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IAF Trains in Greece Release date 07.11.2018
After several weeks of intense training in Greece, the IAF's "Sufa" (F-16I) fighter jet squadrons returned from an international exercise with the Hellenic Air Force in which the two forces drilled various scenarios
Nuphar Blitt

Following several weeks of intense training, IAF squadrons returned from Larissa AFB in Greece, where they participated in an exercise drilling flight in face of various threats. The exercise was led by the 119th ("Bat") Squadron, which operates "Sufa" (F-16I) fighter jets from Ramon AFB. Also participating were the 201st ("One") Squadron which operates "Sufa" fighter jets and the 122nd ("Nachshon") Squadron, which operates "Eitam" (Gulfstream G-550) aircraft.

Photography: 201st Squadron

The exercise was held as part of the fertile cooperation between the Israeli and Hellenic Air Forces. At the same time, service members from the Hellenic attack helicopter division trained in the IAF's Ramon airbase alongside the IAF's Helicopter Division. "This is one of the largest fighter jet exercises held by the IAF overseas in 2018", said Lt. Col. A', Commander of the 119th Squadron. "The Hellenic Air Force is an advanced force, with excellent weapon systems, pilots and SAM (Surface-to-air missile) batteries".

Photography: Koral Dvir

"The goal of the exercise is to represent the IAF, the IDF and the state of Israel in a respectful and appropriate manner while strengthening the cooperation", elaborated Lt. Col. A'. "We don't stagnate – we understand that the Middle East is changing in front of our very eyes and we prepare for every possible scenario. We want to learn how the Hellenic Air Force handles advanced threats. The Greeks fly different than we do, and it's reasonable that we learn from each other – why and how we fly the way we do".

Photography: Koral Dvir

Better Than Before
Many aircrew members say that flying in international territory is a significant experience. "We know the terrain fairly well in Israel – at some point you stop being surprised", elaborated Lt. Col. A'. "Greece is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and flying an F-16 over rivers and mountaintops is a wonderful experience. Taking off in an unfamiliar area with an unfamiliar view is a powerful, meaningful experience for a young pilot. This isn't even related to the exercise itself – the unique mountainous topography in Greece allows us to perform a high-quality exercise which is different to what we see in Israel".

Photography: 201st Squadron | Graphic design: Ron Tamir

"This was the first time I flew in Greece", said Maj. A', Deputy Commander of the 201st Squadron. "It has beaches and an ocean, and in a moment you can find yourself flying over incredibly high mountains. One of my most special moments was flying over Mount Olympus. Even at a high altitude, you're still below its summit".

"As a formation leader, I get to plan and lead many sorties. One of the most special things I experienced during the exercise was seeing the aircrew members fly in foreign terrain", described Maj. A'. "We planned sorties and worked together in order to raise our level of mission preparedness. The main challenge is analyzing the terrain before a sortie, as well as the obstacles and everything happening around us. We don't know the Hellenic Air Force's combat doctrines and modes of flight. They act as the opposing force, and each side flies as best they can".

Photography: Koral Dvir

"During the exercise, we were required to learn, advance and improve", emphasized Lt. Col. A'. "Every day, we have to be better than we were the day before. At the end of the exercise, we have to reach operational conclusions based on the exercise and spread them across the IAF".

Behind Every Takeoff
Preparation for the exercise began months ago. "We held quality assurance checks on our aircraft ahead of the exercise, ranging from four to seven days per aircraft. We tested engines, systems and avionics before having final checks performed by the squadron's technicians. We prepared the aircraft, painted them and cleaned them", said Maj. A', the technical officer responsible for the exercise. "An advance team I headed flew to Greece several days ahead of the exercise and practically transferred an entire squadron to Greece – maintenance equipment, lighting, replacement parts and protective aircraft covers".

Photography: Koral Dvir | Graphic design: Ron Tamir

Lt. Col. A' added: "The technical department has to work without their airbase's maintenance squadron, face every requirement, solve the problems that pop up and obtain the needed equipment. Preparing the aircraft on time, no matter what, is an operational challenge. We are always required to do this, and especially during wartime".

Lt. Col. A', who has been in the IAF for 22 years, says that leading the exercise brought him great pride: "I took part in quite a few international exercises, both in Israel and overseas. I think that heading an Israeli delegation to a foreign country, wearing a flight suit adorned with the Israeli flag and flying an aircraft embellished with the Star of David – these make me proud. Every person who took part in this exercise knows they represent something larger".

Photography: 201st Squadron