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Ex Iniochos 2023

This trip would be organised by the Centre of Aviation Photography and our guide would be Alec who thankfully doesn’t look too shifty! On arrival at Athens we picked up our minibus and headed south for the area around Andravida. Staying at the same hotel complex as most of the aircrews involved in the exercise, we had exceptional facilities on hand.

However, before getting to the resort, whilst taking a backroad, we ran into a little problem...

 

Driving down the road we encountered an armed police blockade, some of whom were plain clothes, they pulled us over. They enquired as to our purpose, the Police officer then bluntly asked Alec if he had any drugs on him, ‘obviously not!’, “what about your passengers”, I called back to see if anyone had any drugs. Obviously no one had. Look mate I’m not being funny but the only drug we are interested in is Av Fuel!   

 

Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography

Exercise Iniochos is an international training opportunity hosted by the Hellenic Air Force once a year at Andravida Air Force base in the south. Andravida is home to the Tactical Weapons School. Specialising in Offensive and defensive counter air, tactical reconnaissance and combat search & rescue they are the perfect spot for a joint training opportunity.

Andravida is also home to the 339th Squadron and the 338th Squadron two of the last remaining operational F4 Phantom Squadron’s left. And let’s face it if you are an ‘Av Geek’ you love a phantom!

 

Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography Phantom

The morning was a complete wash out, we saw the dark clouds and the wall of rain heading in our direction and we all knew what was coming. The entire morning of operations was scrubbed and with that we headed over to the crew room at the base of the Air Traffic Control Tower. Come the afternoon and the skies had cleared up considerably paving the way for operations to resume.

 

Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography Italian Tornado

Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography Saudi F15

The Hellenic Air Force also provided contingents from 337th ‘Ghost’ Squadron stationed at Larissa operating the F16 predominately the Block 52 variant. Operating the F16C/D (predominately) Block 50 was 341Squadron famously marked with playing cards on their tails. A bit of a surprise visit from a

representative from 332 Squadron with one of their shiny new Rafale F3R airframes based out of Tanagra Air Base was also on the cards which was very welcome indeed.

 

Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography Hellenic F16

Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography Hellenic F16

Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography Hellenic Rafale

Visiting we had a number of air forces however only a select few actually made departures and recoveries. First up we had Italian Tornado ECR variants from 155° Gruppo, an enthusiastic F15S from 92 Squadron Royal Saudi Air Force based out of King Saud Air Base in Hafar al-Batin. Arguably stealing the show were the Indian Air Force SU-30 MKI which truly are a massive airframe. The afternoon shooting offered some fairly dramatic lighting opportunities so we could count our blessings with the weather gods there!


Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography Italian Tornado

Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography Saudi F15

Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography Indian Su-30

Day done and Alec took us to this exceedingly good local restaurant that apparently was popular with aircrews. Turns out that was true as I found hanging on the wall a Squadron Print from the guys of the 492nd at RAF Lakenheath. Honestly the food just seemed to keep arriving out of nowhere. I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever eaten so much food in all my life!

 

Exercise Iniochos Andravida 2023 Centre of Aviation Photography F15E

The following day we left after breakfast heading on the long road back to Athens we firstly swung by the old Ellinikon International Airport which contained a few old civil jets from its past life. We also noticed, completely by chance, that there was a Mirage F1 on a pole and a further F5 randomly sat in a residential estate. You truly never know what you might find on one of these trips!  


old Athens Airport Greece

Athens F5 Tiger

Mirage Athens

This trip was a close call and nearly ended badly but in the end it all worked out, moral of the story, stick at it and you never know what results you may find yourself with!



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