Inio­chos Ex­er­cise

Act with Aware­ness!

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Frisian Flag 2018 - Pho­tos and text: Pa­trick Smit­shoek, Stephan van Geem and Remco Stal­en­hoef

A 117 Sqn F-16C ‘Barak’ tax­ies for de­par­ture while a Greek F-16C al­ready gets air­borne to act as Red Air

Mem­bers of the air forces of Greece, the United States of Amer­ica, the United King­dom, Italy, the United Arab Emi­rates, Is­rael and Cyprus joined the an­nual Inio­chos ex­er­cise at An­dravida air­base in Greece, from 12 to 23 March 2018.

In­creas­ing level of re­al­ism

Given the high (readi­ness) level of Hel­lenic Air Force (HAF) per­son­nel owed to the ev­er­last­ing ten­sions with neigh­bour­ing coun­try Turkey for years, the HAF has been look­ing for a way to ver­ify their abil­ity to em­ploy their weapon sys­tems in a high- den­sity en­vi­ron­ment. Es­tab­lished in the late 80s as a do­mes­tic small-scale air ex­er­cise, the setup of Inio­chos was changed in late 2013, based on ex­pe­ri­ences that HAF pi­lots had gath­ered dur­ing ex­er­cises such as Red Flag in the USA and the Tac­ti­cal Lead­er­ship Pro­gramme ( TLP) in Europe. Inio­chos

was then trans­formed into a medium scale INVITEX (In­vite Ex­er­cise), mean­ing that other in­ter­ested for­eign na­tions could par­tic­i­pate by in­vi­ta­tion. An­other change was the adop­tion of the so-called sin­gle base con­cept mean­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of op­er­a­tions from one sin­gle air base. As Colonel Kon­stantin Zolotas, deputy com­man­der of the Air Tac­tics Cen­tre (ATC, lo­cally known as Ken­tro Aero­porikis Tak­tikis or KEAT), ex­plained, “By im­ple­ment­ing these changes, it con­trib­utes to bet­ter syn­ergy ef­fects, a more re­al­is­tic sim­u­la­tion of real com­bat op­er­a­tions and the op­por­tu­nity of a bet­ter analysis of the re­sults by de­brief­ing to­gether. It im­proves the learn­ing curve sig­nif­i­cantly and there­fore pro­vides a higher ef­fi­ciency for all par­tic­i­pants in­volved.”

The first- and main- goal dur­ing the ini­tial edi­tions of Inio­chos was to cre­ate a re­al­is­tic en­vi­ron­ment for proper train­ing of Hel­lenic Air Force fighter squadrons. This level of re­al­ism has in­creased over time, par­tic­u­larly when for­eign par­tic­i­pants started to con­trib­ute with their own train­ing and com­bat ex­pe­ri­ences. The train­ing sce­nar­ios are now ex­e­cuted in a chal­leng­ing and de­mand­ing high-threat en­vi­ron­ment for the par­tic­i­pat­ing na­tions, which was ex­panded with the in­clu­sion of si­mul­ta­ne­ous Hel­lenic Navy and Army ex­er­cises like As­trapi.


ATC plans to make Inio­chos the most im­por­tant medium scale air-ex­er­cise for Europe and the Mid­dle East. To reach this goal, a fully sim­u­lated com­bat en­vi­ron­ment is be­ing pro­vided to all par­tic­i­pants, to­gether with the op­por­tu­nity of us­ing dif­fer­ent kinds of tar­get ranges (over land and over sea) for per­fectly re­al­is­tic train­ing con­di­tions. Ac­cord­ing to US Am­bas­sador Ge­of­frey Py­att, Greece is well un­der­way in reach­ing this goal, “Inio­chos has be­come an im­por­tant multi­na­tional ex­er­cise with broad par­tic­i­pa­tion from across Europe and the East­ern Mediter­ranean, which re­flects the am­bi­tion of Greece as a builder of bridges, as a pil­lar of re­gional sta­bil­ity,” he stated.

Inio­chos 2018

In pre­vi­ous years, the ex­er­cise was sched­uled dur­ing April, but the start of other ac­tiv­i­ties at An­dravida forced the plan­ners to resched­ule to an ear­lier date; as a re­sult, the weather con­di­tions were less than ideal as they would nor­mally be in April, re­sult­ing in some can­celled mis­sions due to ad­verse weather.

Be­sides all HAF com­bat squadrons, six for­eign coun­tries were present dur­ing Inio­chos 2018. The United Arab Emi­rates re­turned to Inio­chos for the se­cond year in a row. Last year they brought their F-16E Desert Fal­cons equipped with the Northrop Grum­man AN/ APG- 80 AESA radar. Ac­cord­ing to un­con­firmed state­ments, one of the main rea­sons be­hind the de­ci­sion of the Hel­lenic Air Force to in­vite them was, be­sides strength­en­ing of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, the de­sire to have a closer look at the AESA radar, hav­ing in mind the forth­com­ing in­tro­duc­tion of the F-35A Lightning II in the Turk­ish Air Force. This year, how­ever, the UAE AF brought six less ad­vanced Mi­rage 2000-9s of 71 squadron based at Al-Dhafra Air Base.

Un­like pre­vi­ous years, the Is­raeli Air Force was only present dur­ing a small por­tion of the ex­er­cise in the se­cond week, with four F-16Cs from 117 squadron which is based at Ra­mat David air­base. Last year, the fact that the Is­raeli and UAE Air Forces trained to­gether dur­ing Inio­chos, re­ceived much me­dia at­ten­tion and this might have in­flu­enced the de­ci­sion of the Is­raeli lead­er­ship to lower their pres­ence in 2018.

It was note­wor­thy that dur­ing the me­dia and VIP day on the se­cond Tues­day of the ex­er­cise, the Is­raeli and UAE air­craft did not fly to­gether: the UAE Mi­rages only par­tic­i­pated in the morn­ing mis­sion and the Is­raeli’s F-16Cs in the af­ter­noon mis­sion.

The Royal Air Force joined Inio­chos for the very first time, with Ty­phoons from No.3 (R) Squadron from RAF Con­ingsby. “This is the first time that Ty­phoons have been de­ployed to Greece. This ex­er­cise of­fers us a great op­por­tu­nity to pre­pare for fu­ture op­er­a­tions and strength­ens our ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ship with the Greek Armed Forces,” stated Wing Com­man­der Lewis Cun­ning­ham, De­tach­ment com­man­der of No.3 (R) squadron.

An­other first timer was the Cyprus Na­tional Guard Wing, which par­tic­i­pated with an AW139 he­li­copter from 460 SAR squadron dur­ing the first week of the ex­er­cise. Their role was to res­cue sim­u­lated downed pi­lots from the nearby Mediter­ranean Sea. Re­turn­ing af­ter last year’s de­but was the Ital­ian Air Force with Tor­na­dos from 6° Stormo, based at Ghedi air base. The United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE) is a very fre­quent par­tic­i­pant and this year it joined with no less that twelve F-15E Strike Ea­gles from RAF Lak­en­heath.

Axis of sta­bil­ity

Over­all, the ex­er­cise was a big suc­cess again and a great op­por­tu­nity to ver­ify the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the or­gan­is­ing home team. Greek De­fence Min­is­ter Kam­menos un­der­lined the im­por­tance of Inio­chos for the Greek Armed Forces: “Year by year, the Inio­chos ex­er­cise be­comes larger with more par­tic­i­pants, more coun­tries, more air­craft and it ac­tu­ally turns into one of the most sig­nif­i­cant ex­er­cises world­wide. To­gether we are build­ing a great axis of sta­bil­ity, north­wards, with the Balkan coun­tries, Bul­garia and Ro­ma­nia, south­wards with the coun­tries of the Mid­dle East, Is­rael, United Arab Emi­rates, Egypt, Jor­dan etc. I hope that very soon we will be able to an­nounce the es­tab­lish­ment of the great­est air force train­ing cen­tre in Pelo­pon­nese which will in­ter­est air forces of friendly and al­lied coun­tries. That is our ob­jec­tive”.

Not many of­fi­cial words from the par­tic­i­pant came to the sur­face, but it is un­der­stood that all par­tic­i­pants praised the re­al­is­tic sim­u­la­tion of com­bat sce­nar­ios and the mul­ti­tude of un­ex­pected sim­u­lated threats that the Hel­lenic Air Force Gen­eral Staff in­cor­po­rated in to the ex­er­cise to keep the par­tic­i­pants al­ways on alert. Spe­cially de­signed to sim­u­late mod­ern, com­plex and in­ten­sive air op­er­a­tions, day and night, in or­der to pro­vide re­al­is­tic train­ing that re­sem­bles the early days of a con­flict (sim­u­lat­ing real war­fare), the an­nual ex­er­cise Inio­chos is the frame in which per­son­nel and air­craft are tested to the lim­its of their ca­pa­bil­i­ties. This year, the Egyp­tian Air Force sent ob­servers dur­ing the ex­er­cise. There­fore, it is pos­si­ble that in a fu­ture edi­tion they may par­tic­i­pate as well.

Home based 338 MDV sup­ported the ex­er­cise with four ag­ing F-4Es

Is­raeli F-16C of 117 Sqn of Ra­mat David air base takes off spec­tac­u­larly dur­ing an af­ter­noon mis­sion

USAF F-15E touches down at An­dravida af­ter a morn­ing COMAO

F-16D of 337 Mira tax­ies at An­dravida with the Sko­rta moun­tains in the back­ground

A Greek F-16C of 347 Mira comes in to land af­ter the morn­ing COMAO

High­lights of this year’s ex­er­cise were Mi­rage 2000-9s of the UAE AF

Us­ing con­for­mal tanks to ex­tend mis­sion time, this Greek F-16C re­turns back to An­dravida

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