Iniohos in Greek means Charioteer, and it is the most important exercise for Polemiki Aeroporia (Hellenic Air Force). The first edition of the exercise took place in 1988, as a small-scale exercise involving only Hellenic Air Force, and the aircraft were based at Larissa Air Base, home of 110 Combat Wing. In the successive years, it becomes a medium-scale exercise involving all the Hellenic armed forces, the HAF, the Hellenic Army and Hellenic Navy, and the aircraft participated taking off from their home bases.

In 2013 it becomes a large-scale exercise, inviting even foreign Countries, and the operations base was Andravida AB, in Peloponnese region.

In 2015 the exercises saw the participation of USAF and Israeli Air Force, and the result of the event was successful for the new participants so they confirmed their presence even for the 2016 edition, where the USAFE sent dozen F 15E Strike Eagle from 492FS from Lakenheath Air Base, UK.

The 2017 edition  saw  two new participants  involved, the United Emirates Air Force with six F 16E Desert Falcon and Italian Air Force with six AMX from 51′ Stormo, 132′ Gruppo, based in Istrana Air Base, above the US F 16 from 482 FW, Florida and Israeli F 16 from 101 and 105 Squadrons, and a Gulfstream G 550 for electronic warfare.

The new edition of 2018 of Iniochos exercise become even bigger. Seven Air Forces took part in the exercise: Hellenic Air Force with all its Squadrons and aircraft, including four F 16C/D from each squadrons, 330, 335, 336, 337, 340,341, 343, 347, Mirage 2000-5 from 331 and 332 squadron, F4E from 338 Sqn, USAFE with 12 F 15E from 48TFW from Lakenheath, Italian Air Force with 6 Tornado IDS Ret-7 from 6 Stormo, Ghedi air base, UK Royal Air Force with 6 EF-2000 FGR4 from 3 Squadron, United Arab Emirates Air Force with 6 Mirage 2000-9 from 71 Squadron, Israeli air force with 4 F 16C Block 30 from 117 “First Jet” Squadron and Cyprus with AW-139.

As the last editions, the base chosen from the exercise has been Andravida, home of 117 Combat Wing, 338 Squadron, equipped with F 4E AUP, due to its strategic position, far from Turkey, to avoid electronic warfare and potential Scrambles provided by Turkish Air Force, and due to the big base area suitable for hosting a high number of foreign aircraft. This choice follows the new exercise concept, structured on a single base using, intense battle rhythm, multi-threat environment and multiple operations.

The exercise involved 76 aircraft, with more than 1000 sorties, 30 waves, more then 10 naval units with 4 frigates, tanks, armoured vehicles, 20 helicopters, more then 10 SAM systems (Patriot, Hawk, ASRAD, VELOS, MANPADS), more then 200 aircrews, 1.000 maintenance personnel and 100 support crew.  It’s about proving the ability to undertake complex large-scale composite air operations (COMAO) utilizing fighters alongside airborne early warning (AEW) and Combat search and rescue (CSAR) squadrons while working in harmony with participating nations.

The missions carried out every day and night includes all the specialities: Offensive Counter Air (OCA), Defensive Counter Air (DCA), Air Power Contribution to Land Operations (APCLO), Air Power Contribution to Maritime Operations (APCMO), SEAD, Reconnaissance, Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Time Sensitive Targeting (TST), Dynamic Targeting (DT), Urban CAS (Close Air Support).

In Greece, crews made full use of the chance to operate in an environment devoid of the restrictions otherwise typical of European airspace. In fact, in Northern and central Europe, increased air traffic results in compromises in terms of realism and training quality of military air exercises.

Another inhibiting factor is the European weather, usually rainy and foggy in this time of the year, and in some cases, it prohibits low-level flight over the sea.

The aircrews note that the Western coast of Greece is well-suited to realistic training. There is clear airspace from ground level up to around 70,000ft, an aerial refuelling capability over a wide area, and many scattered air bases that offer alternate landing options for emergencies.

However, perhaps, the most important aspect is the fact that the Polemiki Aeroporia is a formidable opponent to train alongside. The air arm includes an impressive core of personnel, including the instructors of the Hellenic Fighter Weapon School, available for the planning and organization of a large-scale exercise.

In the challenging Iniochos exercise scenarios, strike package faced all available air-defence systems, land and sea-based, provided by all three Hellenic armed forces, the Air Force, the Army and the Navy.

The fighters cooperated with aerial assets from the Hellenic army, including AH-64DHA Apaches; from the Hellenic Navy such as S-70 Seahawks and special forces. Together, they were able to engage all types of targets from tanks to air-bases up to high-value assets like frigates and amphibious assault ships.

In common with exercise such as Red Flag, the mission commanders carried out the first sorties, relieving some of the justified anxiety among the younger and less experienced pilots.

The exercise was structured on a Red force, which performed the role of aggressor, and a Blue force, that one based in Andravida, which had to destroy the Red one. The HAF Fighter Weapon School plans established a strong “Red” air component to counter friendly forces.

The aircraft simulated the release of all ordnance, including GBU-24 and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), AM39 Exocet anti-ship missile carried by Mirage 2000, AGM 154, GBU-31, GBU-16, AGM-65 Maverick, and some jets carrying air-to-ground weapons performed organic escort duties with AIM 120 AMRAAM missiles.

The Commander of the US detachment, explains: “We get to look at the specific training that meets our needs. Anytime we have the chance to get better, to learn from and to teach our allies, is a great opportunity. We spent a lot of time practising Close Air Support because that is what is needed the most today, but we still maintain and train for the others specialities of ground attack. A big advantage in CAS/SCAR (Strike Co.ordination and reconnaissance) missions for the Strike Egle is the two-seat crew employment concept. Under the ever-increasing high-threat environment and battle over urban areas, the workload is difficult for one airman. The 492nd Fighter squadron has established a great reputation in recent operations against world terrorism, and is a major strike asset of the USAF.

The Iniochos exercise continues the long co-operation between HAF and USAF and Israeli Air Force, with the recent participation since last year of Italian Air Force and UAE Air Force, and the new participation of UK Royal Air Force and Cyprus, preparing for high-end conflict against the most capable potential adversaries. It also prepares the forces for further co-operation in the war against world terrorism. The lasting defeat of ISIS is a shared goal because it is a shared threat. Together as a coalition, they have the capability to accelerate the defeat of modern terrorism. The aim of the exercise was to simulate a realistic scenario to be combat ready to face it.

The 2018 edition of Iniochos exercise has been a success, more than the 2017 edition, due to the high level of professionalism of all crew and to the deployment of more assets and crews. The targets to develop interoperability and standardization between the allied air forces, to develop the integration of Legacy from experienced air-crew to the young and to prepare aircrews to fight in a contested environment, had been fully achieved, and Iniochos has become probably the largest scale exercise in Europe.

Article and photo credits: Andrea Avian

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