The annual two week military exercise of Iniochos took place between the 28th March until the 8th April. Iniochos is an annual military exercise organised by the Hellenic Air Force with help from NATO and is staged at Andravida Air Base in Western Greece, home to the Hellenic Air Force’s Air Tactics Centre. The exercise has gained very good momentum in recent years and has grown larger particularly in terms of foreign participation.
In addition to the Hellenic Air Force, in recent years this exercise has attracted countries such as the United States of America, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain & Cyprus. This year Romania was also going to mark its debut in this exercise participating with a number of F-16s, however recent world events derailed their plans and they called off their participation. On another note, the Slovenian Armed Forces marked their debut in this exercise, bringing two Pilatus PC-9s. INIOCHOS 2022 saw the participation of the following aircraft types from Greece, United States, France ,Italy, Israel, Slovenia, and Cyprus:
- France with Dassault Rafale and E-2C Hawkeye (operating from their aircraft carrier ‘Charles de Gaulle’);
- USA with 14 x F-15E and MQ-9 Reaper;
- Israel with 11 x F-16I SUFA, 1 x G-550 and 1 x B-707;
- Italy with 7 x Panavia Tornado IDS;
- Cyprus with 1 x Agusta Westland AW-139;
- Slovenia with 2 x Pilatus PC-9M
Additional countries showed an interest in the exercise and sent delegates to act as observers. Observing countries included Albania, Egypt, Austria, North Macedonia, United Kingdom, India, Canada, Croatia, Kuwait, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
At its inception in the 1980’s, Iniochos began merely as an annual Hellenic Air Force (HAF) small-scale Air Warfare exercise. The main goal was to create a realistic training environment for the Hellenic Air Force fighter squadrons. In 2013 the HAF decided that Iniochos would follow a different approach to meet the following challenges; to develop interoperability and standardization between HAF units and allied nations air forces; to promote interoperability, especially in air-land and air-sea integration of tactics, techniques and procedures; develop integration of legacy and modern assets in the modern battlefield; prepare air crews for the future battlefield, and to fight in a contested environment.
As a result a decision was taken to modify the exercise into an INVITEX-exercise, with invitations being sent to other air forces asking if they wanted to participate in the annual event. Simultaneously, the HAF decided to run future editions of Iniochos on a ‘Single-Base’ concept, with Andravida chosen as the ideal location for the exercise. As the home of the Kentro Aeroporikis Taktikis (KEAT-Hellenic Air Force Air Tactics Center) and having large amounts of available airspace in the area where Andravida is located, this location proved ideal.
This single base concept is ideal because it brings together hundreds of participants in face-to-face planning, briefing, and debriefing, thereby maximizing the training benefits and promoting cooperation and exchange of ideas and tactics between participants all coming from a different background. The exercise is characterized by an intense battle rhythm that is designed to test all aspects of operational capability in supporting a high tempo of operations and maximizing the operational use of limited air assets. Participants are exposed to multiple threat environments such as anti-access area denial, where long-range surface-based air defence systems, 3rd generation ‘Red’ aircraft and TBM form a multi-layer challenge for allied forces. Iniochos also leverages the exceptional flying environment of Greece, which displays large volumes of airspace and a variety of terrain to present four distinct theatres of operations.
In 2015, allied and other international air forces participated with the HAF for the first time, with the Israeli Air Force being the first to take advantage of the Greek’s offer. Given the high level of the HAF personnel and its capability to conduct exercises involving a variety of weapon systems within one of the largest exercise areas in Europe, Iniochos rapidly became one of the most competitive exercises in Europe and the Mediterranean region, and provides participants with a high level of training and unique experience of participation.
Following the 2015 edition of the exercise, the Israeli’s have subsequently participated in each of the annual exercises since then, with each year also seeing a steady increase in the number of countries taking part. The air base at Andravida has recently seen some expansion take place due to Iniochos, with the construction of additional apron space and accommodation. There are also rumours that an ACMI-range may be constructed, and with a number of additional countries showing an interest in participating, together with those who have already supported it, it may be that some additional funding from NATO or Greek allies outside of the alliance could also be forthcoming.
Iniochos has expanded over time to provide a challenging and demanding high-threat environment for the participants, with the inclusion of simultaneous Hellenic and international naval and land-based exercises. A fully simulated combat environment is provided to the participants of Iniochos, together with the opportunity to use ranges over both land and sea, which includes the whole of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) and the live weapons ranges at Chrisoupolis and Kastellorizo.
During the exercise, all aircraft are split into ‘Blue’ (friendly) and ‘Red’ (enemy) forces, with the majority of HAF Combat Wings involved in the exercise simulating ‘Red-Air’ forces. The Andravida-based Tactical Weapons School, a subordinate unit of the Air Tactics Center, uses its instructors to assist participating pilots with their mission planning and tactics, whilst also acting as ‘Red-Air’ adversaries. Iniochos missions normally involve three waves of aircraft each day, which take off in the morning, afternoon and evenings. The exercise scenario begins with a crisis situation that escalates to a full war, giving participants the opportunity to be trained in full scale day and night operations. Whilst the participants are exposed to non-stop fighting, information flow affects every aspect of the mission, thus creating a realistic environment where the air crews’ tactical flexibility in decision making is challenged to the full.
In order to achieve the objectives of the Exercise, the HAF FWS oversees the missions from scenario planning to debriefing and makes certain that they cover the full spectrum of missions currently performed by the HAF such as:
- Offensive Counter Air Operations (OCA);
- Air Defence 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;
- High Value Airborne Asset missions.
As Iniochos aspires to become one of the most important exercises in Europe and the Mediterranean region, it provides participants with a high level of training and a unique experience.
Prior to this year’s exercise, General Konstantinos Floros, Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff stated that “For 10 days, Greece will be attracting the global military aviation interest by conducting one of the most demanding exercises, Iniochos 22, which combined with the multinational Special Operations Exercise Orion-22 sends a strong message of deterrence,”. The general added that this year’s exercise will be focused on air superiority and interoperability with the Hellenic wings at the epicentre, contributing to regional security and stability.
The general also went on to explain how the exercise will also work to enhance multi-domain operations in support of land and maritime forces. Participants will train alongside the ships and aircraft that are operating from the French and the US Navy Carrier Strike Groups currently deployed in the Ionian and the Aegean Sea. Enhancing the Alliance’s ability to mount a credible multi-domain response is now more important than ever in the current challenging security environment faced on NATO’s eastern flank.
Iniochos 2022 included the full spectrum of missions that saw crews operating in a complex and congested air environment. These included air operations against an Integrated Air Defence System, Anti-Surface Warfare and Combat Search and Rescue. Participating personnel were exposed to an intensive battle rhythm with challenging scenarios with multiple modern threats and real-time live injects which help to improve interoperability, while building a stronger and more agile Alliance. A total of 1,900 personnel were involved in the exercises “Iniochos 2022” and “Orion 22” on Greek soil.
Despite the fact that the weather at Andravida proved to be challenging for photographers on all the spotters day and media days organised by the Public Affairs office, this did not discourage MAR from pictorially documenting the exercise, as can be noted in the images hereunder.