Written by Lieutenant-Colonel I. Malkin; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2020 #3, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
The Air Force is a branch of the Armed Forces of the Hellenic Republic. The history of Greek aviation dates back to February 8 1912, after the first flight of Emmanuel Argyropoulos. Pilot training and the purchase of aircraft for the National Air Force were carried out from France.
In June 1912, the Naval Aviation Service was created, and in September, a company of pilots was formed (Larisa). In 1930, military aviation was separated into an independent branch of the Armed Forces.
During World War II, during the German invasion in 1941, the Air Force was completely destroyed. Several Greek squadrons formed later fought under British command.
In November 1950, Greece participated in the United National Mission in South Korea, sending eight C-47 aircraft and 67 military personnel. The loss of the Greek contingent was 12 officers and two aircraft.
ith the country’s accession to NATO, an extensive modernisation of the Air Force was carries out. Propeller-driven aircraft were replaced by jet aircraft, the first of which were the American F-84, F-86 and F-104.
In 1974 during the Turkish invasion of the island of Cyprus, the Greek defence ministry carried out the largest operation of the national Air Force at that time to transfer special forces units. Despite the dilapidation of the aircraft and unfavourable flight conditions, 12 or the 18 machines involved in Operation Niki landed at the Nicosia airfield.
Organisationally, the Air Force includes the main headquarters of the Air Force, three air commands – tactical (TAK), logistics support and maintenance, and training – as well as other units and division.
A supreme council has been established under the Commander of the Air Force, which serves as an advisory and consultative body. It includes the Commander of the Air Force (Chairman), the Commander of the TAK, and all senior officers with the rank of Major General at least. The Supreme Council considers and makes recommendations on the operational use of aviation, combat training of units and division, appointment of officers and brigadier generals to positions, discharge of officers to the reserve or retirement.
The tactical air command (Larisa) is an operational unit of the Greek Air Force that solves combat tasks both independently and in cooperation with other branches of the Armed Forces. It is responsible for the use of aviation, plans and controls the operational and combat training of lower-level headquarters and units, and manages their forces and means. Units subordinate to the command are:
- joint aviation control centre (1-3 ACC);
- aviation wings (AW): 110th (337th Squadron), 111th (330th, 341st and 347th): 114th (331st and 332nd), 115th (340th and 343rd), 116th (335th and 336th), 117th (338th);
- 350th anti-aircraft missile division (21-26 SAM batteries).
Aviation wings are considered the main combat unit. They are not uniform in their composition, they have 2-4 aviation squadrons (AS), which usually have different purposes (fighter, bomber, mixed).
A significant place in the Greek Air Force is occupied by the joint aviation control centre, which is an integral part of the entire NATO air defence system. It is responsible for monitoring the country’s airspace and organising the reflection of air raids. It closes the centres, control and warning posts, and long-range detection posts located on the continental part and large islands of the country.
The air command of logistics support and maintenance (Eleusis) is designed to provide airlift of troops and cargo in the interests of all types of armed forces operations, search and rescue, and logistical support units. The organisational part of the command consists of two AW of the auxiliary Air Force, other parts, units and institutions.
Units subordinate to the logistics support and maintenance command are:
- 112 AW (352, 354-356, 358 and 384 Squadrons);
- 113 AW (383th Squadron);
- 359th separate squadron (Tatoi);
- 31st search and rescue squad (Eleusis);
- 201st and 204th armament depots;
- factories (aviation, telecommunications and electronic equipment).
The 112 AW includes tactical transport aircraft (C-27, C-37, C-130 aircraft; AB-205, AB-212, AS-332 helicopters) designed to transport troops and cargo by air within the South-Eastern part of the southern European region.
The aviation training command (Dhekelia) is responsible for the training of personnel of the Air Force. It has two training aviation wings, a separate training aviation squadron, the Icarus Higher Military School, and the tactical aviation training centre.
Every year 70-100 pilots graduate from educational institutions. Initially, they were trained on T-2E aircraft. Retraining for combat aircraft takes place directly in the aviation units. Greek pilots are also trained in aviation training institutions in the United States and France.
An extensive network of air bases and airfields has been established in Greece to accommodate air units of national subordination and the joint NATO Air Force. The construction was carried out in accordance with the general infrastructure development programme of the Alliance. Most airfields meet its standards (they have modern equipment, are suitable for operation at any time of the year and day, and provide take-off and landing of aircraft in difficult weather conditions). Many of them have special storage facilities for aviation ammunition, and the main airfields are connected by a fuel pipeline with a total length of 450 km. The main air bases are located in the cities of Agrinio, Alexandroupoli, Andravida, Araxos, Athens, Heraklion, Kavala, Kastelli, Corfu, Kozani, Larissa, Nea Anchialos, Preveza, Thessaloniki, Souda, Tanagra, Timpaki, Eleusis. At the same time, the Greek military aviation actively uses the infrastructure of civilian airports.
The combat training command (CT) is aimed at maintaining units of the country’s Air Force in constant combat readiness. It is organised by the command in accordance with plans for the use of aviation in the interests of the state and taking into account NATO’s requirements. During the CT exercises, competitions are held and flight skills are mastered. In all national exercises, aircraft crews practiced methods of combat operations when performing tasks to gain and maintain air superiority, isolate the combat area, provide air support to ground forces and naval forces, and conduct aerial reconnaissance.
The Greek Air Force is equipped mainly with aircraft manufactured in the United States, France, Italy and Brazil.
In order to modernise the existing aircraft fleet, the management of the Greek Armed Forces plans the following in the medium term: work on extending the flight life of the F-16 C/D block of 50 fighters to 8 thousand hours, as well as installing a new onboard weapons control system corresponding to the F-16 block 52+ level; completion of the Falcon Star modernisation programme, which provides the extension of the service life of the F-16 C/D block of 30 fighters by improving jet engines and avionics to the F-16 block 52+ level; completion of the modernisation of 19 Mirage-2000 aircraft to the Mirage-2000 5 level.
The development of the Greek Air Force is carried in accordance with the NATO Air Force development programme. In general, they are able to work together with other branches of the country’s armed forces to solve their tasks.
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