The Greek Air Force is known as Hellenic Air Force. The air force of Greece was formed in order to guard and protect the Greek Air space. The Hellenic Air Force provides support and assistance to the Hellenic army and navy force. They are also concerned about giving humanitarian aid in Greece and other parts of the world. The Hellenic Air Force includes of 33,000 active troops consisting of 11,750 career officers, 14, 000 professional conscripts, 7,250 volunteer conscripts and 1,100 are women. Hellenic air force was known as Royal Hellenic Air Force from 1935 to 1973 as Greece was under Monarchy at that time. The Hellenic Air Force is now a part of Hellenic armed forces. It was founded in the year 1930 as a separate service to attain national defense and air superiority. It has more than 510 aircrafts and 8 types of air defense systems. The motto of the Greek Air Force is “Always Dominate the Heights”. The color of the uniform of Hellenic Air Force is blue and white. The emblem of Hellenic air force represents a flying eagle. The aircraft flown by this air force includes Mirage 2000, attack- F16, Bomber A-7,Fighter, Pegasus II, Corsair II, Gulf stream V, Super Puma, C-47, C-130, Bell 212, Bell 205.
History of Hellenic Air Force
The Hellenic Air force has a vibrant past with many struggles for the independence of Greece. The Greek government assigned the establishment of army aviation to the French aviation experts in the year 1911. The first aircraft for Greek air force was ordered from Maurice and Henry Farman, a French aviation firm and six officers were given pilot training by France. The first flight in the history of Hellenic air force was performed on 8th February 1912 by the aviator Emmanuel Argyropoulos using a 50-HP Nieuport. The second flight was made by Argyropoulos on the same day carrying the then Prime Minister of Greece, Eleftherios Venizelos. The first military Henry Farman aircraft was flown by 1st lieutenant Dimitrios Kamberos on May 13, 1912. In June 1912 a world record was created by Kamberos when he flew the aircraft at an average sped of 110 km per hour. Kamberos was using a converted first Henry Farman Daedalus while a Naval Air Service was being inspected. He converted the Daedalus in to a hydroplane for this purpose. The first air combat unit of Greece became a reality in September 1912. The aviator company was set up in Larissa with four pilots.
The use of aircraft as a war asset was marked by the Balkan war. The Army Air service used the aircraft on the Thessalia front on October 5th 1912. The later missions saw the dropping of bombs on strongholds of Bizani and dropping of provisions and newspapers to the Ioannina inhabitants who were under siege. The first operation with navy took place above Dardenelles on January 24th 1913. 1st lieutenant Michael Moutoussis and Ensign Aristedes Moraitines drew the position of the Turkish fleet and using the Maurice Farman hydroplane dropped four bombs against the fleet. This feat was lauded by both national and international press. The air strikes in Balkan wars were ended by the death of 2nd Lieutenant Aviator Emmanuel Argyropoulos on 4th April 1913. He was killed by the fall of his aircraft Bleriot XI. He was the first civilian to be killed in the history of Hellenic Aviation.
Greece joined the World War I on the side of the allies and the first squadrons of war were raised after giving training from flying schools of Sedes and Mudros. Fighting and bombing were carried out using aircrafts and activities like patrols in the air space, taking photographs of enemy lines, collecting crucial information and attacks against enemies were also carried out by the air force. The most significant activities include the night raids at Gallipoli-Constantinople peninsula, the raid against German cruisers, bombing of Smyrna and the raids during battle of Skra Di Legen.
The Hellenic Air force actively participated in the Campaign in Asia Minor in 1919. The exceptional activity during 1919 -1922 includes the bombing mission at Kioutachia and Eski Sechir. Another noteworthy activity was the air fight on 12th July 1922 in which a Turkish Breguet was shot down. After the Asia Minor campaign there was a period of peace. In 1925 new aircrafts from French manufacturers were delivered. It included Gloster Mars Nighthawk, Morane-Saulnier, Hawker Horsley, Fairey III F,Avro 621, 626 and Breguet Bre 19. An aircraft factory was set up inPhaleron with the co-operation of a British Company named Blackburn Aeroplane. Here aircrafts like T3A Velos hydroplanes, Altas and Avro 504 aircraft were manufactured. A significant achievement of Hellenic air force is that a A Breguet Bre 19, named as HELLAS with pilot 1st lieutenant Evangelos Papadakis and observer Colonel Christos Adamides on board, took off from Tatoi and flew around the Mediterranean sea in 20 days covering a distance of 12.000 Km. Hellenic air ministry was formed in 1930 with Eleftherios Venizelos as the first Air Minister. The Greek air force academy was started in the year 1931 in Tatoi. The Hellenic air force general staff was set up in 1934 and new aircrafts like PZL P24, Dornier Do 22, Bristol Blenheim, Avro Anson, Potez Po 63, Henschel Hs 126 and Fairey Battle were introduced.
In the Greco- Italian war, 77 Hellenic aircraft were called up on to meet the 463 Italian aircraft. The Hellenic air force was successful over the Reiga Aeronautica even though they were a superior force. Even during the German invasion and the action with Luftwaffe the Greek air force was unabated. They managed to shoot down 64 aircraft of the enemy. The Hellenic Aviation was later reorganized by the Ministry of air force based in Cairo. An air force general hospital was established in Cairo. The Greeks had their training centers or the lying and technical personnel at S. Rhodesia and S. Africa. The German military bases were attacked by the Greek air force in 1943 in Crete, the important base of Germany in Middle- East.
After the end of the civil war in November 1950 Greek air force went to South Korea to assist United Nations. Seven Douglas C-47 Dakota aircraft and 67 officers and soldiers were used for this. Their service lasted there till 1955. During the service in South Korea the Greek flight carried out 2916 war missions including transport of personnel, evacuations, dropping of supplies and ammunitions and collection of information. The Hellenic air force was reorganized according to the NATO standards in 1950. In the Korean War, the Hellenic air force participated with a unit of transport flight. Until 2001 the Greek air force participated in the nuclear weapon sharing of NATO. They used A-7 corsair II aircrafts to deploy the U.S B61 from Araxos air base. As a result of Turkish invasions in Cyprus in 1974 the U.S removed their nuclear weapons from Greek and Turkish units. Greece took this as a pro- Turkish move by NATO and withdrew its air force from NATO from 1974-1980.
A new era in the history of Hellenic air force started in 1988 by the introduction of 3rd generation flights in the force. The first Mirage 2000 aircraft was delivered in this year. This was allotted to the 114th combat Wing. In 1989 first F-16 C/D Block 30 aircraft was arrived and was allotted to the 111th combat wing. The reception of 3rd generation aircraft continued till 1997. Thus Hellenic air force had an eventful past with many proud moments to their credit. They acquired most advanced aircrafts in the coming years and were successful in gaining air superiority.
Present Hellenic Air Force
The present aircraft of Hellenic air force has features like LANTRIN navigation, targeting pod and latest missile technology. Greece was the first country to add F- 16 block 52+ flight in 2005. Sixty flights are already delivered and another 30 are in order. These flights have more powerful radar, upgraded engine and better communication power than the Block 50. Today, the spear head of Hellenic forces constitute mirage 2000 and F-16 types. The other flights also continue their service in the air force. The modernization efforts are intensive still to update the Greek air force. Long and short range air defense missiles are acquired by the force. The missiles Patriot and Crotale are contributing to the defense of the national air space to the maximum possible level. The basic initial training to the pilot has undergone radical change to prepare the pilots for the fourth generation fighters. To achieve this, new Raytheon T- 6A Texan II aircraft is used for training purpose. New transport aircraft, multi role fighters as well as early warning air- borne system are also acquired recently by the Hellenic air force. All these aircraft provide the Hellenic air force with reliable power that is absolutely modern and capable of facing the challenges coming in the new century.
Apart from giving 24 hour readiness in shielding the sky and protecting the national air space, the Greek aviators with their high morale actively participate in fire fighting every year supporting the fire department. They provide specialized fleet and necessary personnel for the fire fighting operations conducted in the country. Hellenic air force currently allocates fleets with different fire fighting aircraft like CL-415, CL-215, PZL M18B to the fire department in the fire fighting season. The Hellenic air force also conducts patrol flights to detect any forest fires.
Another major contribution of Hellenic Air force in the public service area is the air- transportation of patients. For this the air force offers 24 hour/365 days service to transport patients and inured persons from remote locations. There is emergency help Helicopter Squadron working in collaboration with National Center for Emergency help and the Ministry of Health. The flights C-130, C-27 J planes, super puma and A-109 helicopters are used for this purpose. During such operations, the services of air force medical personnel are available on the board.
The Hellenic air force is also into search and rescue operations across the country. There are 2 helicopter squadrons employed for this purpose. These are 358 Transport/SARS “Phaethon” Squadron and 384 CSAR/SARS “Puma” Squadron. These operations are in coordination with Ministry of Commercial Shipping. The entire Greek territory is covered by a large fleet of planes comprising of C-130, C-27J, Do-28, CL-215, and CL-415 are located at various parts of the country.
The Greece started upgrading their Mirage 2000BG/EG fleet into 2000-5 Mk2 in 2004. This aircraft has new, more powerful radar, SCALPEG Cruise missile, and better air to ground capabilities, air to air refueling capability and a Glass cockpit. The advanced F-16 delivered in 2005 had features like LINK 16 Communication System, powerful mission control computers with multifunction display and the capability of carrying RECCE Reconnaissance Pod. These advanced aircrafts were delivered to the Greek air force in 2009 and are currently in use by the 335 squadron “Tiger” in Araxos air base.
According to the Hellenic Ministry of National Defense the Hellenic air force is presently operating more than 510 aircrafts. The combat aircrafts in operation are 120 numbers of Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon, which is a multirole fighter, Dassault Mirage 2000 series, 45 numbers, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II which is a tactical fighter, LTV A-7 corsair II, which is an attack air craft from USA. The maritime patrol aircraft includes EMB-145H of Brazil origin, Lockheed C-130 Hercules which has electronic signal intelligence, Lockheed P-3 Orion .Apart from these trainer aircrafts, helicopters and fire fighting aircrafts are also owned by Hellenic air force. The Embraer ERJ 135ER from Brazil and Gulf stream V from USA is the aircrafts used for VIP- transport and medical evacuation by the Hellenic air force.
Future of Hellenic Air Force
To compensate the number of aircraft units that are ended their operations with Hellenic air force, the HA is planning to acquire new 4th generation and 5th generation fighters. The Hellenic cir force is trying to bring the strength of the advanced fighter aircrafts to 300 according to the 2007- 2012 study of operational planning of the Supreme Air Force Council of Greece. The 4.5th and 5th generation aircraft which are going to enter the sky of Greece are Euro fighter Typhoon, F-35 Lightning, Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Sukhoi Su- 35 and MIG-35. Aircraft like McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II and Lockheed P3-orion will undergo up gradation program. Lockheed C-130 Hercules tactical transport will be modernized. Four, Alenia C-27J Spartan of Italian origin are in order which are with in flight Refueling system. The EAB Pegasus II from Greece is reconnaissance aircraft, five of which are already in service. 12 more of them are in order for the Hellenic air force. Though many aircrafts are in order, the weak political standing and the continuing monetary pressures by the Greek government may cause the aircraft number to be reduced by the Hellenic air force.
The Greek government is insisting on cost reduction measures which will lead to the reduction of the Hellenic air force size. The probability is that the Hellenic air force has to postpone the purchase of new aircrafts or to reduce the number of already purchased crafts by disposing some of them. In order to reduce the operational cost, the Greek air force may be forced to operate their flights along with other Air Forces in the world. Due to the gruesome budgetary pressures , the Greece government has requested the U.S government to provide some spare parts of the aircrafts like F-16, C-130H/B, E/ RF -4E, C- 27J, T-6A/C. these aircrafts have systems and sub systems that are produced by U.S . It is estimated that the cost for this spare parts for the aircraft will come to $160 million, which is expected to be provided by the U.S government.
The Hellenic air force is vowed to fight the terrorist activities that are occurring across the world. They provide necessary support to the other countries in fighting terrorism. The war on terror by the Hellenic army is supported by the air force. The Hellenic air force is aware o the need to fight terrorism in cooperation with other air forces to achieve the necessary result. In the 2011 military intervention in Libya saw the active involvement of the Hellenic air force officials and aircrafts. the Hellenic air force has always kept high values for strengthening the security of the country and maintain the peace in the world. The Hellenic air force was successful in all these years in providing strategic planning in its air war operations. The air force always has shown the willingness to work for the betterment of the world as it is evident from their cooperation with NATO forces. The present chief of Hellenic Air Force general staff is Air Marshal Vasilios Klokozas. The Greek people hope that with the able guidance of the chief, the Hellenic air force will remain as a great air power even though there are budgetary restrains looming on them.