that the A-7E’s from 336 Fighter Bomber Squadron were transferred to 335 Fighter Bomber Squadron and the A-7H’s and TA-7H’s from 115 Combat Wing based at Souda were transferred to 116 Combat Wing / 336 Fighter Bomber Squadron at Araxos. From March till November 2007 the A-7H’s and TA-7H’s were withdrawn from use as well as the first A-7E’s. In August 2007 the Supreme Air Council decided that all A-7E’s and TA-7C’s from 115 Combat Wing based at Souda were transferred to 116 Combat Wing / 336 Fighter Bomber Squadron at Araxos. At the same time the 335 Fighter Bomber Squadron was equipped with F-16C/D Block 52’s. On 7 October 2014 the retirement ceremony of the A-7 Corsair II took place. In July 2015 also 336 Fighter Bomber Squadron was equipped with F-16C/D Block 52’s.
The 335 Squadron with callsign “Tigris” (Tigers), is the oldest squadron of the Hellenic Air Force. This squadron was established in October 1941 at the Palestinian airport of Akir when Greece was under German occupation. The first squadron pilots were officers of the Hellenic Royal Air Force, who had been sent to Iraq since 1940 to be trained by British officers, as well as many pilots who abandoned Greece after the occupation, for carrying on the liberation fight.
The squadron was subordinated to the Royal Air Force 339 Combat Wing and was initially equipped with the Hurrican-IIB and later with the Hurrican-IIC. In December 1943 the Hurricanes were replaced by the Spitfire VB and VC. The squadrons main role was the offensive reconnaissance and interception and it carried out missions in North Africa, Italy, Yugoslavia, Albania and in occupied Greece, especially in Crete, the Cyclades and the Dodecanese Islands.
In September 1944 the squadron was redeployed to Italy and in October that same year to Greece at Hassani Airport, today known as Hellenikon Airport. There were 335 Squadron as well as 336 Squadron and 13 Light Bomber Squadron handed over by the British Government to the Hellenic Government.
During the second World War the squadron conducted over 5.500 sorties in 8.500 combat flight hours and additional 12.000 flight hours for training purpose. Unfortenately the squadron lost 18 pilots!
In August 1945 the squadron re-deployed to Sedes Airport and in June 1947 the new Spitfire IX and XVI were delivered. In October 1953 the 335 Squadron was renamed to 335 Fighter Bomber Squadron and it became the first squadron that replaced the propeller aircraft by jets, the Republic F-84G Thunderstreak and RT-33A at Elefsis Airport. 335 Squadron was redeployed to 111 Combat Wing and stayed at Elefsis until September 1957. Not long thereafter 335 Squadron redeployed to 110 Combat Wing at Larissa and was being equipped with the F-84F. 335 Squadron was based there until November 1960 when it assumes the strike role and redeployed to Tanagra. In May 1965 the first F-104G Starfighter was received. In June 1977 335 Squadron redeployed to 116 Combat Wing at Araxos. The F-104’s flew until May 1992 when they were replaced by A-7E’s and TA-7C’s. With the delivery of the A-7’s the Hellenic Air Force bombing ability was increased because of their great capability to carry a heavy weapon load to long distances and deliver it to the target with accuracy. In August 2007 all A-7s were transferred to 336 Squadron and 335 Squadron received it’s first F-16C/D Block 52’s in May 2009. These new fighters are equipped with sophisticated weapon systems like JSOW-JDAM and other systems like Link-16 and the newest Recce pod. At this moment 335 Squadron is still based at Araxos.
336 Squadron with callsign “Olympus”, was established for the first time in February 1943 at “Landing Ground 219” airport near Cairo, Egypt. It’s first name was 336 Hellenic Royal Fighter Bomber Squadron and was subordinated to the Royal Air Force 219 Combat Wing and it was the second Fighter Bomber Squadron of the Hellenic Royal Air Force. The squadron was initially equipped with Hurrican-IIC aircraft. In April 1943 the squadron deployed to LG121 Airport near Sidi Barrani, Egypt where it stayed until January 1944. The missions weren naval convoy protection, interception of hostile aircraft, offensive patrols and ground attack sweeps of Crete.
In January 1944 the squadron redeployed El Adem Airport, Libya where it stayed until March 1944. From there it redeployed to Marsa Matruh Airport, Egypt. In June 1944 they redeployed to El Adem Airport, Libya where they received the Spitfire V. Not long after 336 Squadron redeployed to Nuova Airport, Italy. From there they flew ground attack missions over Albania, Yugoslavia and occupied Greece. Before the squadron returned to Hassani Airport, Greece they flew missions from Biferno Airport and Grottaglie Airport, both in Italy.
During the second World War the squadron conducted 3.250 sorties in 5.100 combat flight hours and additional 7.300 flight hours for training purpose. Unfortenately the squadron lost 12 pilots and 3 captives!
In May 1945 336 Squadron redeployed to Sedes Airport and in February 1949 to Larissa where it integrated to the 110 Combat Wing. In August 1949 they were equipped with the Helldiver vertical attack fighter-bomber, changing it’s role to Light Bomber Squadron. Later on the squadron was equipped with the Republic F-84G Thunderstreak and it was renamed to 336 Fighter Bomber Squadron.
At the end of 1953 the squadron redeployed to Nea Anchialos and in 1958 the F-84’s were replaced by new F-84F’s. In April 1962 the squadron redeployed to 116 Combat Wing at Araxos. In September 1963 the squadron was renamed to 336 Squadron. From December 1966 until March 1993 336 Squadron maintained the F-104G aircraft and the squadron was renamed to 336 Bomber Squadron and starts receiving A-7E’s and TA-7C’s. With the delivery of the A-7’s the Hellenic Air Force bombing ability was increased because of their great capability to carry a heavy weapon load to long distances and deliver it to the target with accuracy. In December 2001 the Supreme Air Council decided that the A-7E’s from 336 Fighter Bomber Squadron were transferred to 335 Fighter Bomber Squadron and the A-7H’s and TA-7H’s from 115 Combat Wing based at Souda were transferred to 116 Combat Wing / 336 Fighter Bomber Squadron at Araxos. In August 2007 all A-7s from 335 Squadron were transferred to 336 Squadron. In October 2014 all A-7’s were withdrawn from use. From then on 336 Squadron received it’s first F-16C/D Block 52’s from 335 Squadron.
A-7’s within the Hellenic Air Force
The Hellenic Air Force was the first foreign air force to order the A-7 Corsair II. In 1975 the first of 60 A-7H’s were delivered, the H in A-7H stands for Hellenic. Next to those 60 single seat also 5 dual seat TA-7H’s were ordered. The Hellenic Air Force was in need of more A-7’s and in 1992 they ordered another 86 A-7’s, 68 single seat A-7E’s and 18 dual seat TA-7C’s. Those A-7’s have flown for the US Navy and were delivered between 1993 and 1994.
The United States Air Force and Navy stopped flying the A-7 in 1998. Next to Greece also Portugal and Thailand ordered the A-7. Portugal operated 69 A-7P’s and 11 TA-7P’s between 1981 and 1999. Thailand operated 17 A-7E’s and 5 TA-7C’s between 1995 and 2007.
The A-7 Corsair II was operated by different units within the Hellenic Air Force: 340 Mira “Fox” from 1975 till 2001, 345 Mira “Lailaps” from 1976 till 2002, 347 Mira “Perseus” from 1977 till 1992, 335 Mira “Tiger” from 1992 till 2008 and finally 336 Mira “Olympos” from 1993 till 2014.
With the withdrawal of the A-7’s in the United States Air Force and Navy in 1998, Portugal in 1999 and in Thailand in 2007, Greece was the only A-7 operator in the whole world from 2007. Unfortenately the Hellenic Air Force stopt operating the A-7 Corsair II in October 2014!
The authors like to thank everyone who made this fantastic visit possible within the Ministry of Defence and the Hellenic Air Force.