Corsairs and Phantoms
Greece currently scores big headlines due to the financial crises, but to find out its effects was not the purpose of this year's trip to the Peloponnese, visiting the F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-7 Corsairs at Araxos as well as Andravida's F-4E Phantoms. Nice spring weather and the Greek hospitality made the trip very worthwhile and resulted in some nice images.
Where? Greece, Araxos & Andravida
When? March 2012
A lot has changed at Araxos since the last visit at Araxos in 2007: 336 Mira has switched from the venerable A-7 Corsair II to the state-of-the-art F-16 Fighting Falcon Bl.52C/D and thus now operates the most modern fighter jet in the Hellenic Air Force's (HAF) inventory.
To see them fly side-by-side with the Corsair was an interesting view and though the F-16s are most impressive with their conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) and the dorsal spine on the twin-seat F-16D, the Corsair was not to be missed, as the HAF remains the only Air Force worldwide to operate this remarkable light attack aircraft from the 1960s.
The HAF received its first examples already in the 1970s, and though rumours said that the financial crisis will put an early end on A-7 operations in Greece, it is highly probable that the venerable Corsair will still soldier on for some - which might mean 2-3... - more years.
336 Mira still has around 30 aircraft available, thus operates at full Squadron strength to fulfil its duty in providing an air-ground attack capability. This function also implies setting up a QRA force with two fully armed jets in the air-ground role, a function not seen very often within any NATO air arm and this is for sure due to the very special political situation in this part of Europe.
Though it also became quite obvious that the Corsair's future fate is quite clear:
These are some more Corsair photos linked and available in higher resolution. They will open in a new window:
The Tiger Squadron 335 Mira did switch in the recent years to the very advanced F-16C/D, overtaking the mission from the A-7 with the additional capability for aerial reconnaissance. Operations are already in full swing and on par with those of the well lined-up Corsairs, but comparing the airframes, maintenance and operations one can easily recognize the age difference of 30-40 years.
Concentrating more or less completely on the A-7, there were not so many opportunities to photograph the Fighting Falcon, but here are still some more photos also available in higher resolution:
Andravida is located in the West of the Peloponnese, not far from Olympia, one of the most well-known Greek historic sites and it can still be visited today. Of course Andravida itself is not that historically relevant, but two Squadrons of F-4E (AUP) Phantom II were more than a good reason for a visit.
The air base is home of the 117 Combat Wing, consisting of two Squadrons:
- 338 Mira - Aris (Mars)
- 339 Mira - Aias (Ajax)
338 Squadron is used as a Fighter Bomber Squadron, whereas 339 Squadron has a more special role for all weather attack and its aircraft can thus mostly be seen being equipped with the Rafael Litening II pod.
Between the late 1990s and 2004 a total of 39 HAF F-4E Phantoms were upgraded by the German DASA. On top of the Kampfwertsteigerung (or Improved Combat Efficiency) midlife-update done to the German F-4F Phantoms by the same company, the HAF F-4Es were fitted with the Hughes APG-65GY radar (also used on the F-18C/Ds) as well as new avionics such as navigation and communication systems, partly provided by Israeli companies.
Armament upgrades included the AIM-120 AMRAAM, JDAM and AGM-142 capability for ground attack and various target identification pods. As these weapons are very rarely carried, the most-striking detail of the upgrade from the outside remain the 4 IFF antennas in front of the cockpit.
The name for the upgrade program used by the Germans was "Peace Icarus 2000", whereas Hellenic Aerospace Industries designated the aircraft updated in-country as F-4E(AUP), standing for "Avionic Upgrade Program".
Not only did the upgrade proved to be very efficient, also the airframe itself can still be trusted and is reliable as could be witnessed during my witness: 10 Phantoms lined-up on the last chance is a view that cannot be seen elsewhere very often nowadays.
And finally also some more AUP Phantom photos linked and available in higher resolution:
All that remains to be said is a big "Ευχαριστω!" to all those people and HAF personnel that supported the preparation of this visit as well as on base!Thank you for rating this article.