The Hellenic Air Force (HAF) (in Πολεμική Αεροπορία (ΠΑ), Polemikí Aeroporía, literally "Military Aviation") is the air force of Greece. The mission of the Hellenic Air Force is to guard and protect Greek airspace, provide air assistance and support to the Hellenic Army and the Hellenic Navy, as well as the provision of humanitarian aid in Greece and around the world.
During the period of monarchy (1935-1973) the force was known as the Royal Hellenic Air Force (Ελληνική Βασιλική Αεροπορία (EBA), Ellinikí Vasilikí Aeroporía).
The motto of the Hellenic Air Force is "Αίεν Υψικρατείν" (Aien Ypsikratein), Always Dominate the Heights, and the HAF ensign represents a flying eagle in front of the Hellenic Air Force roundel. The Hellenic Air Force is one of the three branches of the Hellenic Armed Forces.
The Hellenic Air Force was founded in 1911 and has more than 90 years of history. The first efforts to introduce aviation in Greece clearly belong to Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos, whose contribution was widely recognized in 2000, when the Greek Government gave his name to the Athens International Airport.
In 1911 the Greek Government appointed French specialists to form the Hellenic Aviation Service. Six Greek officers were sent to France for training, while the first four "Farman" type aircraft were ordered. The first Greek aviator was Emmanouil Argyropoulos, who flew in a Nieuport IV.G. "Alcuin" aircraft, on February 8 1912.
The first military flight was made on May 13 1912 by Lieutenant Dimitrios Kamberos. In June, Kamberos flew with the "Daedalus", a Farman Aviation Works aircraft that had been converted into a seaplane, setting a new world average speed record at 110 km/h and the foundations of Naval Aviation. During September of the same year, the Greek Army fielded its first squadron, the "Aviators Company" (Λόχος Αεροπόρων). On October 5 1912, Kamberos flew the first combat mission, a reconnaissance flight over Thessaly. January 24 1913 saw the first naval co-operation war mission worldwide, which took place above the Dardanelles. Aided by the destroyer Velos, first Lieutenant Michael Moutoussis and Ensign Aristidis Moraitinis flew the Maurice Farman hydroplane and drew up a diagram of the positions of the Turkish fleet, against which they dropped four bombs.
In 1930 the Aviation Ministry was founded, establishing the Air Force as the third branch of the Armed Forces. In 1931 the Hellenic Air Force Academy, the Scholi Ikaron (Σχολή Ικάρων), was founded.
In 1939 an order for 24 Marcel Bloch MB.151 fighter aircraft was placed, but only 9 of the aircraft reached Greece, since the outbreak of World War II prevented the French from completing the order. The aircraft served in the 24th Pursuit Squadron (MD - Moira Dioxis) of the then Hellenic Royal Air Force.
During the Second World War, the RHAF successfully resisted the Italian invasion in 1940, but practically the entire force was destroyed by the German Luftwaffe in April 1941. The Air Force was rebuilt in the Middle East as part of the British Royal Air Force, flying Spitfires, Hurricanes and Martin Baltimores (335th, 336th and 13th Squadrons).
After Greece's liberation in 1944, it returned home and subsequently played a decisive role in the Greek Civil War, which lasted until 1949.
In 1952 Greece was admitted to NATO and the Air Force was rebuilt and organized according to NATO standards, with US assistance. New aircraft, including jets, were introduced.
The F-84F first flew with the Hellenic Air Force in 1950. The Thunderstreak was developed to overcome the limitations of the Thunderjet's straight flying surfaces. The RF-84F was the reconnaissance version of the F-84 F Thunderstreak. This aircraft remained operational with the 348 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron of the Hellenic Air Force from 1956 to March 29 1991.
In the late 1960s the RHAF acquired new jet aircraft, that served well for almost 20 years. The main jets that entered the HAF fleet during this period were the F-104G "Starfighter" and later on, the Convair F-102 "Delta Dagger" (in service 1969-1975) and the F-5 "Freedom Fighter".
Until the late 1980s the Air Force deployed Nike-Hercules Missiles armed with U.S. nuclear warheads. As a result of Greco-Turkish tensions around the 1974 Turkish invasion in Cyprus, the U.S. removed its nuclear weapons from Greek and Turkish alert units to storage. Greece saw this as another pro-Turkish move by NATO and withdrew its forces from NATO’s military command structure from 1974 to 1980.
In 1988 the first fourth generation fighters were introduced, marking the beginning of a new era: the first Mirage 2000 EG/BG aircraft were delivered to the 114 Combat Wing and equipped the 331 and 332 squadrons. In January 1989, the first F-16C/D Block 30 arrived in Nea Anchialos (111 Combat Wing) and were allocated between the 330 and 346 squadrons.
In 1997 the reception of fourth generation aircraft continued. In July, delivery of forty F-16 Block 50 began. The new aircraft, equipped with the LANTIRN navigation and targeting pod as well as AMRAAM and HARM missiles, were allocated to the 341 and 347 squadrons.
Greece participated in NATO "nuclear weapons sharing" until 2001, using A-7 Corsair IIs to deploy tactical B61 nuclear warheads from Araxos Air Base. Greece then strategically decided to remove all nuclear weapons under storage in Greece and did not purchase any more aircraft with nuclear mounting capabilities.
In September 2004 started the Mirage 2000BG/EG fleet upgrade to the standard 2000-5 Mk2 and the project was undertaken by the French manufacturer Dassault and the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB). Fifteen aircraft were ordered, while ten more were undertaken for upgrade by Dassault and EAB. The enhancements include upgraded radar and avionics, air-refueling capabilities, new self-defense system and upgraded engine, while the cockpit has taken some serious reforms.
In 2005, Greece was among the first countries to add the F-16 Block 52+ to its inventory. Ninety of these 4.5th generation aircraft were ordered and delivery begun the same year. This advanced F-16 type is an improved version of the Block 50 featuring a more powerful radar, better communications systems and an upgraded engine. The Hellenic Air Force's Block 52+ belong to the 337, 340 and 343 Squadrons with call signs "Ghost", "Fox" and "Star" respectively. 337 SQ is based at Larissa Air Force Base (110 Combat Wing) and the other two in Souda AB (115 CW).
As of 2008, the Hellenic Air Force has a combat fleet of 358 modern or upgraded aircraft. Due to the retirement of units that have ended their operational life (A-7E Corsair II), the HAF should be looking forward to acquiring new 4th, 4.5th or 5th generation fighters in order to reach a total number of 300 advanced fighters, according to the "2007 Supreme Air Force Council Momentum" which was published in 2007. This goal cannot be reached in the foreseeable future due to the slow down of the performance of the Greek economy for the years 2007-2008.
Possible candidates for a 4.5th or 5th generation aircraft are the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale, with JAS 39 Gripen as an outsider. Greece so far has not shown interest in F-35 Lightning II (JSF). A pro-Russian lobby in Greece promotes the acquisition of Sukhoi Su-35 or Su-37.
The Hellenic Air Force is overseen by the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence, whose current head is minister Vangelis Meimarakis. More specifically, HAF is directly overseen by the Hellenic National Defence General Staff.
The Hellenic Air Force includes approximately 33,000 active troops, of whom 11,750 are career officers, 14,000 are professional conscripts (ΕΠ.ΟΠ.), 7,250 are volunteer conscripts and 1,100 are women. The three commands are the Tactical Air Command (Αρχηγείο Τακτικής Αεροπορίας, ATA), headquartered at Larisa, the Air Support Command (Διοίκηση Αεροπορικής Υποστήριξης, ΔΑΥ) and the Air Training Command (Διοίκηση Αεροπορικής Εκπαίδευσης, ΔΑΕ), both based in Athens.
The Tactical Air Command includes eight Combat Wings and one Transport Wing. The Combat Wings have six fighter ground-attack squadrons. There are ten fighter squadrons, one regular reconnaissance squadron, and one marine reconnaissance squadron. Three transport squadrons and two helicopter squadrons form the organization of the air portion of the Tactical Air Command. The Air Training Command includes four training squadrons.
The eight major H.A.F. installations are located in Larisa, Nea Anchialos (west of Volos), Elefsis, west of Athens, Thessaloniki, Tanagra, north of Athens, Souda Bay, Araxos in the northern Peloponnese, and Andravida. Other airports supporting military operations are located in the Aegean Islands of Karpathos, Santorini (Thira), Rhodes, Skyros, and Lemnos as well as in Kavala, Heraklion, and Tatoi/Dekeleia, north of Athens.
| Air Chief Marshal or General|
Used only when the Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff is an officer of the Air Force
|Antipterarchos (OF-8)||Ypopterarchos (OF-7)||Taxiarchos (OF-6)|
|Air Marshal or Lieutenant General||Air Vice-Marshal or Major General||Air Commodore or Brigadier General|
|Sminarchos (OF-5)||Antisminarchos (OF-4)||Episminagos (OF-3)|
|Group Captain or Colonel||Wing Commander or Lieutenant Colonel||Squadron Leader or Major|
|Sminagos (OF-2)||Yposminagos (OF-1)||Anthyposminagos (OF-1)|
|Flight Lieutenant or Captain||Flying Officer or 1st Lieutenant||Pilot Officer or 2nd Lieutenant|
|Personnel Undergoing Training|
|Tetartoetis Ikaros||Tritoetis Ikaros||Defteroetis Ikaros||Protoetis Ikaros|
|4th-year Cadet||3rd-year Cadet||2nd-year Cadet||1st-year Cadet|
|Aircraft and Helicopters||Origin||Type||Versions||In service||Total Numbers||Notes|
|Alenia C-27J Spartan||Transport||C-27J||8||12||8 have entered service (as of March 2008). The remaining 4 on order will be equipped with IFRRS (In Flight Refuelling Receiver System).|
|Lockheed C-130 Hercules||Transport|| C-130B|
|15||The fleet is undergoing an Avionics Upgrade (AUP) by SPAR Aerospace and HAI|
|Douglas C-47 Skytrain||Transport||C-47B||0||1||Kept for historical reasons.|
|Gulfstream V||VIP Transport||G500||1||1|
|Embraer ERJ-135||VIP Transport||ERJ-135ER||2||2|
|Embraer R-99A (EMB-145)||Airborne Early Warning (AEW&C)||EMB-145SA||4||4||Also known as "Ericsson Erieye".|
|EAB Pegasus II||Reconnaissance (RUAV)||E1-79||5||5||12 more are under construction by the State Aircraft Factory (KEA); hence bringing in future the total numbers to 17.|
|Lockheed P-3B Orion||Maritime Patrol||P-3B||4||6||Two have been retired and used for spare parts.|
|McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II|| Fighter|
| F-4E PI2000|
|Vought A-7 Corsair II||Ground Attack|| A-7E|
| ||45||Plans to retire by 2012. All A-7Hs are kept in operational storage until the Corsair is phased out.|
|Dassault Mirage 2000||Multirole Fighter|| 2000EG/-5EG|
|Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon||Multirole Fighter|| F-16C|
|130|| Versions operating: Block 30, Block 50D, Block 52+|
20 additional F-16C and 10 F-16D (Advanced Block 52+) aircraft on order.
|Cessna T-41 Mescalero||Trainer||T-41D||19||19||Military version of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk.|
|Beechcraft T-6 Texan II||Trainer|| T-6A|
|45||T-6A NTA has the capability to carry rocket pods, gun pods, external fuel tanks and bombs (similar to T-6B).|
|Rockwell T-2 Buckeye||Trainer|| T-2C|
|43||Planned to be replaced by 37-41 new trainers. Prime candidates are the T-50, M-346, Hawk and L-159B.|
|Bombardier CL-215 Scooper||Firefighting||CL-215||13||13|
|Bombardier CL-415 Super Scooper|| Firefighting|
Firefighting & SAR
|8||CL-415MP model have SAR capabilities. It is visually recognisable by the black radome at the nose cone.|
|PZL-Mielec M-18 Dromader||Firefighting|| M-18|
|Grumman Ag Cat||Crop dusting||G-164A||12||12|
|Agusta A109||MEDEVAC Helicopter||A109 Hirundo||3||3|
|Eurocopter AS 332C1 Super Puma|| ||CSAR & SAR Helicopter||AS332C1||10||10||2 have MEDEVAC capabilities, while 4 are operated for SAR and the other four for CSAR|
|Agusta Bell AB205||SAR Helicopter||AB205A||13||13||built by Agusta. To be replaced by 15 new SAR helicopters (valued 234 million Euro), also to replace the, bellow, Bell-212.|
|Agusta Bell AB212||Transport Helicopter||AB212||4||4|
|Bell 47||Utility Helicopter||47G||7||7|
Greece operated 40 Dassault Mirage F1CG aircraft. F1CG was first ordered in 1974 and entered service in 1975 The aircraft were used by the 342 Mira (Squadron) branch of the Greek air force.. Mirage F1CG was armed with the Sidewinder AIM-9P missile, rather than the most commonly used Matra Magic II, and it could carry 4 AIM-9Ps, rather than just 2. F1CGs were decommissioned from the Greek air force on 30 June 2003 after 28 years of service and 160 000 flying hours. At least two F1CG have been preserved for display, one in Tanagra (LGTG), Greece as of 2007, and another one (registration 140) as of 2005. A third one (134) is preserved at HAF History Department, Delta Falirou.