Organised and conducted by the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) Air Tactics Centre (Kentro Aeroporikis Taktikis – KEAT), Exercise Iniochos 2022 took place at Andravida Air Base, Greece from the 21st March to the 10th April 2022, Tom Gibbons reports for GAR with additional photography from Kevin Wills and Chris Wood.
During late March 2022, enthusiasts from around the world headed to the western Peloponnese area of Greece eagerly anticipating a few days of sunshine, warmth and an eclectic selection of military participants for this annual exercise. With the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) kindly permitting the holding of two Spotters Days at Andravida for the exercise those wishing to attend were able to request a visit on either Monday 28th March or Thursday 31st March with a Distinguished Visitors (DV) and Media Day additionally planned for Friday 1st April.
As the exercise period drew closer, weather reports for the Mediterranean area indicated the formation of dust storms in the Sahara area of North Africa that were being blown northwards with a huge dust cloud forecast to be arriving in the Southern Mediterranean area between Tuesday 29th March and Saturday 2nd April. Unfortunately for those travelling to Greece for the later events scheduled for the 31st March and 1st April, the forecasts remained accurate, and the Greek Meteorological Service named Storm Filippos duly delivered massive, sand laden clouds to the area. As a consequence, exercise sorties were affected with the missions planned for the morning of Thursday 31st March unfortunately being cancelled. The planned overflight of Athens by exercise participants, the so called ‘ACROPOLIS FLIGHT’, scheduled to take place on the 1st April, was also cancelled due to poor visibility over the Greek capital.
Initially held in the late 1980s, the exercise has developed in size and scope and has been upgraded in scale to that of a medium scale exercise. In April 2015, the exercise was held for the first time in the form of INVITEX (Invitation Exercise) and featured international participation from Israel and the United States of America.
Exercise Iniochos 2022 featured participation from the following nations/air arms:
Hellenic Air Force
- 330 Mira ‘Thunderbolt’ – F-16C Block 30, Nea Anchialos AB
- 331 MPK ‘Thiseas’ – Mirage 2000-5BG/EG, Tanagra AB
- 332 Mira ‘Hawk’ – Rafale EG/DG, Tanagra AB
(Whilst a three aircraft flypast was carried out during the Spotters and Media Days, the squadron is believed to have operated from home base for the duration of the exercise)
- 335 Mira ‘Tigers’ – F-16C/D Block 52, Araxos AB
- 336 Mira ‘Olympus’ – F-16C/D Block 52, Araxos AB
(Both Araxos based squadrons are believed to have operated from home base for the duration of the exercise)
- 337 Mira ‘Ghost’ – F-16C/D Block 52+, Larissa AB
- 338 MDV ‘Mars’ – F-4E Phantom (AUP), Andravida AB
- 340 Mira ‘Fox’ – F-16C/D Block 52, Chania/Souda AB
- 341 Mira ‘Arrow’ – F-16C Block 50, Nea Anchialos AB
- 343 Mira ‘Star’ – F-16C/D Block 52, Chania/Souda AB
- 347 Mira Perseus – F-16C Block 50, Nea Anchialos AB
Cyprus National Guard Air Wing (Cyprus Air Command)
- 460 Search and Rescue Squadron – AW139, Paphos International Airport.
French Navy (Aeronavale)
- Rafale M and Hawkeye E-2C operating from the French Navy aircraft carrier FSCharles de Gaulle (R91)
Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militaire)
- 6 Stormo – Tornado A-200A (IDS) and EA-200B (ECR), Ghedi Air Base.
Israeli Air Force (Heyl Ha’Avir)
- 201 Tayeset ‘The One Squadron’ and 253 Tayeset ‘The Negev Squadron’ – F-16I Sufa, Ramon Air Base
- 122 Tayeset ‘The Nachshon Squadron’ – G550 Nachshon Eitam (SIGINT platform), Nevatim Air Base
- 120 Tayeset ‘The Desert Giants Squadron’ – KC-707 Re’em, Nevatim Air Base (operating from Preveza/Aktion International Airport)
The Israeli Air Force contingent departed for home early on the morning of Friday 1st April; support for the return leg was provided by a KC-130HI Karnaff of 131 Tayeset ‘The Knights of the Yellow Bird Squadron’ and a C-130J-30 Shimson of 103 Tayeset ‘The Elephants Squadron’ .
Slovenian Air Force
- 152 Letalska Eskadrilja – PC-9M Swift, Cerklje ob Krki
United States Air Forces in Europe & Africa
- 48FW/492FS F-15E Strike Eagle – RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom
- MQ-9 (Unspecified unit and operating location)
United States Navy
- Unspecified aircraft operating from the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN75)
Given the capabilities of HAF personnel and their ability to conduct complex exercises involving a variety of weapon systems within one of the largest exercise areas in Europe, Exercise Iniochos has developed to become one of the most competitive exercises in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
For 2022 the exercise was divided into three distinct 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
In order to achieve the objectives of the Exercise, the HAF Fighter Weapons School oversaw the missions from scenario planning to debriefing and ensured that these scenarios addressed the full spectrum of missions currently performed by the HAF such as:
– Offensive Counter Air Operations
– Air Defence Operations
– Counter Surface Force Operations including Air Power Contribution to Land Ops and Air Power Contribution to Maritime Ops
– Reconnaissance missions.
– Combat Search and Rescue missions
– Time Sensitive Target missions
– High Value Airborne Asset missions
During the 2022 exercise iteration, the scenarios were also aimed at enhancing operations in support of land and maritime forces. In order to achieve this aspect of the exercise, the aircraft trained alongside the ships and aircraft that were operating from the French and the US Navy Carrier Strike Groups deployed in the Ionian and Aegean Seas.
“INIOCHOS 22 brings together hundreds of participants in face-to-face planning, briefing and debriefing, thus maximizing training benefits and promoting cooperation and exchange of ideas on tactics, between participants with different experience” – Brig. Gen. Nikoloas Kokkonis, Commander Hellenic Air Tactics Center.
Training with allies and regional partners allows for synchronized and prepared responses to regional security threats world-wide contingency operations.
“The exercise exposes the participants to a multiple threat environment such as Anti-Access Area denial, where long range surface based Air Defence Systems, 4th generation ‘RED AIR’ aircraft and Tactical Ballistics Missiles, form a multi-layer challenge for Allied forces,” – Brig. Gen. Nikoloas Kokkonis, Commander Hellenic Air Tactics Center.
The exercise builds upon the nations’ joint capabilities, ensuring a much stronger partnership and enhanced interoperability.
“The modern operational environment is dynamic and complex and in order to take control of it, we need to develop and maintain operational agility and synergy, which will allow us to employ, whenever is necessary, air power, across domains in the most effective way,” – Brig. Gen. Nikoloas Kokkonis, Commander Hellenic Air Tactics Center.
Underlining the great impact of Exercise Iniochos 2022 is the participation of a large number of observers from a number of countries – Albania, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, India, Kuwait, Morocco, North Macedonia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom – all of who were no doubt keen to observe the development of the exercise and evaluate potential benefits that future participation may bring to their armed forces.
Global Aviation Resource would like to thank the following for their assistance in facilitating access to Exercise Iniochos 2022:
Colonel Konstantinos Gkoumatsis, Hellenic Air Force General Staff
Caroline Makropoulos, Defence Section, British Embassy, Athens
Jay Cuttriss, Defence Section, British Embassy, Athens