Between 28th of March and 7th of April, the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) organised the seventh edition of the annual international INVITEX-exercise INIOCHOS 2022. All participants, except for certain HAF-squadrons, were operating from Andravida AB, home of the last Phantom II in service with the Hellenic Air Force. Participating foreign Air Forces were the Cypriot Air Force, the French Navy, the Israeli Air Force, the Italian Air Force, the Slovenian Air Force, the US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and the US Navy.
NUMBER & TYPE(S)
Hellenic Air Force
Operating from Andravida AB and their respective air bases
Cypriot Air Force
E-2C, Rafale M
Flottilles 4F, 12F & 17F
Operating from FNS Charles de Gaulle
Israeli Air Force
11x F-16I Sufa
1x G550 Nachshon Eitam
1x KC-707 Re‘em
201 Sq & 253 Sq
Operating from Nevatim AB
Italian Air Force
3x Tornado IDS
3x Tornado ECR
154° Gruppo CB
155° Gruppo ETS
Slovenian Air Force
Operating from Campia Turzii (RO)
E-2D, EA-18G, F/A-18E/F
Operating from USS Harry S. Truman
Fig. 1: INIOCHOS 2022 Participating Air Forces
Present as observers were: Albania, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, India, Kuwait, Morocco, North Macedonia, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.
This year, the exercise differed in many aspects from previous editions. This began with the weather, with African sandstorms sweeping over Andravida, through the implementation of new tactics, to the strong influence of the current geopolitical situation. Long-term participants like the United Arab Emirates did not participate, but at the same time, new participants like Slovenia were welcomed to the growing Iniochos family.
Many speculations made the round about the reason for the United Arab Emirates Air Force not participating this year, and why the Israeli Air Force finished the exercise before the DV-day and the traditional Acropolis-Flight. The main theory is that both countries did not want to displease Turkey and thus endanger their rapprochement policy towards Ankara. Taking into account the large investments the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel have made in their respective relations with Greece, in political, but also in financial terms during the last decade, this theory is not justified.
The UAE have a different approach to international policy than the USA. This is particularly noticeable in the current Ukraine crisis and the different reactions. The UAE are very carefully examining geopolitical situations and have in their mind, only the best interest of their state. They are always reacting according to this principle, regardless of the pressure implied by the USA and other western allies. Therefore, the decision not to participate in INIOCHOS 2022 must been seen into the frame of a broader dispute between them and the USA regarding international politics and US-influence.
With regard to the Israeli Air Force (IAF), which finished the exercise after the first week, this is nothing new or unusual. The IAF often arrives before the official start of the exercise in Andravida and starts immediately with the training. Therefore, it is normal behaviour for them and something that happened also in previous editions of INIOCHOS.
The Romanian Air Force (RoAF) should have participated for the first time at INIOCHOS with F-16 Fighting Falcons from Escadrila 53, Fetesti AB. After many years sending observers to the exercise, it would have been the next logical step for improving their integration into NATO and learning to plan and fight with the F-16. Unfortunately, due to the current geopolitical climate and resulting increased obligations at home, they had to cancel their participation. This was a huge disappointment for all participants, knowing the fighting spirit and quick learning ability of the RoAF.
In order to fulfil the new concept of the Hellenic Armed Forces General Staff to maximize training efforts and to achieve the best possible results for all participants, INIOCHOS 2022 was carried out simultaneously with Hellenic Navy exercises and the Special Forces exercise ORION 2022 across the whole of Athens FIR (Flight Information Region). For the first time, aircraft carriers participate in an INIOCHOS exercise, namely the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and the FNS Charles de Gaulle (R 91). They brought their experience from naval operations to the exercise, and they contributed very much to the successful implementation of APCMO (Air Power Contribution to Maritime Operations) missions during the exercise.
In addition to the APCMO missions, focus was given this year to APCLO (Air Power Contribution to Land Operations) missions to improve the coordination and communication between the air components and the ground components, something extremely important in the course of modern warfare. Another big part of the exercise was the execution of OCA (Offensive Counter Air) missions. This was the field were, according to the Air Forces participating in the exercise, the Italian Air Force Tornados excelled themselves during SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences) missions and opened the way for the other strike packages members in order to fulfil their mission targets.
The aspect of CAS (Close Air Support) and JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) operations, day and night, is gaining more and more weight on the INIOCHOS agenda. Main beneficiaries were the Cypriot Air Force with AW139 for SPIE (Special Purpose Insertion/Extraction) missions and the Slovenian Air Force with PC-9M for CAS missions and JTAC training.
Important milestones which were reached during INIOCHOS 2022 was the first appearance of Hellenic Air Force Rafales and the execution for the first time of RRMT (Radar Recognition of Maritime Targets) missions by the Cypriot Air Force AW139 with excellent results, resulting in a huge step forward for the 460 Sq and the entire Cypriot Air Force.
The Austrian and Canadian contingents, in contrast to the other observer contingents, were fully involved in the planning phase of the daily missions. According to the Austrian contingent, one of the most important positive aspects of the exercise was that the major participants took their experience and suggestions seriously into account during the mission planning and praised them for their valuable input. Especially for smaller countries, this is something that they are not always used to and it is therefore highly viewed by them. Is it good to see, that INIOCHOS is giving slowly more weight to small-scale ground-support missions, where countries like Austria and Slovenia have often developed very innovative ideas and methods, which can surprise in a positive way the bigger players!
The foreign (non-HAF) participants praised the realistic simulation of combat scenarios, the multitude of unexpected simulated threats and the creation of a unique training environment. The main advantages from the perspective of the foreign participants are:
The missions are executed in an especially reserved airspace, which is covered by areas of high terrain, coastal and deep sea, in a contested environment with air-to-air and fixed or mobile surface-to-air threats (ground and maritime based).
The “adversaries” (RED Forces) are 4th (and 5th) generation aircrafts and surface-to-air missile systems, employing BVR (Beyond Visual Range) tactics and using modern EW (Electronic Warfare) and radar capabilities, within the frame of a multi-layered IADS (Integrated Air Defence System).
The possibility of training CAS scenarios in high threat areas.
The vision of the Hellenic Air Force is to constantly improve this flexible exercise concept, customized to the different training requirements of Air Forces, across the whole Joint Air Power spectrum. This flexible concept is being adapted after every exercise, according to the technical advances, worldwide operational developments and current threat projections. A huge part of this continuous adjustment is gained from the feedback of the participating Air Forces, as well as from the lessons learned from previous exercises.
After countries like Cyprus and Slovenia made the first step, we will surely see countries like, for example, Austria fully participating in INIOCHOS in the future. Another highly probable candidate for one of the next INIOCHOS exercises is Morocco, which showed very strong interest and send a high-ranking delegation to observe the exercise. In addition, many rumours were circulating between high-ranking politicians and militaries about a possible Indian Air Force participation in the very near future.
This would be a logical move, taking into account the rapidly improving Indo-Greek political, financial and military cooperation and the wish of France to establish a kind of military axis between France-Greece-Egypt-United Arab Emirates-India, especially after all these countries are now or will become Rafale users. Furthermore, one should not forget the increasing military cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey, which gives reason for concern in the above-mentioned countries. The future looks bright for innovative exercises like INIOCHOS!
The authors want to thank the Austrian Air Force contingent and the staff of the 460 Squadron, Cypriot Air Force, for their valuable help in the preparation of this article!