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The Israeli Air Force : IAF in Greece: An Insider’s Look

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The large “Re’em” (Boeing 707) aircraft took off from the runways of the Hellenic Andravida airbase, filled to the brim with crewmembers who spent the past week staying at the base. Shortly after taking off, the sky filled with clouds and the passengers began falling asleep one after the other.

Photography: Carmel Stern

I stretched for a bit before looking out the window, and that was when I saw a sight I never expected to see – a “Barak” (F-16C/D) fighter jet flying just several meters away from me, so close that I was able to see the pilot waving. It didn’t take long before we found out that the person seated in the cockpit was Lt. Col. A’, the deployment commander. The other jets in the formation slowly joined in, flying at our side and waving hello.

Photography: Noam Nachum

Last week, I was sent to cover the “Iniochos” 2019 international fighter exercise, held in Greece. This is the fifth time the IAF has participated in the exercise. The other participants in this year’s exercise were the Hellenic Air Force, the United States Air Force and the Italian Air Force, which utilized its F-35 fighter jet in an international exercise for the first time. Two IAF fighter squadrons participated in “Iniochos” 2019 – one of the biggest international fighter exercises the force has ever participated in: the 117th (“First Jet”) and the 109th (“Valley”) Squadrons, both operating “Barak” fighter jets.

On Sunday, all members of the Israeli delegation congregated near Ramat-David AFB’s runways. Everyone was incredibly excited. Most of the delegation – which was made up of hundreds of service members – had never participated in an international exercise before.

Photography: Noam Nachum

We finally landed at Andravida AFB, where the exercise was being held. We settled down in the building allocated for the Israelis, which acted as our home for the week. Snowy mountains were spread across the horizon, constantly reminding us that we were in an unfamiliar place.

The sounds of takeoffs and landings were an inseparable part of the experience. Every day we would arrive at the base early in the morning and depart at sundown, and at all times the aircraft would either be preparing for a sortie or just returning from one. One four-aircraft formation had just concluded its technical maintenance and prepared for takeoff, while the technicians worked on another four-aircraft formation for the next sortie.

Photography: Noam Nachum

By the time the second formation took off, the first had already managed to return. How many training sorties can one perform in an hour? Quite a few, it seems. When they landed, the aircrews said the training is at an incredibly high level – much higher than they expected.

We had a wide variety of personnel from three squadrons – the 109th and 117th Squadrons as well as a maintenance squadron – as well as a large number of administration personnel; there were even IDF Ground Arm service members who came all the way to Greece in order to help with maintenance of the Israeli communication systems. A week may not be long, but I found out that it takes even less for people to connect. We ate together, drove together, laughed together and worked together. We all met some amazing people, and it’s good knowing that the IAF is made up of such serious service members.

Photography: Noam Nachum

A week of hard work had reached its conclusion, after endless hours of planning and preparation. The deployment was one of the IAF’s biggest and it provided all of us with experiences we will remember for the rest of our lives. Our relationship with the Hellenic Air Force improved, the aircrews learned a lot, and I am certain that next year’s exercise will be even better.

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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !