A formation of military fighting jets fly over the ancient Parthenon temple for a photo opportunity during the International Joint Medium Scale Air Force Exercise, in Athens, Greece April 4, 2017 .
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS)
The Israel Air Force, along with pilots from the United Arab Emirates and a number of other countries, is flying in Greek skies as part of Iniohos 2019, Greece’s largest military exercise.
Pilots from the IAF are taking part in the drill, which started on Monday at the Andravida Base in the Peloponnese and will end on April 12, along with pilots from the UAE, United States, Italy, Cyprus, and almost the entire Hellenic Air Force fleet.
“The objective of the exercise is to provide realistic operational training in conditions that resemble a complex, multi-threat combat environment to maximize the operational capabilities of the Air Force,” read a statement released by the HAF.
According to reports, Iniohos 2019 will include F-16, F-35, F-4, M-2000, EMB-145H AEW&C, Tornado and Tanker aircraft. The HAF is flying six F-4E fighter jets, 32 F-16C/D jets and six M2000. Israel is participating with 12 F-16 C/D/Is, the Italians are flying with six Tornado ECR/IDSs, the Americans with 12 F-16 C/Ds and the United Arab Emirates are participating with six M2000-9s.
As part of the drill, Israeli pilots took part in a formation of seven fighter jets consisting of F-35s, F-4, M-2000 and Tornado jets flying over central Athens last week, Greece’s Ekathimerini news site reported.
According to the HAF website, the drill will see a range of missions including Offensive Counter Air Operations (OCA), Air Defense Operations (ADO), Counter Surface Force Operations (CSFO) including Air Power Contribution to Land Ops (APCLO) and Air Power Contribution to Maritime Ops (APCMO), RECCE missions, Combat Search and Rescue missions, Time Sensitive Target missions, Dynamic Targeting, High Value Airborne Asset missions and Slow Mover.
“Given the high level of the HAF personnel and our capability to conduct exercises involving a variety of weapon systems within one of the largest exercise areas in Europe, the INIOCHOS exercise tends to become one of the most competitive exercises in Europe and the Mediterranean region, and provides participants with a high level of training and a unique experience of participation,” the HAF said.
Israel maintains broad cooperation with the Greek Air Force and has participated in numerous military exercises of air, sea and ground forces with the Mediterranean country.
While Israel has participated in the drill for several years, last year it did not appear on the exercise’s website as a participant – even though there were hints of Israel’s involvement in the patch worn by the pilots on their flight suits where the Israeli flag was visible.
The drill this year will also see the participation for the first time of F-35 stealth fighter jets from the Italian Air Force.
On Friday, Vice Admiral Mathias Winter, head of the Pentagon’s F-35 officer’s group, was quoted by Reuters as telling the US Congress that “future potential Foreign Military Sales customers include Singapore, Greece, Romania, Spain and Poland.”
His comments came two days after Washington froze the delivery of F-35 jets to Turkey over Ankara’s plans to purchase the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.
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