NARRATIVE BY MARK ROURKE & IMAGES BY CHRIS W. BALMER/MARK ROURKE
A-7, Goodbye to a warrior
The Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) A-7 Corsair II made its last ever operational flight on Friday October 17th at Araxos Air Base in Western Greece. The Hellenic Air Force (Greek Air Force – HAF) had two days of activities to celebrate the Corsair and Pixelsnipers were there to witness the events.
The A-7 first flew on 26th September 1965, entering operational service with the United States Navy (USN) in February 1967. LTV produced 1,569 units to three customers, USA (United States Air Force and USN), Portugal and Greece with the USN retiring the aircraft in 1991 and the final Air National Guard units of the USAF in 1993. The Portuguese Air Force kept them until 1999 so it was the HAF who kept this capable venerable jet flying until 2014.
The HAF used four different examples of the A-7, the A-7E (sixty ex USN examples delivered from 1992), TA-7C (eighteen ex USN examples including six from AMARG), A-7H (H- Hellenic, sixty new build examples in service from 1975 until March 2007) and TA-7H (five new build examples in service from 1980 until March 2007), the aircraft designated ‘T’ being two seat trainers.
Araxos has not always been the home of the Corsair in Greek service as the aircraft were initially based at Larissa with 347 ‘Perseas’ Squadron and Souda with 340 ‘Fox’ Squadron and 345 ‘ Lailaps’ Squadron. The Corsairs arrived at Araxos in 2002 to equip 335 ‘Tiger’ Squadron and 336 ‘Olympos’ Squadron of the 116th Combat Wing after the Greeks purchased A-7E and TA-7C aircraft from the United States.
On the 16th October visiting journalists and spotters were invited to view the activities of the last remaining Corsairs in service and the amazing sight of over sixty Corsairs in storage certainly was impressive. Only the TA-7C’s flew three missions this day and the aircraft certainly showed it’s age with the first wave hit by an aircraft going ‘tech’ at the ‘last chance’ area before take off. The next two missions took place without a hitch. The assembled visitors also got to see the A-7’s replacement, the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D’s, in action.
The 17th was the main event, with aircraft 159648 being uncovered in its exciting colour scheme celebrating the nearly 40 years of service. With many visiting dignitaries and a small static display, plus speeches from ex-pilots it was a good send off for such a great aircraft. The HAF also supplied some aerobatic displays with the F-16C ‘Zeus’ and a T-6C routine. After a few fly bys by the last two Corsair’s, a lone example flew in formation with a Mirage 2000-5, F-4E-PI2000 and F-16C before breaking away from the formation. A fitting end to such an iconic jet.