Iniochos 2024

Text and photography by Erik Bruijns, Fred van Peursem, Lex de Kort, and Gijs ten Velde
Exercise Iniochos is an annual medium-scale Invitation Exercise (INVITEX) that invites other air forces to participate.
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The exercise takes place each spring at the Air Tactics Center, Andravida Air Base, in the Northwest Peloponnese. The exercise lasts 15 days and uses the majority of the Athinai Flight Information Region (FIR), covering Greek national airspace and some international airspace. The exercise follows a Single Base Concept, with all operations executed from a single air base. However, due to regional circumstances, some participants do not fly their missions directly from Andravida Air Base.
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The Vouraikos Canyon is used by the Hellenic Air Force to practice low flying. During Iniochos, many aircraft used the same area to practice this skill - Erik Bruijns
The exercise was first held in the late 1980s as a small-scale tactical exercise to train in combined air operations. Its success led to its establishment as an annual event. The exercise aims to train personnel in planning and executing Combined Air Operations (COMAO) per Hellenic Air Force (HAF) doctrine and national plans, testing and evaluating operational plans and tactics in a realistic environment. Initially, operations were coordinated from Larissa Air Base by the Hellenic Fighter Weapons School (HFWS), but in 2005, the exercise decentralized, allowing participating aircraft to operate from their home bases.

In 2013, it adopted the Single Base Concept, upgrading to a medium scale and expanding operations for a more realistic and demanding environment. In April 2015, the exercise was held for the first time in the form of INVITEX, with the participation of the Israeli Defence Force and the United States Air Force Europe Special Forces (USAFE SOF) as Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC).
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A Souda-based F-16V from 343 Mira takes off during the morning mission. This was one of twenty F-16s participating in the exercise - Erik Bruijns
Exercise Objectives

Running for nearly 10 years in its current form, Iniochos has evolved into one of the most diverse exercises in the region. Its main objectives are:

• Provide realistic training, which is achieved by creating a realistic battle environment. Iniochos provides participating personnel with the exposure to an intensive battle rhythm with realistic attrition rates, as well as challenging scenarios which include multiple modern threats and real time live injects. The exercise is tailored to produce the fog of war and the friction effect, which is expected to dominate the modern battlefield and test both the physical and psychological endurance of the modern fighter.

• Accurate Shot / Event Assessment. This is achieved with the use of onboard and off board tracking data, sensors and specialized debriefing software, which is leveraged for the reconstruction of the mission by experienced Fighter Weapons School instructors, who oversee the debriefing process.
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Qatar participated for the first time at Iniochos. Their four Rafale EQs and one DQ added more weight to the exercise - Erik Bruijns
Running for two weeks, the exercise is divided into four phases:
• Phase 1: Preparation
• Phase 2: Force Transfer
• Phase 3: Operation
• Phase 4: Folding / Wrap up

Tactical Command of the participating air forces is assumed by the Chief of the Hellenic Tactical Air Force (HTAF) and it is exercised through a cell established at the Air Tactics Center (ATC) specifically for the exercise. Tactical Control during the exercise is being delegated to the ATC Commander.
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One of the older F-16Cs, this block 30 from Mira 330 based at Nea Anchialos was one of twenty F-16s that participated in Iniochos 24 - Erik Bruijns
Missions

In order to achieve the objectives of the exercise, the Hellenic Fighter Weapons School (HFWS) oversees the missions from scenario planning to debriefing and makes certain that they cover the full spectrum of missions currently performed by the HAF. These missions include:

• Air operations versus Integrated Air Defense System (IADS)
• Offensive Counter Air/Airfield Attack
• Air Interdiction/Special Targets
• Anti-Surface Warfare
• Slow Mover Protection (SLOMO)
• Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR)
• Dynamic Targeting (DT), Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance (SCAR), Close Air Support (CAS), Time Sensitive Targets (TST)
• High-Value Airborne Asset (HVAA) Protect/Attack
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The Mirage 2000 is still going strong in the Hellenic Air Force. With more and more Rafales being delivered, its retirement is getting closer - Erik Bruijns
Given the high level of knowledge and skills of the HAF personnel and their capability to conduct exercises, involving a variety of weapon systems within one of the largest exercise areas in Europe, the Iniochos exercise aspires to become the most competitive exercise in Europe and the Mediterranean region, and provide participants with a high level of training and unique experience of participation.

With a large-scale mission each morning, around 25 to 30 planes would take off from Andravida. Combining with assets flying from their own bases, the number of aircraft in the air was impressive. After the morning missions there would be two to three additional missions flown by the different participants. These would be smaller missions, with anything from eight to 20 aircraft taking off.

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The F-4E AUP is still a valueable asset for the Hellenic Air Force and a welcome participant in Iniochos - Erik Bruijns
International cooperation

Since the first INVITEX in 2015, Iniochos has attracted participation from air forces outside of Europe like different United States Air Force units, the Indian Air Force, Israeli Defense Forces, the United Arab Emirates Air Force. Many countries inside Europe have also participated over the years and there is an increased interest from new armed forces that would like to participate.

The 2024 edition was held from Monday, April 8, and run through to Thursday, April 18. The week leading up to the exercise saw familiarisation flights of the different participating aircraft, both foreign and domestic. This year’s edition saw most participating aircraft operate from Andravida Air Base as in previous editions. A total of nine foreign countries participated in this year’s exercise providing aircraft and aircrew. This was the largest number of foreign participating countries since the exercise was established as INVITEX.
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A total of sixteen Rafales from three nations participated in this years Iniochos. This French Navy Rafale M is taking off from Andravida - Erik Bruijns
The Hellenic Air Force brought a variety of aircraft to Iniochos. Operating from their home base Andravida Air Base, was 338 MDV's (Mira Dioxis Vomvardamou / fighter-bomber squadron) with their F-4E (AUP). With the days of the F-4 coming to a close, this might have been one of the last participations of the Phantom during Iniochos. Time will tell how long they will continue to fly. A total of five different F-16 units participated in this year’s edition, providing 20 aircraft. 330 Mira (squadron) with their block 30’s and 347 Mira with their block 50’s both coming from Nea Anchialos Air Base. 335 Mira and 336 Mira both flying the block 52’s from nearby Araxos Air Base. Finally 343 Mira participated with their upgraded Block 72 (F-16V), coming out of Souda Air Base on the island of Crete. Coming from Tanagra Air Base, operating with 331 Mira were four Mirage 2000-5EG/BG’s. Joining these from Tanagra were four Rafale EG/DG’s from 332 Mira.
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Seven Rafale Ms from Charles de Gaulle participated. Last year, they flew directly from the carrier - Erik Bruijns
In terms of international participation, the Aéronautique Navale (French Navy) provided seven Rafale M’s, which this year did not operate directly from their aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. These Rafales were coming from a mix of 11F, 12F and 17F ("Flottille" (F), combat squadron) all based at Landivisiau.

The Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) provided an E-3F for the airborne early warning and control (AEW&C). Coming from 36e escadron de détection et de contrôle aéroportés Berry (EDCA 01.036, Airborne Detection and Control Squadron) the eyes in the sky was flying straight out of its home base Avord.

Participating for the first time were three F-16AM’s from the Forțele Aeriene Române (Romanian Air Force). Coming from Escadrila 53 (53 Squadron), they are normally flying out of Fetesti.

Adding more Rafales to the exercise was the Al-Quwwat Al-Jawiyah Al-Amiriyah Al-Qatariyah (Qatar Emiri Air Force). They participated for the very first time in this year’s Iniochos. Five of their Rafale EQ/DQ’s participated from 1st Squadron, based at Tamim. After participating in Anatolian Eagle before, the Rafales made their debut in 2024 in Iniochos.

The Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force) joined from the Canary Islands at Gando Air Base with four of their F/A-18A+ Hornets from Ala 46 (46 Wing). Also joining from the Middle East, from the Al-Quwwat Al-Jawiyah Al-Malakiyah as-Su’udiyah (Royal Saudi Air Force), were six Typhoon F.2/T.3’s. Based at King Fahd Air Base, the Typhoons were all from 2 Wing, coming out of a mix of 3, 10 and 80 squadron.

Flying CSAR missions only in the first week of the exercise and not participating during the second week, there was a single AW139 from 460 MED (Moira Erevnas Diasosis, Search and Rescue Squadron) operated by the Cyprus Air Command which is based at Pafos Air Base.

In addition, one AB-412EPI of the Vazduhoplovstvo i protivvazdušna odbrana (Montenegrin Air Force) participated from Helikopterska Eskadrila (Helicopter squadron) at their home base Podgorica.

Operating during the exercise directly from their home base were United States Air Force F-16CM/DMs of the 31st Fighter Wing (FW), based at Aviano Air Base. Having to fly over the Adriatic Sea to join the missions, these were supported by several KC-135R’s operating out of Athens International Airport.

Also participating from an undisclosed Air Base were MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles.

Finally, the Royal Air Force participated with several Typhoons from their permanent joint operating base at RAF Akrotiri Air Base, Cyprus. With current operations at a high pace in the region, the RAF opted to participate in a similar way it did in 2023 during the Anatolian Eagle exercise in Turkey.
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Two Royal Saudi Air Force Typhoon T.3s participated. The abillity to work together with their allies is crucial - Erik Bruijns
In addition to these air assets that completed 1027 sorties during the exercise, there were also participants from the Hellenic Army, Navy and Special Warfare Command, as well as Austrian and Portuguese Intelligence and Special Forces personnel. These non flying participants are very valuable to the exercise as they are involved in creating complex and realistic scenarios. Iniochos also saw observers join from different Air Forces, like Germany and Austria. The scale of the exercise and the dedication of the Hellenic Air Force to the exercise becomes even more clear when you zoom out and look at the whole operating area. Kalamata Air Base for instance, a very busy airfield where the Hellenic Air Force training wing is based, would shut down all their operations between certain hours of the day. This would enable the exercise to make use of the base. Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems would start up to provide an extra threat for the participating aircraft. Different bases across Greece would have the same ways of working during the two weeks, adding to the real life feel of the exercise.