Special Report : Arrival First Hellenic Rafales - Tanagra, Greece
Hellenic Air Force Rafales Arrive – Tanagra, Greece
The Rafale has been delivered to the Hellenic Air Force with the arrival in Greece of the first batch on January 19, 2022. George Karavantos reports.
The new Rafales of the HAF - A new era has begun
On the 19th of January, 2022, six of the newly acquired Rafale fighters were introduced into HAF service when they touched down for the first time on runway 28 of Tanagra air base, starting a new chapter in the history of the Hellenic Air Force.
Following the Mirage F-1 in 1975, the Mirage 2000 in 1988, and the Mirage 2000-5 in 2007, the Rafale has become the new French fighter for the HAF, while Tanagra air base will continue its legacy of being the "nest" of these Dassault fighters.
Arrival of the Hellenic Rafales:
The Greek Rafales had departed on the same morning from Istres, France, and flew without any air refuelling to Greece. They entered the Greek FIR around midday and escorted by three Mirage 2000-5s, they headed towards Athens to perform a historic low pass over the Acropolis monument. After that they continued to their new base, Tanagra air base, where the Greek political and military leadership was waiting for them.
The first Rafale aircraft delivered at Tanagra were 4 single-seaters (coded 410-413) and two two-seaters (401 and 402).
It was a big moment in the modern history of Greece and the HAF since this fighter aircraft is the first new Greek fighter to be introduced into service since the Mirage 2000s and F-16s were introduced.
Greece's procurement of the Rafale:
During a period of heightened tension with its neighbour Turkey, Greece signed a contract with France on covering the rapid delivery of 18 Rafales from France.
The deal, approved by the Greek parliament in December 2020, comprised 12 second-hand Rafales from French Air and Space Force stock (10 C-model single-seaters and two B-model twin-seaters) and six new built aircraft, along with a four-and-a-half-year logistic support package. A separate 400 million Euros deal was also signed to purchase MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs) and to upgrade missiles already in the HAF inventory, namely Mica air-to-air missiles, Scalp cruise missiles, and Exocet anti-ship missiles, for carriage by the Rafales.
Greece requested another six more Dassault Rafale fighters to be added to its original order, acquiring a total of 24 fighter aircraft. The top-up buy was announced by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a nationally televised speech from the Thessaloniki Industrial Fair on September 11, 2021.
332 Mira "Geraki":
About a year after the Mirage 2000 had entered service with 331 Squadron, a second squadron was formed on the 11th of August 1989. 332 Squadron was named “Geraki” (Hawk) with its emblem depicting a Hawk over a map of Greece with the Hellenic flag on the right bottom. 332 Squadron started with Mirages received from 331 Squadron along with pilots and mechanics, who trained the new personnel still inexperienced with the Mirage 2000.
When 332 Mira reached full operational status on the 15th of July 1990, all personnel was redistributed between the Squadrons so that both could maintain the same level of knowledge and experience. When 331 Squadron started to receive the new Mirage 2000-5, 332 Squadron received its remaining EG/BGs. The Squadron continued to operate these older versions to this day.
The new Rafales will be delivered to 332 Squadron, which currently operate around 16 Dassault Mirage 2000EG and two 2000BG two-seaters. The squadron will immediately start to withdraw its Mirage 2000s, which will all be phased out by mid-2022 - beginning of 2023, after 34 years of service. These remaining Mirage 2000EGs / BGs have logged more than 130.000 hours!
Raising the total number of Rafales to 24, it permits the HAF to replace its surviving first-generation Dassault Mirage 2000s, restoring the force of 114 Combat Wing to a combined fleet (along with the 24 upgraded Mirages) of 48 aircraft in total.
The Hellenic Dassault Legacy:
The first French fighter for Greece, the Mirage F-1CG, arrived in Tanagra on the 4th of August 1975 and ever since 114 Combat Wing has always operated Dassault’s Mirage fighters.
In March 1985, the Greek government announced the purchase of 36 single-seat Mirage 2000EG and 4 two-seat Mirage 2000BG in addition to the procurement of the F-16C/D Block 30. In 1989 the first Mirage 2000 aircraft were introduced into HAF service and delivered to two newly founded Squadrons, the 331 Mira and the 332 Mira, marking the beginning of a new era for the 114 Combat Wing.
On June 30, 2003, the Mirage F-1CG was prematurely retired after 28 years of continuous service. From that point on, 114CW only consists of these two Squadrons operating the Mirage 2000.
In 2000, Greece signed a new agreement with Dassault for the order of 15 new-built Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2 fighters. In addition to the new aircraft, 10 Mirage 2000s from the existing HAF fleet were brought up to 2000-5 Mk.2 standard by Hellenic Aerospace Industry using upgrade kits provided by Dassault. These were all single-seat 2000EGs, the 10 airframes were selected based on their lower level of fuselage fatigue compared to the other 2000EGs.
A bright future for the HAF:
The Rafale is a strategic "game changer" for the HAF. It will play an active role by securing Greece’s leadership as a major regional power. As the Chief of General Staff, Rear Admiral George Blioumis, had stated during the acceptance ceremony of the first Rafale fighter aircraft in Istres, France, last July: "The Rafale F3R is an aviation platform that incorporates these technological innovations that will enable the rapid and effective response to any emerging threat within the Greek FIR and up to the Eastern Mediterranean.
The aircraft’s advanced operational capabilities combined with modern weapons, superior range, and significantly improved tactical perception will ensure air superiority and dominance and support the objective of deterrence. The Rafale “…can deliver strategic results across a wide range of air operations, from strategic strikes to air operations against naval forces and beyond the reach of our potential adversaries. Therefore, it sends a clear message about our ability and credibility to deal with existing and future threats," Rear Admiral George Blioumis said.
This first delivery comes successfully only after a year from the announcement and only six months following the signature of the contract for the acquisition of 18 Rafales, configured to the latest F3R standard, which later on became 24 in total. This is something that has not ever been achieved before and clearly demonstrates the strong relationship and cooperation of these two nations when there is a need. This was also underlined by the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during his speech on the Rafale’s arrival day.
During recent years, the HAF has begun a modernization effort. The upgrade of the existing F-16 fleet to the V-standard, the acquisition of these 24 Rafales, along with taking the next step of joining the F-35 program, create the conditions of once again becoming a leading European air arm. In addition, the establishment of an international training centre in Kalamata will ensure a bright future.
Report and photos by George Karavantos ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 6 February 2022