Exercise Iniochos 2022
From March 28 to April 8 exercise Iniochos was held at Andravida Air Base. Lowpass Aviation visited Andravida Air Base in Greece to see what this exercise is all about.
Andravida Air Base (Αεροπορική Βάση Ανδραβίδας)
Andravida Air Base is a military airport operated by the Hellenic Air Force, located 2.5 kilometres from the town of Andravida in Elis, Greece, housing the 117th Combat Wing (117 Πτέρυγα Μάχης, 117 ΠΜ), and the Air Force’s Air Tactics Center (Κέντρο Αεροπορικής Τακτικής, ΚΕΑΤ).
Greece is one of the last four country’s worldwide that is still flying with the F-4 Phantom, the F-4E AUP will probaly soldier on within the Hellenic Air Force for a few more years to come.
Construction on the Andravida base began in 1955, with the first air detachment established there in June 1960. In March 1961 the detachment was transformed into the 117th Combat Group (117 Σμηναρχία Μάχης) comprising the F-84F-equipped 339th Fighter-Bomber Squadron.
In May 1969 the unit was upgraded to a full combat wing and chosen to receive the F-4E Phantom. This necessitated extensive reconstruction and upgrading of the existing facilities, and in 1973 339th Squadron had to be relocated to the nearby Araxos Air Base. The first F-4E aircraft arrived in April 1974, deliveries were completed by the end of the year allowing for the equipment of two squadrons: the returning 339th Squadron, now designated “339th All-Weather Squadron”, took up an interceptor role, and the 338th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. Among other infrastructure changes, a third runway and a weather radar were added by 1978. After disbanding of 339 Mira in October 2017, 338 Mira is the only F-4 squadron remaining at Andravida under 117th CW to this day.
In 1975 the Weapons-Tactics School (Σχολείο Όπλων Τακτικής, ΣΟΤ) was established at Andravida, providing advanced courses on air tactics and electronic warfare. In addition, the 368th Applied Training Flight consisting of four Lockheed T-33s, was formed at Andravida in December 1976. It operated until March 1989. In 1983, the Weapons-Tactics School, along with the rest of the Air Force’s various advanced schools, which until then were scattered among a number of air bases and operated under different directorates, were consolidated in a single unit, the Air Tactics Center, a combat wing-level unit also based at Andravida.
Iniochos is an annual medium scale exercise (type INVITEX) based on the facilities of the AIR TACTICS CENTER at the Andravida Air Base, located in the Northwest Peloponnese. The duration of the exercise is 15 calendar days and operations make use of the majority of Athena FIR. The exercise scenario adopts a Single Base Concept (execution of operations from a single Air Base), with the participation of all branches of the Armed Forces. This year the unfolding events in Ukraine led to some cancellations of participants. The Romanian Air Force had planned to participate with its F-16s from Baza 86 Fetesti, unfortunately their participation was cancelled due to operational reasons. Besides flying participants, the exercise was also attended by numerous countries who sent observers. Among them were Albania, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, India, Kuwait, Morocco, North Macedonia, Saudi Arabia and United Kingdom.
The Iniochos exercise was first organised in the late 1980s. It was a small scale tactical level exercise for training combined air operations within the Hellenic Air Force Doctrine. Its success led to the decision to make it an annual event. For the execution and conduction of the exercise, the Hellenic Fighter Weapons School was deployed to Larissa, where the White Cell was formed in the facilities of the National Center for Air Operations. The White Cell was responsible for the optimal coordination and planning of the operations, while participating aircraft were also deployed to Larissa, from where they launched for their missions. In 2005, the exercise was decentralized; the participating aircraft were operating from their mother bases, while the White Cell, the planning and the coordination were taking place in the Air Tactics Center and the Fighter Weapons School facilities, in Andravida Air Force Base, implementing newly acquired means of Command and Control. In November 2013, the decision was made to adopt a Single Base Concept, upgrading the exercise scale to medium and expanding the spectrum of operations with the objective to create a more realistic and demanding environment, with an intensive and prolonged 24/7 battle rhythm, significantly increasing the level of training. In April 2015, the exercise is being held for the first time in the form of INVITEX (Invitation Exercise), with the participation of the IAF and the USAFE Special Forces (SOF) as JTAC.
There are two main objectives for exercise Iniochos: provide REALISTIC training, which is achieved by creating a realistic battle environment and Accurate Shot/Event Assessment, this is achieved with the use of onboard and off board tracking data, sensors and specialized debriefing software, which is leveraged for the reconstruction of the mission by experienced Fighter Weapons School instructors, who oversee the debriefing process.
In order to achieve the objectives of the Exercise, the HFWS oversees the missions from scenario planning to debriefing and makes certain that they cover the full spectrum of missions currently performed by the HAF such as Air operations versus Integrated Air Defense System (IADS), Offensive Counter Air / Airfield Attack, Air Interdiction / Special Targets (bridges, power stations, vehicles, etc.), Anti-Surface Warfare, Slow Mover Protection (SLOMO), Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Dynamic Targeting (DT) / Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance (SCAR) / Close Air Support (CAS) / Time Sensitive Targets (TST) and High Value Airborne Asset (HVAA) Protect/Attack.
Given the high level of the HAF personnel and the capability to conduct exercises, involving a variety of weapon systems within one of the largest exercise areas in Europe, exercise Iniochos is one of the most competitive exercises in the European area and the Mediterranean area, which provides participants with a high level of training and unique experience of participation.
The 2022 edition of Iniochos
Running between March 28 and April 8 Iniochos saw the participation of allied aircraft deploying to the Andravida Air Base from France, Greece, Italy, Israel, Slovenia and the United States of America.
The exercise Iniochos 2022 was divided into three phases:
• Phase 1: Detachment Deployment, 21-22 March 2022
• Phase 2: Execution Phase: 28 March – 7 April 2022
• Phase 3: Force Redeployment: 7-10 April 2022
The drills also aimed at enhancing multi-domain operations in support of land and maritime forces. For this reason, the aircraft trained alongside the ships and aircraft that were operating from the French and the US Navy Carrier Strike Groups currently deployed in the Ionian and the Aegean Sea. The French Navy participated with Rafale M and an E-2C Hawkeye from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, while the United States Navy deployed (E)F/A-18s from the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman.
Participants Iniochos 2022
United States Air Force
The 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom sent 14 F-15E Strike Eagles of the 492nd Fighter Squadron. Among them were some examples registered to the 494th Fighter Squadron. The 48th Fighter Wing has two operational F-15E squadrons and is now equipping two squadrons with the F-35A. 493rd Fighter Squadron, which operated the F-15C and 495th Fighter Squadron.
Also participating was the 124th Attack Squadron “Hawkeyes”, operating from Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy. The unit is based at Des Moines International Airport (Des Moines ANGB), Iowa. The 124th Attack Squadron is equipped with the MQ-9 Reaper.
Zroa Ha’Avir VeHa’halal ( זְרוֹעַ הָאֲוִיר וְהֶחָלָל)
The Israeli Air Force had 4 squadrons involved in Iniochos 2022. Two fighter squadrons from Ramon AFB, flying the F-16I “Sufa” were present: 201 Tayeset Ha’Ahat (The One Squadron) and 253 Tayeset Ha’Negev (The Negev Squadron). Ramon AFB, also titled Kanaf 25 (Wing 25), is situated southwest of Be’er Sheva,, near the town of Mitze Ramon.
For the SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) role, 122 Tayeset Ha’Nachson (The Nachshon Squadron) deployed a G550 Nachson Eitam to Andravida. Based at Nevatim AFB, the squadron flies 3 G-V Nachson Shavit in the Aiborne Early Warning role, G550 Nachson Oron and Nachson Eitam in the SIGINT role. Nevatim AFB (Bacha 28) is located southeast of Be’er Sheva, near moshav Nevatim.
120 Tayeset Anaki Ha’Midbar, “The Desert Giants” squadron, based at Nevatim AFB in Israel was used for Air-to-Air refuelling during the flight from and to Israel. For this role, the Boeing KC707 Re’em is used. The photo below shows a KC707 Re’em captured at Nörvenich AB, Germany during exercise Blue Wings in 2020.
The Italian Air Force had two squadrons deployed to Andravida AB, both belonging to 6° Stormo ‘Alfredo Fusco’. Based at Ghedi AB, 154° Gruppo flies the Tornado IDS (IT-MLU) (A-200A) in the Interdictor Strike Role, while155° Gruppo is responsible for the Electronic Combat / Reconnaissance role. For this role, the squadron uses the Tornado IT-ECR (EA-200B). This version of the Tornado is a specialised Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) offshoot of the original Tornado IDS.
Cyprus Air Command (Διοίκησης Αεροπορίας Κύπρου)
The Air Command of the Cyprus National Guard took part with one of her Augusta Westland AW-139 helicopters of the 460 Search and Rescue squadron, based at Andreas Papandreaou Air Force Base, Cyprus. The primary mission of this squadron is to provide Search and Rescue (SAR) and Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) along with helicopter basic training. The squadron is also involved in Tactical Transport, Special Operations, aerial photography and Fire-Fighting missions.
Slovenian Air Force
Slovenia sent 2 of its PC-9M Hudournik (Swift), belonging to 152 Letalska eskadrilja. The aircraft are based at Cerklje ob Krki, 80 km to the east of Ljubljana. The squadron’s primary task is Close Air Support (CAS) missions, protection of convoys, SMI (Slow Movers Intercept) and armed reconnaissance.
Aéronautique Navale (France)
The French Navy took part in the exercise with its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91). From there aircraft of 4 units took part in the exercise. 11, 12 and 17 Flotille operate the Rafale M, while 4 Flotille uses the E-2C Hawkeye in the Airborne Early Warning role. The Rafale M units have Landivisiau as home base, while 4 Flotille is based at Lorient/Lann-Bihoué.
The photos below are taken at Kleine-Brogel Air Base, during the 2021 XTM and at RAF Fairford during the Royal International Air Tattoo 2018.
Hellenic Air Force (Πολεμική Αεροπορία)
The Hellenic Air Force was the largest participant in the exercise, with 10 squadrons participating. Of these squadrons, two were flying from Araxos Air Base, the remaining units were operating from Andravida AB. Most of the Hellenic Air Force squadrons involved in Iniochos 2022 fly the F-16. Only 331 Mira, flying the Mirage 2000-5EG and BG and 338 Mira, flying the F-4E AUP Phantom II differ from this.
330 Mira, 341 Mira and 347 Mira are part of 111 PM (Combat Wing) and based at Nea Aghialos Air Base. The squadrons use the oldest versions of the F-16 in the Hellenic Air Force. 330 Mira has the F-16C-30 in its inventory, while 341 and 347 Mira use the F-16C-50.
Based at Araxos AB, 335 Mira and 336 Mira operate the F-16C-52 and F-16D-52. Both squadrons are part of 116 PM. Souda based 340 Mira and 343 Mira also fly the F-16C-52 and F-16D-52. The squadrons are part of 115 PM. The final F-16 squadron taking part in Iniochos was 337 Mira. As part of 110 PM the squadron uses the F-16C-52 and F-16D-52.
114 PM from Tanagra Air Base took part with Mirage 2000-5EG and Mirage 2000-5BG of 331 Mira. Since January 2022 114 PM has started replacing its Mirage-2000 aircraft with the Rafale F3R.
The last Hellenic Air Force squadron participating in Iniochos 2022 was 338 Mira. The squadron, part of 117 MP is based at Andravida Air base and is one of the last squadrons in the world flying the F-4 Phantom II operationally. The Hellenic Air Force version in use is the F-4E AUP.
We visited Andravida Air Base on March 31st and April 1st. The first day was an operational flying day, which did not show the weather one would expect in Greece. Low clouds and strong winds. In the morning a few aircraft left, and while the rest of the first wave of Iniochos was starting up, suddenly everything became quiet. Due to Sahara sand in the atmosphere and low clouds, the first wave was cancelled. After a long wait, around 3PM the Iniochos wave was finally launched. All participating countries took part in this wave. The low clouds and the Sahara sand in the atmosphere proved to be challenging conditions to photograph the participating aircraft. On our second day at the Air Base weather conditions were slightly better. The Israeli delegetion had left early in the morning, and a large Iniochos wave was flown in the morning. Some broken clouds were present during the afternoon wave, during which the participating countries flew a local mission.
The F-4E at Andravida AB
338 Άρης / Aris (Mars) Squadron was formed on December 24th 1952 at Elefsis Air Base, as 338 Fighter Bomber Squadron. The squadron was initially equipped with the F-84G Thunderjet aircraft. In April 1953, the squadron was deployed to Larissa where it stayed until November 1956. Thereafter it was redeployed to the 112 Combat Wing. In May 1958 it was incorporated into the 115 Combat Wing at Souda Air Base till January 1960, when it was disbanded. It was formed again in August 1964 equipped with the F-84F Thunderstreak.
In June 1974 the Squadron redeployed at 117 Combat Wing in Andravida Air Base, where the first F-4E Phantom II aircraft were delivered. From August 1991 the squadron replaced the old aircraft with an upgraded version of the F-4E, coming from US stocks. At the end of 1997, after 23 years of service, the Hellenic Air Force decided to upgrade the aircraft purchased under the programs Peace Icarus I and Peace Icarus II. On December 18th, 2002, the delivery ceremony of the first upgraded aircraft was held in the Hellenic Aviation Industry facilities, and so began the integration of the upgraded aircraft in 117 Combat Wing. These aircraft were delivered to 338 and 339 Squadron. After the modernization, the Squadron assumed fighter bomber missions, with results comparable to those of third generation aircraft. Until a few years ago, the Hellenic Air Force had two operational F-4E AUP squadrons, beeing 338 Mira and 339 Mira. 339 Mira was disbanded; some of their F-4’s where transfered to 338 Mira while others where placed in storage at Andravida airbase, making 338 Mira the last operational F-4 Phantom squadron within the Hellenic Air Force