iniochos exercise 2023
@ Aviation Report / Andrea Avian

Greece: Iniochos exercise 2023

Iniochos 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 in 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 partecipated taking off from their home bases.

In 2013 it become a large-scale exercise, inviting even foreing Countries, and the operations base was Andravida AB, in Peloponnese region. In 2015 the exercises saw the partecipation of USAF and Israeli Air Force, and the result of the event was successful for the new partecipants 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 partecipants  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 edition of 2023 took place since 24th April till 5th May and it sees the participation of Countries which do not belong to NATO, such as India, Saudi Arabia and Jordania.  Above all the Wings of Hellenic Air Force, in the exercise participate Indian Air Force with Su 30MKI of 222 Sqiadron, Saudi Arabia with F-15SA, Jordania with F-16, Italy with Tornado from 6th Wing of Ghedi, Spain with F-18 from Aòa 46 based at Gando, Canarie islands, and Slovenia with its PC-7 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 foreing aircraft. This choice follows the new exercise concept, structured on a single base using, intense battle rhythm, multi-threat environment and multiple operations.

Every day there are 2 or 3 sorties including the aicraft and 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 mainteinance 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  partecipating 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 8Close 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 refueling 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 istructors 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-defense 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 were structured on a Red force, which performed the role of aggressor, and a Blue force, that one based in Andravida, which had to destroy to the Red one. The HAF Fighter Weapon School plans estabilished 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 Iniohos exercise continues the long co-operation between HAF and its Allied, 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 od 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 2023 edition of Iniochos exercise has been a success, 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 allies air forces, to develop integration of Legacy from experienced air-crew to the young and to prepare aircrews to fight in a contested environment, had been fully achived, and Iniochos is become probably the largest scale exercise in Europe.

Article and images: Andrea Avian