Greece is member of NATO since 1952, and it has a fondamental role in the defence of the southern border of Athlantic Alleance. However, Greece has been involved in the long “cold war” with Turkey, its eternal rival, even member of NATO, for the supremacy in a part of Eagean Sea, in particular on Cyprus island.
In the second half of 1900, there had been several engagements between the two Countries, moving their attention and belics efforts, more towards a reciprocal war, rather than an opposition against Soviet Union, and for NATO , the most of the time, it has been necessary to provide to each one the same weapons and equipment, to avoid unbalance of forces over the Eagean.
On November 1984, few times after the Turkish announcement to buy the F-16 Fighting Falcon, also the Hellenic Autorities expressed thair decision to buy the American fighter, in the detail, 34 F-16C and 6 F-16D, to replace the Hellenic F-5 Freedon Fighter.
The first package of F-16 C/D Block 30, purchased under the program Peace Xenia I, was delivered to Greece on 1988. On April 1993, Greece ordered other 40 F-16 C/D Block 50, under the programm Peace Xenia II,, and the delivery started on July 1997.
The main avionics differences between Block 30 and 50 are Fire Control Radar, AIFF, data link, Colored multi-function displays, Stores Management System Weapon options and other hardware and software improvements (JHMCS) concerning the aircraft’s central computer.
In the aim to oppose the Turkish air force incrase, which had 240 F-16 C/D, above F-4Es and F-5s, Athens expressed the request for others 60 aircrafts. The challengers were rappresented by McDonnel Douglas F-15 Eagle, Sukhoi Su 27, Dessault Mirage 2000-5, Eurofighter Thypoon and Lockheed Martin F-16.
The aspirant which achived the higher score in the Polemiki Aeroporia test ,was the F-15, but its cost was too mach expensive for Athens.
Hellenic Defence Ministry expressed even the will to become partner of Eurofighter programm, and to purchase 60-80 aircraft after 2005, but due to Olympic games of 2004, the Hellenic Governament needed to revise the budget for the new fighter, and the final decision, under the programm Peace Xenia III, was to buy the F-16 C/D Block 52+ advanced, composed by 40 F-16C and 20 F-16D.
After the cancellation of the purpose to partecipate in the Eurofighter programm, the Hellenic Air Force interest moved again to another supply of F-16 C/D Block 52 Advanced, the Peace Xenia IV programm, which provided the delivery of 30 aircrafts between 2009 and 2010.
During the time , the Hellenic F-16 improved their air defence capabilities thanks to the AIM 120 C5 Amraam and IRIS-T missiles, while the ground attack missions are guaranted by JDAM and JSOM bombs and AGM88B HARM missiles, and the night missions capabilities were incrased with the purchase of Pod LANTIRN for designation of targets durng night flight.
The flight autonomy has been incrased with two external ausiliar tanks located on the fusolage so as to cover the distance till Cyprus. Araxos Air Base is located in the peloponnese region, aproximately 30km to the east of Patra and it is the home of 116 Combat Wing constituited by two flight squadron, 335Mira “Tiger”and 336Mira “Olympos”, both equipped with the new F-16 Block 52 Advanced.
The history of the air base begin in 1962 with the F-84F that equipped the 336M, and few years later, in 1967, another Group arrived in the base, the 335M, equipped with the F-104G. Between 1992 and 1993 both squadrons received the A/TA-7H Corsair II, developing the role of air interdiction and strike.
The Corsair II has brought a revolution in the strike and support operations within Hellenic air force. Its unique virtues such as the precision to deliver ordnance, the unprecedented range, the hue carrying capability, the excellent flying characteristics in low level flight and its reliability become one of the most bloved among the pilots and mainteiners.
But the milestone in the history of 116CW arrived in 2009 when the first new F-16 Block 52 Advanced touched the runway in Araxos air base.
With the introduction of the F-16 335M and 336M entered in a new era. The Locheed Martin jets introduced the capability of deep penetration due to the extended range that the conformal fuel tanks incorporate, incomparably advanced night operation capabilities with the NVG systems and full integration of the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System along with the high-off bore sight missiles IRIS-T. Furthermore the pilots take advantages of the data link system, the synthetic aperture mode of the radar and the full color multi functional displays.
From the maintainer’s point of view, the F-16 is a jet that makes life easier for the ground crews thanks to the adequate access to the various systems and the detailed and user-friendly servicing manuals. However, the increased operational duties of the squadrons significantly raise the workload for the personnel. The specialized missions that the squadrons undertakes render it necessary to maintein a high availability rate of jets and a wide variety of ordnance. The required performance level is certain and inflexible.
The primary role of 336M is air defence, and the squadron keep two jets always ready for Scamble, while 335M is specialized in ground attack, and after the retirement of the RF-4E of 348M, the squadron is the only one which provide the reconnaissance role in Hellenic air force, using the pod DB-110.
The new F-16 allowds Hellenic air force to operate without limitations, day or night, regardless of weather conditions and attack targets farther with incomparably greater accuracy than ever before.
Article and images: Andrea Avian