Supercruise Aviation - Article

Iniochos 2021
'Greece has been hosting one of the most dynamic, challenging and competitive exercises in Europe for over 30 years, Iniochos'

The above statement was made by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during his speech on April 20th. He attended the Iniochos exercise along with other VIPs. Mitsotakis also mentioned. ’At the same time, however, we cannot be naive. We are facing new threats. Our world is extremely complicated and our neighborhood is unfortunately becoming more unstable. Greece will continue to expand its defense capabilities and to upgrade its Armed Forces. We will continue to implement NATO's target for expenditures equal to 2 pct of GDP’.

Also present that day was the United States Air Force General Jeff Harrigian. ‘Iniochos is an important opportunity for our airmen to train alongside and learn from our Greek allies, as well as the other exercise participants. It both improves the relationships that underpin our military alliance and creates opportunities to refine critical skills that enhance our interoperability.’

The Iniochos exercise has a long history, as the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also referred to in his speech. Its beginnings date back to the late 1980s when the exercise training was set up as a small-scale exercise with only the participation of the Hellenic Air Force. Initially, the participating aircraft were deployed from Larisa Air Base, but in 2005 this changed and every aircraft operated from the home base. At the end of 2013, the Iniohos exercise was transformed into a medium-scale exercise involving all three branches of the Greek Armed Forces. Air Force, Army and Navy. At the end of 2013, the Single Base Concept was again adopted for the Iniochos exercise. This meant that all participants operate from one air base. The selected host was the Air Tactics Center. ATC was and is based at Andravida Air Base. ATC takes care of the planning and coordination of the exercise. Two years later, 2015, it was decided that Iniochos would become an Invitex exercise, meaning that other countries could be invited to participate in the exercise. This made it possible to train more complex scenarios in which tactics and experiences could be exchanged with other countries. In recent years Iniochos has grown further and you can no longer speak of an exercise on a medium scale. This year no fewer than fifty-eight foreign aircraft were present at Andravida for the Iniochos exercise.

Iniochos 2021
during a pandemic After the cancelation last year due to Covid-19 and despite the ongoing pandemic, the Hellenic Air Force organised successfully another edition of the Iniochos exercise. The 2021 edition saw again an increase in participating countries, number of flown sorties and degree of difficulty.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 at the end of 2019, events have been canceled rapidly. The pandemic drew a thick line through all aviation events that the public should have been allowed to attend. Nevertheless, exercises did take place in 2020. Often the aircraft operated from their own airbase.
For the Iniochos 2021 exercise, a bubble was created in which the various participating units would come into contact with each other as little as possible. Wearing facemasks and keeping a safe distance on the airbase was mandatory. A medical wing was set up where rapid tests on Covid-19 were carried out. The participants present were tested with great regularity. This as precautionary measure to identify and quarantine infected people as soon as possible. The precautions taken worked out well.

The Iniochos exercise
The iniochos exercise lasted two weeks, from Monday April 12th to Thursday April 22nd . Friday, April 23rd , was departure day for all of the participants. The exercise is coordinated by the Air Tactics Center at Andravida airbase. ATC itself does not have any aircraft. ATC plans and organizes the exercise. Iniochos is one of the toughest exercises for pilots. Many missions are flown in a short time with a high diversity and intensity of targets. Nightflying makes also part of the Iniochos exercise.

ATC strives to introduce realistic exercise scenarios every year. The reason is obvious. The political theater is constantly changing. The development of modern weapons continues; improved radar systems, improved ground-to-air defense systems. But certainly also the chance that a dogfight has to be started with a more modern aircraft than the one flown in.

That is why Iniochos is designed to help participating nations improve their combat readiness and fighting capability while honing skills to protect ‘regional and global security’. It allows participants to develop capabilities planning and perform complex air operations in a joint force environment.

A wide variety of operations will be flown throughout the exercise. To name a few: Offensive Counter Air Operations (OCA), Air Defense Operations (ADO), Counter Surface Force Operations (CSFO) including Air Power Contribution to Land Ops (APCLO), Air Power Contribution to Maritime Ops (APCMO), Reconnaissance (RECCE) missions, Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions, Time Sensitive Target (TST) missions, Dynamic Targeting (DT), High Value Airborne Asset (HVAA) and Slow Mover Protection (SLOMO).

The pilots do not know in advance what kind of opposition they will encounter along the way. There is Intell available but how reliable this is the pilots undergo during the mission. The danger can come from the air, from the sea or from the ground. And if an aircraft is virtually destroyed, it may no longer participate in the mission for some time and the attack plan must be adjusted during the mission. Red Air, flies with equivalent or even more modern aircraft and has no limitations in the application of the aircraft's capabilities. This makes the exercise even more difficult for the pilots. Often they are also the most experienced pilots who act as Red Air.

That the exercise is intensive is evident from the number of missions per day. An average of 120 to 130 flights are made. A part of these flights take place during night.

New in this years Iniochos exercise was the introduction of an 'elephant walk'. Three aircraft from each unit took part. A total of thirty-four aircraft could be seen, thirty-three fighter aircraft and one Cypriot helicopter. The elephant walk was led by three Greek F-16’s. Photographers were allowed to stand next to the runway to take pictures of this impressive and special parade. A drone filmed and took pictures from above the runway. These drone images have been frequently shared by the Hellenic Air Force on various social media channels.

International field of participants
This year the international field of participants was frequently present. Normally the Iniochos exercise is flown from one airbase, the single base concept, but now the number of parking spaces was too few, so that a number of Greek F-16 units operated from nearby Araxos.

Foreign participation, flying from Andravida airbase:
France (Armee de l’air):
Saint-Dizier and Mont-de-Marsan airbase, EC4 and EC-30 with 6x Rafale B/C;
Nancy Air Base, EC3 with 5x Mirage 2000D.
France (Marine Nationale):
Landivisiau naval base, 12F with 5x Rafale M.
Spain (Ejército del Aire):
Torrejón and Zaragoza Air Base, Ala 12 and Ala 15 with 8x EF-18M/BM.
United States (USAFE):
Aviano airbase, 31FW/510FS with 14x F-16CM/DM.
Israel (Heyl Ha'Avir):
Hatzerim airbase, 69 Sqn with 6x F-15I 'Ra'am';
Hatzerim airbase, 107 Sqn with 6x F-16I 'Sufa';
Nevatim airbase, 122 Sqn with 1x G550 Nachshon Eitam.
United Arab Emirates (UAEAF):
Abu Dhabi/Al Dhafra airbase, Shaheen Squadron with 6x F-16E/F.
Cyprus National Guard
Paphos airbase, 460 MED with 1x AW139.

Greek participation from Andravida airbase:   
Almiros/Néa Anghialos airbase, 341 and 347 Mira with F-16C/D 'block 50';   
Tanagra airbase, 331 Mira with Mirage 2000-5EG/2000-5BG;   
Andravida airbase, 338 MDV with F-4E (AUP) Phantom.  
Greek participation from Araxos airbase:   
Chania/Soúda airbase, 340 and 343 Mira with F-16C/D 'block 52';   
Larissa airbase, 337 Mira with F-16C / D 'block 52+';   
Araxos airbase, 335 and 336 Mira with F-16C / D 'block 52'

Present during Iniochos as observers were Egypt, Austria, Slovenia, Jordan and Romania while Canada provided CGI-Air Weapon Managers.

A total of ninety-six aircraft participated in this years Iniochos edition.`

French Rafales
The presence of so many French Rafales will not be a surprise for many. Greece approved the purchase of eighteen Rafales at the beginning of this year. Good promotion and showing what the aircraft is capable of, do help with future decision making. The first aquired batch consists of twelve used Rafales and six completely newly built Rafales. It is expected that the first Greek Rafales will be delivered to the Greek Air Force before the end of this year. These Rafales replace the older Mirage 2000BGs and Mirage 2000EGs. The Greek Rafales will be added to the inventory of 332 Mira at Tanagra airbase. We continue to see the more modern Mirage 2000-5 in Greek airspace. This type is assigned to 331 Mira, which also operates from Tanagra airbase. There is a good chance that Greek Rafales will participate in the next edition of the Iniochos exercise.     

After the exercise, the exercise is extensively evaluated from ATC. All parties involved are asked for input. Not only the pilots and ground personnel of the air force, but also the navy units and army units are involved in the evaluation. The evaluation points, positive and negative, are then used to adjust scenarios and exercise programs for the next exercise.

Report and Photos by Edward Antonissen