Exercise Iniochos 2019: Andravida AB 1st – 12th April 2019
The beginning of April saw Andravida AB,Greece, once again host exercise Iniochos, which is becoming one of the premier Invitation Exercises in Europe.
The participants this year based at Andravida included: -
F-4E Phantom II 338 MDV
F-16C/D Fighting Falcon 330 Mira, 335 Mira, 337 Mira, 341 Mira, 343 Mira, 347 Mira
Mirage 2000-5BG/EG 331 Mira
Mirage 2000-9 7th Air Superiority Squadron
F-16C/D Barak 109 and 117 Squadrons
Tornado 154 Gruppo
F-35 Lightning II 13 Gruppo
F-16C Viper 480th FS
Iniochos is run by the Air Tactics Centre which resides at Andravida AB, although separate from the active squadrons at the base. This allows for the planning and execution of the exercise to have less of an effect on the based squadrons.
The background for the exercise starts with a dispute between two countries and after a period of tension and enemy provocation causes a war to begin. Once the aerial war commences then the first aspect that needs to be completed is the Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD). This includes suppression of the S-PAD (Self-Propelled Air Defence System) and SAM (Surface to Air Missile) systems, short, medium and long range and then attack the air bases to gain air superiority.
Once air superiority has been gained then Close Air Support (CAS) missions to support land and maritime forces can begin with many of the targets being time sensitive.
Throughout the entire scenario there is a very determined and highly skilled Red Air element. This Red Air is different from many of the other exercises of this style across the world, ie Red Flag, due to the number of Red aircraft and they do not give in or aren’t as co-operative as most nations are used to.
The exercise battle rhythm is relentless with many pilots flying two sorties per day. This creates up to 130 sorties per day with as many as 60 aircraft per wave. After departure the main Alpha wave aircraft work in the same area for 3 – 3.5hrs, this includes Air to Air Refuelling.
During the Fighter Weapons School Commanders presentation to the gathered media, Lt. Col Athanasios ‘Prof’ Gkioles said “The way it works, we try to simulate as much as possible the reality and the changing reality of modern warfare.” He continued to say, “for this exercise building blocks are only use in the planning process but in the air its difficult from day one”.
As previously mentioned, the Red Air is a major element that makes this exercise more challenging to participants along with surface threats. In the first two missions there is up to 8 Red Air aircraft creating a 20 Blue Air vs 8 Red Air scenario with the ‘Fox 3’ (Active Radar Missile capable) Red aircraft being fully linked. “There were 6 x Link16 Red Air in today’s mission, linked with long range SAM systems, with and 80-mile range” Lt. Col. ‘Prof’ quoted, showing how intense the threats are at Iniochos.
The Main Red Air element was provided by the Hellenic Air Force but the Israeli and Qatar Air Forces also participated with their F-16s and Mirage 2000s.
All of this creates high level of stress for the participating personnel and this intensity does not stop over the 10 days of the exercise, with mission planning taking place for 7 hours on the middle Sunday between the two weeks.
In the planning phase they will need to prioritise tasks and have contingency plans for all scenarios, including what weapons to employ and the load out for the aircraft. This was shown by the Alpha wave in the morning on the morning of 3rd April with the first SEAD aircraft not being able to locate an important SAM site. After trying multiple ways to solve the problem they had to leave it for the next package to complete which meant real time contingency planning for both SEAD elements of the wave.
During the exercise there is the opportunity to discuss working procedures at a Tactical Planning Forum. This forms greater interoperability between the nations and helps them to understand working procedures i.e. NATO and Israeli, all of which can be implemented during Iniochos and in real world scenarios.
Aside from the large wave exercise there is opportunity for the nations to complete specific training needs e.g. 2 vs 2, 2 vs S-PAD or live weapons delivery. There is also night flying completed on two nights from each week. This is on top of the day missions meaning the pilots are either planning or flying which is an exhausting rhythm.
This year’s exercise saw the first-time participation of a 5th generation aircraft in the shape of the Lockheed Martin F-35A from the Aeronautica Militare, 32 Stormo, 6 Gruppo base at Amendola. This is the first time the F-35 has been to a country that is not part of the F-35 programme and deployed to a base without the infrastructure in place to support the aircraft.
During the missions the F-35A is used as an enabler opening the way for the other aircraft to do the rest of the job. The F-35 battle-space awareness, precision strike capability and with stealth technology opens the gates for others to rush through and the use of good data links allows missions to succeed. Lt Col ‘Prof’ said “the F-35 cannot provide the mass, the power you need, so you need the other 4th generation aircraft to complete the mission”.
Good communication is vital during Iniochos with 3rd, 4th and 5th generation all working together to co-ordinate the mission and use each aircraft's capability to the fullest. That is one of the biggest challenges during this exercise especially as not all participants were Link16 enabled.
In the region Iniochos is an important and challenging exercise that is executed extremely professionally by the Hellenic Air Force and the Air Tactics Centre and will continue to train multinational crews in modern aerial warfare tactics.
For the competition of this report Airspeed Media would like to thank: -
· Fighter Weapons School Commander Lt. Col. Gkioles
· HAFGS Spokesman Lt. Col. Tsitoumis
· British Embassy staff C. Markropoulos
· All the Hellenic Air Force personnel involved in the media day