NARRATIVE & IMAGES BY MARK ROURKE
EXERCISE INIOCHOS, GREECE
Exercise Iniochos takes place at Andravida air base, in the Northern Peloponnese region of Greece, and the 2018 edition was visited by Mark Rourke.
The Iniochos exercise is an annual medium scale exercise of the multi-national invitation type (INVITEX) and is based on the facilities of the Air Tactics Centre (ATC) at Andravida. It lasts for 15 days and the scenario is based on the Single Base Concept which means the execution of operations take place from a single air base, in this case Andravida. Iniochos has been this concept of exercise since 2014.
The ATC at Andravida was established in July 1983, when it was considered necessary by the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) command staff to meet the growing operational requirement in air tactics and electronic warfare. It further evolved in 1990, when the HAF procured 3rd generation fighters such as the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and Dassault Mirage 2000, with an added-on Fighter Weapons School (FWS) for the new capabilities the HAF now had acquired. These new ways of training were put into place with joint courses where pilots and Air Defence Controllers are trained in Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground roles. The ATC organises many exercises, one of which is ‘Iniochos”
The operational requirements for Iniochos were four-fold;
1 -Develop Interoperability and standardisation
2- Promote jointness
2- Develop integration of legacy and modern air assets
4- Prepare air crews to fight in a contested environment
Iniochos is a single based concept with ‘intense battle rhythm’ according to the HAF, within a multi-threat and multiple operational environment. Utilising the whole of Greece, the exercise takes place over sea, high terrain and with air combat training in the sky. Iniochos takes place in conjunction with the Hellenic Army’s Live exercise (LIVEX) ‘Polifimos’ and the Hellenic Navy LIVEX ‘Astrapi’ which means the statistics for weaponry involved is impressive, 1000+ sorties by over 75 aircraft in 30 waves with 200+ aircrew just for the aviation element at Andravida.
HELLENIC AIR FORCE
The importance of the HAF in exercise Iniochos is such that all Combat Wings take part. From Larissa, the 110 Pteriga Makhis sent 4 Lockheed Martin Block 52+ F-16s from 337 Mira ‘Fantasma’, the only unit based there since the retirement of 348 Miras McDonnell Douglas RF-4E Phantom IIs. In Fact, all the F-16 squadrons sent 4 aircraft, so from the Nea Ankhialos based 111 Ptergia Makhis were 330 Mira (Block 30), 341 Mira (Block 50) and 347 Mira (Block 50) F-16s and from the 115 Ptergia Makhis at Souda it was 340 Mira (Block 52) and 343 Mira (Block 52). Nearby 116 Ptergia Makhis at Araxos sent Block 52 F-16s belonging to 335 and 336 Miras.
Tanagra and the 114 Ptergia Makhis is home to the HAF Dassault Mirage 2000 fleet and their based squadrons sent two aircraft each. 331 Mira sent a Mirage 2000-5BG two seater alongside a single seat 2000-5EG, whilst the 332 Mira flying the older Mirage 2000EG sent two single seaters.
The final HAF combat wing is based at Andravida and equipped with the legendary McDonnell Douglas F-4E(AUP) Phantom II. 338 Mira from the 117 Pteriga Makhis sent four of the jets on each mission they took part in. The much modified and updated ‘Tooms’ added a classic touch to the exercise.
In 2018 the foreign participants came from Cyprus, Israel, Italy, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
A common participant in previous Iniochos exercises, the Israeli Air Force sent four General Dynamics F-16C ‘Barak’ from 117 Squadron, which is based at Ramat David. The desert scheme aircraft in direct contrast to the Greek countryside around Andravida. Other countries that sent assets included the British Royal Air Force with 3(F) Squadron sending over their Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4s, the Italian Air Force sent Tornado A.200Cs and EA.200Bs from 6 Stormo at Ghedi and the United States Air Force with 13 McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagles from the 492nd Fighter Squadron, part of the 48th Fighter WIng based at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom. Even the Cypriot Armed Forces got involved, sending over a Agusta-Westland AW.139 from the 2nd Platoon of 440 Mira Antiarmatikon Elikopteran based at Paphos. Completing the international line up was six Dassault Mirage 2000-9EAD’s from 71 Squadron based at Al Dhefra, part of the United Arab Emirates Air Force.
Visiting the exercise at Andravida on March 20th was the Greek Minister of National Defence Panos Kammenos who heard speeches by the Chief of the HAFSG (Hellenic Air Force General Staff) Lt General (P) Christos Christdoulou and the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff (HNDGS) Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis.
The Admiral had some kind words for the participants of Iniochos with the following words; “It is my turn to warmly welcome you at the exercise INIOCHOS 2018, here at the premises of Hellenic Air Force at Andravida Base. I am very pleased for the unique opportunity to address such a distinguished audience from outstanding friends, partners and allies, as well as from all branches of the Hellenic Armed Forces. What has pleased me also a lot is the increased participation of the exercise. In just three years, we managed to evolve INIOCHOS, into a major international exercise, which this year brings together participants from many countries.
Saying that, I would like to cordially thank the Armed Forces of Cyprus, Israel, Italy, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America for their significant contribution with assets to the success of the exercise INIOCHOS 2018. I would also like to express my appreciation for the participation of Egypt, with an observer. I ask our international friends to relay to my counterparts Chiefs of Defence my gratitude for sending their forces and personnel here in Greece. It is a fact that the versatile environment of East Mediterranean constitutes this area as one of the most sensitive in the world. And nobody can face this reality alone. We need to coordinate and cooperate. And this is what we are doing here today.
The Hellenic Armed Forces, having acknowledged their important role as a security provider, under the direction of Minister of National Defence, Mister Kammenos, undertake a number of actions in order to enhance stability in the wider area.
Exercise INIOCHOS is a relatively new but very significant addition in our efforts to foster friendly relations and cooperation between Armed Forces who share concerns and face same challenges. With this exercise we put another stepping stone in our endeavour to promote stability and peace in the area. So, today we bring together NATO and non-NATO Armed Forces. Today we bring together friends that are committed to safeguard peace. Today, we send a loud and clear message that we cooperate, that we are able to act efficiently together in a highly demanding and challenging operational environment. Besides strong partnerships, our ability to meet the full extent of the security challenges and threats, heavily depends on capable Armed Forces. In this respect, exercise INIOCHOS, creates realistic training conditions, enhancing our interoperability and addressing our need for advanced tactical air training. I am aware of your exceptional performance, as well as of your efforts to meet the objectives of INIOCHOS 2018, and for that I would like to warmly congratulate you all.
We are witnessing air assets, from many countries, to operate harmoniously together. And this is done in conjunction with the participation assets from the other two Branches of the Hellenic Armed Forces.
To make it simple. You participate in a high-level multinational – and joint – exercise and you must be proud that you derive the maximum operational benefit from it. Keep in mind that through the cooperation of our Armed Forces we ultimately bring all of our nations closer together. I am confident that departing from Andravida you will carry home the messages of common operational capability, friendship and collaboration that you promoted these days here. I wish you all a safe return to your bases.
Closing, I would like to thank the Hellenic Air Force for the successful execution of this extremely important exercise and all those involved with the excellent organization of this significant event. Excellent Job. Thank you. “
In a similar vein the Lt General Christodoulou stated; “Being with you today is not only a great privilege but also a great opportunity to share with you a vital concern of mine; namely, the development of our Future Force in the context of our Strategic Alliances. Indeed, the principle that has brought us together here today is as old as humanity itself: the spirit of partnership – the idea that we gain more by working together, than we can achieve working alone. The Iniochos exercise was first conducted in the late 1980s, as a small scale, tactical level exercise, tailored to the contemporary needs for training in Combined Air Operations, as a demand of the Hellenic Air Force Doctrine. Since then, Iniochos’s success has led to the decision to upscale it to an annual event and broaden it up to an international exercise.
More than sixty (60) aircraft along with their respective pilots, their supporting crew and observers from the US, United Kingdom, Israel, Italy, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Greece, have been participating in the two-week Iniochos drill. It is impressive how the mixture of different Air Forces has maximized profits through the values of cooperation, integration and synergy of our assets. Greece has been historically and culturally associated with the Middle East and North Africa for over three thousand years, and as a member of NATO and EU, is an integral part of the region and acts as a bridge with Europe, conveying the values and principles: of stability, peace, and security. I strongly believe that multinational training engagements strengthen our relationships, maintain joint readiness and interoperability, and reassure our regional allies and partnership. Nowadays we live in an unstable period, therefore, military power and especially air power, is certainly of utmost importance for the fulfilment of states’ and Alliances’ interests. The danger of escalation of a conflict, from regional to global, is always a major strategic concern.
Especially, the uncertainty and constant changes in the South-Eastern Mediterranean’s security situation make Collective Defence, Crisis Management and Cooperative Security of paramount importance for all of us. Joint Air Power was and will remain a keystone element within NATO’s security strategy, and our alliances are most certainly ready to continue contributing to its excellence. Honorable Minister of Defense, your presence here today underlines our shared enthusiasm and commitment to INIOCHOS exercise, addressing a clear message, stressing the determination, the solidarity, and the coherence of the participant nations to defend regional peace, stability and freedom. Dear friends, I seize the opportunity to thank all of you for your dynamic presence and lively participation. Thank you for having honoured us, and I hope that through our common efforts and common vision we can build even better and stronger bases of cooperation. Enjoy the rest of your stay and I wish you and your Air Forces, safe days ahead. Thank you.”