From April 8-18, 2024, the skies above Andravida Air Base in the northwest of the Peloponnese, Greece reverberated to the sound of fast jets from the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) and a coalition of aircraft from elsewhere in Europe and the Middle East participating in Exercise Iniochos 2024. Ian Harding takes a look at the 2024 edition of exercise Iniochos with the help of Thomas Howe for the supporting images.

Home to 117 Combat Wing, the Hellenic Air Force Air Tactics Centre and Fighter Weapons School (FWS), Andravida Air Base has firmly established itself on the global stage as one of the leading exercise locations. Further evidence of this is the fact that the Hellenic Air Force and Andravida Air Base will host NATO’s first Ramstein Flag Exercise in September 2024. Organised by Allied Command during its 75th year anniversary, this multi-domain exercise will be the first iteration of Ramstein Flag, exercising high-end sophisticated defence skills including; Counter Anti-Access/Area Denial (C-A2AD), Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) and 4th and 5th generation aircraft integration. The exercise will also combine use of the synthetic training environment to achieve its objectives.

What is now an annual international training exercise, Exercise Iniochos commenced as a national air exercise at the tactical level in the late 1980’s; principally for training aircrew flying a variety of aircraft including A-7H Corsair (later A-7E/TA-7C), F-5E Freedom Fighter, F-4E Phantom and Mirage F-1CG, in Combined Air Operations (COMAO). The incredible change from an aircraft standpoint over the last 40 plus has also been matched by the FWS in terms of its drive and instructional and training doctrine. 

Initially, aircraft were deployed to Larissa Air Base (home to 110 Combat Wing) to conduct their missions, but some years later in 2005, the Exercise was de-centralised with HAF aircraft operating from their home bases with Andravida Air Base responsible for Command and Control of the exercise planning and co-ordination. 

Fast forward to late 2013, the exercise profile was upgraded to medium scale which included the expansion of its operational profile and objectives. These in turn created a more realistic, intensive and demanding battle environment for participants. A single-base concept was also established to enhance this expansion and to support the increased training demands of the exercise. Subsequently in April 2015, the exercise was held for the first time as an INVITEX (Invitation Exercise) with other nations; most notably the United States Air Force (USAF) and Israel attending.

Since then. Exercise Iniochos reputation has grown significantly, such is the quality, complexity and challenge of the COMAO’s on offer. At the heart of its objectives is its desire to enhance interoperability and increase combat readiness, to build strong and ‘agile’ international alliances in a real-time complex and congested air space. These objectives fit perfectly with global demands and the threats posed in these increasingly uncertain times. In terms of geographical scope, the exercise uses the majority of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) for the exercise duration.

Participants 2024

This years iteration in the main enjoyed glorious weather and flying conditions unlike the last two years which were impacted by a Saharan sand storm in 2022 and storms in 2023. As well as significant HAF participation, Iniochos 2024 saw nine countries participate providing rotary, fast jet, Airborne Early Warning (AEW), unmanned aircraft plus intelligence and special forces capability which was provided by Austria and Portugal. Germany participated with an observer team.

International rotary capability was provided by Cyprus and Montenegro attending with a Leonardo Helicopters AW139 and a Bell 412EPI respectively to primarily support Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions. International nations providing fast jet capability based at Andravida Air Base comprised France, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Qatar. The United States provided KC-135 air refuelling tanker support from Eleftherios Venizelos Athens International Airport whilst F-16CM’s from the 31st Fighter Wing based at Aviano Air Base in Italy operated from their home base. AEW capability was additionally supported by a French Air Force Boeing E-3F operating from Avord Air Base in France. Montenegro and Romania were first time participants. HAF fast jet participation was understandably considerable and included Lockheed Martin F-16, Dassault Mirage 2000-5, Dassault Rafale and of course, the F-4E Phantom from the home based 338 Mira. 

The detailed list of nations, aircraft and squadrons operating from Andravida Air Base and elsewhere mission was as follows:


AW139 460 MED Andreas Papandreou


Dassault Rafale M Marine Nationale 11F/12F/17F, Landivisiau

Boeing E-3F Armee de L’air EDCA 01.036, Avord


F-4E(AUP) 117 Combat Wing – 338 Mira, Andravida

F-16C/D from 330/335/336/343/347 Mira (see below)

Mirage 2000-5B/EG 114 Combat Wing – 331 Mira, Tanagra

Rafale DG/EG 114 Combat Wing – 332 Mira, Tanagra

F-16’s were from New Anchialos (111 Combat Wing – 330 Block 30, 347 Block 50), Araxos (116 Combat Wing – 335/336 Block 52/72) and Chania (115 Combat Wing 343 Mira Block 72)


Bell 412EPI Helikopterska Eskadrila, Podgorica


F-16AM Escadrila 53 Baza 86, Fetesti


Rafale DQ/EQ Flying Wing 1 – 1 Squadron, Tamim

Saudi Arabia:

Typhoon F2/3 2 Wing – 3/10/80 Squadrons, Taif/King Fahd Air Base 


Boeing F/A-18A Ala 46, Gran Canaria

United States of America:

F-16CM 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano (Italy)

MQ-9 Reaper, Operated from Larissa Air Base (110 Combat Wing)

Exercise Mission

Following the work up phase which involved orientation flights including low-level flying for all nation participants, the exercise mission phases comprised day and night high intensity, multi-nation COMAO launches with participants exposed to an intensive battle rhythm. This ensured air and ground crew were tested at all times both in terms of planning, ensuring operational readiness and flying. The pace of the action was intense as was the range of challenging scenarios which included; 

  • Operations targeted against Integrated Air Defence System (IADS), 
  • Offensive Counter air/airfield attack, 
  • Interdiction against specific ground targets, 
  • Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), 
  • Slow Mover Protection (SLOMO), 
  • Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), 
  • Dynamic Targeting (DT), 
  • Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance (SCAR), 
  • Close Air Support (CAS), 
  • High Value Airborne Asset (HVAA) Protect/Attack.

With day and night missions, the pressure and the range of scenarios which included the injection of real time live threats exposed air and ground crew to the variety of threats expected in the current era of modern day aerial war fighting. In total, Exercise Iniochos 2024 saw 1,027 sorties completed throughout the entire Athens FIR; a considerable achievement.

Media and enthusiast support:

Whilst many travelled to Greece and the Peloponnese in the week before the exercise proper, the HAF and personnel from the 117 Combat Wing once again opened their arms (and Base) to welcome international enthusiasts and military aviation photographers to witness, photograph and to report first hand on the Exercise operations taking place. Two days were set aside for this on April 10 and 17 respectively. Everyone at the HAF involved in the process must be commended for the hospitality and opportunities afforded. Long may this continue. 

As in previous years, Exercise Iniochos hosted a ‘Distinguished Visitors Day’ at Andravida Air Base on April 12, 2024 which was attended by distinguished guests from Greece and the representative nations. The guests were briefed on the conduct of the Exercise by the Commander of the Air Tactics Centre, Brigadier General Matthaios Kanoupakis, before watching a flypast by aircraft from the participating nations.

In these increasingly demanding and uncertain times we find ourselves living in, the international military response to threats faced more often than not nowadays requires the support of a coalition of forces. Interoperability requires co-ordination, planning and training, and in this respect the Hellenic Air Force in Exercise Iniochos have created one of the most effective training exercises in Europe and the Mediterranean region. AeroResource would like to thank the Hellenic Air Force for their support with this article.

You can find out more about the Hellenic Air Tactics Center and exercise Iniochos 2024 here:«INIOCHOS%202024,in%20an%20intense%20battle%20rhythm.

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