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Hellenic Air Force - Elliniki Polemiki Aeroporia
Air Tactics Centre (Kentro Aeroporikis Taktikis - KEAT)

Andravida Air Base, Greece
October 2014

RF-4E Phantom II (7500) of 348 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 110 Combat Wing from Larissa.
The Tactical Weapons School (Scholio Oplon Taktikis - SOT) was founded in 1975 at Andravida air base. At that time it was called the Hellenic Air Force Fighter Weapons School tasked to provide advanced training and education for its elite pilots, mirroring United States Air Force philosophy as employed with their highly successful Red Flag exercises.

In 1983 the Air Tactics Centre (Kentro Aeroporikis Taktikis - KEAT) was formed as an independent wing of the Hellenic Air Force (HAF). KEAT (pronounced 'ke-at') now oversaw the work carried out by SOT (pronounced 'sot') in coordinating between the Hellenic Air Force, Army and Navy for the testing and evaluation of new equipment and weapons prior to being issued to the squadrons. From the first course held in 1976 the annual course has been updated to include the latest flying tactics while introducing the students to the latest weapons. SOT receives the best pilots from across all the HAF squadrons to attend its courses on air-to-air and air-to-ground tactics including flying in Composite Air Operations (COMAO) large formation packages and Electronic Warfare. In 2014 a new tailor-made building to house the Air Tactics Centre was opened on the eastern side of the air base.
Lt Col George Bontzios aka ‘Sniper’ is the current SOT Commander. An SOT and TLP graduate he has 1,000 plus hours on the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Training elite pilots
F-16D Block 30 Fighting Falcon (145) of 330 Squadron 111 Wing from Néa Anghialos. In the early morning condensation has formed inside the cockpit canopy.
Lt Col George Bontzios aka 'Sniper' is the current SOT Commander; "The mission of the SOT is to provide the best training for our best professionals not just pilots, so they can become elite". An SOT course is designed to reflect current needs no two courses are the same. "Each year the course adapts to the latest developments, taking into account the threat and tactical environment, the lessons learned and global counter-terrorism trends", stated Col Bontzios.

Two directors are responsible for the setting up of each course one director concentrates on tactics the other on training. Each SOT fighter aircraft course is held at Andravida and lasts up to four months, the first part is theoretical and leads on to the flying course which lasts around ten weeks with pilots each flying up to 20 sorties. During the course SOT aircraft will fly against 60 to 70 different aircraft from other wings. Months of planning go in to each one, which is carefully structured to reflect the knowledge of air warfare developed over many years and utilises the experience of aircrews.

Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail
"The training here is more realistic with more and varied assets which are used by experts. In the SOT you will fly four versus four or four versus eight. We have aircraft of every type and GBADs [Ground Base Air Defence] from Stinger to Patriot [ground to air missiles], it is very challenging for them", explained Lt Col Bontzios. Taking note of the SOT motto, "Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail" Col Bontzios and his team of directors and instructor pilots started preparing for this year's course from the end of the end of the previous one some ten months ago.

The SOT has around ten instructors permanently assigned to KEAT these pilots are selected by the Air Tactics Centre from those that have excelled at a previous SOT course. Almost every course discovers a potential SOT instructor. SOT instructors are either senior majors or senior captains and will have attended Red Flag exercises in the United States and the Tactical Leadership Program (TLP).
F-16C Block 52M Fighting Falcon (005) of 335 Squadron, 116 Wing based at Araxos taxiing out  at Andravida

The groundcrew descend on this recently returned F-16D Block 50 Fighting Falcon (081) as soon as its has been made safe and the engine are shut down. This jet belongs to 111 Wing and normally based at Néa Anghialos.
Around 35 students are carefully selected and originate from almost every combat specialty drawn from across all the frontline squadrons. They will have above average experience, “We don’t just want good pilots to attend we want good character, good teachers with good knowledge”, Lt Col Bontzios revealed.

The students bring their own aircraft, as KEAT does not have its own assigned aircraft. At least one combat aircraft of each type is temporarily based at Andravida for the duration of the practical flying element of the course, that is; Mirage 2000 and 2000-5, F-4E and RF-4E Phantom and F-16C/D Block 30, 50, 52+ and 52M Fighting Falcons. The assembled flight consists of between 18 and 20 aircraft. The SOT can call upon all parts of the military that fulfil a role to enhance the quality of the training. Col Bontzios said, “DACT [dissimilar air combat training] has a key role because every mission has a multi-role aspect”.

KEAT shares Andravida with 117 Combat Wing which comprises two squadrons (338 Mira and 339 Mira) which fly the McDonnell Douglas F-4E(AUP) Phantom II and are frequently called upon to provide aircraft and pilots for the course. Lt Col Theodoros Aivaliotis the current 338 Squadron Commander has 2000 hours on the F-4E. He attended the SOT course of 2002 and described his experience, “At that time we did not have AMRAAM [Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile] so it was astonishing to see what F-16s could do with this missile, now we are part of this game”. The Hellenic F-4E(AUP) Phantom was converted to use AMRAAM just after that 2002 course.

F-4E(AUP) Phantom II (01524) in the colours of 338 Mira is about to touch down at the southern end of Andravida's runway and the end of its sortie.
Large formations
Col Aivaliotis selected on of his pilots for this years course based on his capabilities, experience and how he wanted to use him after his graduation. “He will come back with knowledge of working with other pilots from other squadrons and how other pilots react to situations and the planning of COMAOs [Composite Air Operation]”, said Col Aivaliotis. A two week COMAO course element is used to prepare the pilots to become mission commanders to assist with planning and theoretical execution. A COMAO can consist of 16 to 20 or more aircraft and are typically used to mount a full scale attack on another squadron or wing. For COMAO mission planning students work as a team, there is not the latitude to work individually, flight safety is important to ensure there is aircraft de-confliction.

Tanagra based Mirage 2000EG (215) with 332 Squadron, 114 Wing were used as 'Red Air' operating from their home base.
114 Combat Wing at Tanagra operate their Dassault Mirage 2000-5s as ‘red air’ opponents for many of the air combat scenarios. This year there was an emphasis on anti-shipping with frequent strikes against Hellenic Navy assets defended by Tanagra’s Mirage 2000s. Not all missions were flown over the sea often the naval strike missions included low or medium level flights over land defended by GBADs (ground based air defence) explained Col Bontzios. The number of GBADs were increased over those involved in previous years. The aging but still effective VELOS system, a mobile, all-weather, short-range anti-aircraft system with a combination of missiles and guns was also utilised this year.

We will miss the A-7 Corsair
For the first time the venerable A-7E Corsair II was not included in the course as the type was due to be retired from service after 40 years actually during the course. Col Bontzios was obviously sad over the old A-7’s absence said, “Its not an old A-7! We love the A-7 here the pilots are experts at low level flying and strike missions, we are going to miss them”, adding “We have more F-16s and F-4s available to replace the A-7s”.

The students completing the SOT course graduate as Instructors of the Fighter Weapons School they can go anywhere and perform well at either TLP or Red Flag. Col Bontzios summed up the course, “It is very challenging and demanding, the successful graduate must be able to overcome any tactical challenge, while being able to teach others”. International involvement is the next step for KEAT and SOT and already plans have been put forward to Hellenic Air Force headquarters.
F-16C Block 50 Fighting Falcon (046) of 341 Mira 'Aces', 111 PM from Néa Anghialos about to touchdown at Andravida
Left to right: F-16D Block 30 Fighting Falcon (145) of 330 Squadron 111 Wing from Néa Anghialos,
F-16C Block 52M Fighting Falcon (005 and 014) of 335 Squadron, 116 Wing based at Araxos,
Part of the line-up on the ramp exclusively used by F-16s.

RF-4E Phantom II (7500) of 348 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 110 Combat Wing from Larissa.
Left to right: RF-4E Phantom II (7500) of 348 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 110 Combat Wing from Larissa.
Left to right: RF-4E Phantom II (7500) is about to return to its home base at Larissa before Andravida's runway was closed for maintenance for the rest of the week.
Left to right: RF-4E Phantom II (7500)

F-16D Block 50 Fighting Falcon (081) of 111 PM, 347 Mira based at Néa Anghialos.
Left to right: F-16D Block 50 Fighting Falcon (081) returning to the F-16 ramp after completing its mission.
Left to right: F-16D Block 50 Fighting Falcon (081) is fitted with LANTIRN a system consisting of two pods which allow aircrew to fly their aircraft by day or night and in adverse meteorological conditions. It provides Terrain-Following Radar (TFR), Forward-Looking infrared (FLIR), targeting information for the aircraft's on-board fire control system and target laser illumination, on the port chin station is a AN/AAQ-13 Navigation pod and a AN/AAQ-14 Trageting Pod on the starboard chin station.

F-16C Block 52M Fighting Falcon (005) of 335 Squadron, 116 Wing based at Araxos.
Left to right: F-16C Block 52+ Fighting Falcon (528) and F-16D Block 52+ Fighting Falcon (618) both of 343 Squadron, 115 Wing based at Soúda.
Left to right: F-16C Block 52M Fighting Falcon (014) of 335 Squadron, 116 Wing based at Araxos.
Left to right: F-16D Block 30 Fighting Falcon (145) of 330 Squadron 111 Wing from Néa Anghialos.
F-16C Block 50 Fighting Falcon (046) of 341 Mira 'Aces', 111 PM from Néa Anghialos.
Left to right: F-16C Block 50 Fighting Falcon (046) of 341 Mira 'Aces', 111 PM from Néa Anghialos.
Left to right: F-16C Block 52M Fighting Falcon (005) of 335 Squadron, 116 Wing based at Araxos.