The skies of Greece were a sight to behold in April as Iniochos 21, a Hellenic air force-sponsored annual air exercise, took place.
Aircraft and crews from six countries participated in the exercise, offering a rare opportunity to see several different airframes fly together and against each other. Here are the platforms:
- Greece: F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mirage 2000, Mirage 2000-5, and F-4 Phantom
- US: F-16 Fighting Falcon, KC-135 Stratotanker, and MQ-9 Reaper
- Israel: F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-15 Eagle Strike
- France: Dassault Rafale and Mirage M-2000D
- UAE: F-16 Fighting Falcon,
- Spain: F/A-18 Hornet
- Cyprus: AW 139
All in all, Greece, the United States, France, Israel, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates sent fighter jets, while Cyprus sent a helicopter and Canada ground support staff; Austria, Egypt, Jordan, Romania, and Slovenia sent observers.
“INIOCHOS is an important opportunity for our Airmen to train alongside and learn from our Greek allies as well as the other exercise participants,” U.S. Air Force General Jeff Harrigian, the commander of US Air Forces Europe-Africa, said in a press release. “It both improves the relationships that underpin our military alliance and creates opportunities to refine critical skills that enhance our interoperability.”
The exercise curriculum included the following air operations: Offensive Counter Air Operations (OCA), Air Defence Operations (ADO), Counter Surface Force Operations (CSFO), including Air Power Contribution to Land Ops (APCLO) and Air Power Contribution to Maritime Ops (APCMO), Reconnaissance, Combat Search and Rescue, with the addition of special operations forces; Precision Strikes against Sensitive Targets; Dynamic Targeting; High Value Airborne Asset; and support operations.
“What makes (these exercises) really unique is the way in which Greece is able to build bridges between our NATO allies and key regional partners like Israel, UAE, Cyprus,” U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said in a statement to the Associated Press.
“We proudly join Greece and six other countries for Iniochos 21 showcasing Greece’s unique geostrategic position and our expanding defense partnership which continues to reach new heights,” the ambassador added on Twitter. “And special thanks to the men and women of the US Air Force’s 510th Fighter Squadron and, in particular, commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel “Duce” Lindsey for sharing with me some of the what the remarkable F-16 can do.”
The Hellenic Air Force opened the annual Iniochos exercise to foreign partners and allies in 2015. Every iteration sees more aircraft and countries as the training event is becoming one of the most important in the region.