117th Combat Wing

Andravida Air Base (Ανδραβίδας) is displaced in the north-western Peloponnese, not far from the base of Araxos. It is home to the 117th Combat Wing (117 Πτέρυγα Μάχης) with a typical composition within the Greek air force of two groups, the 338th Fighter Bomber Squadron (338 Μοίρα Δίωξης / Βομβαρδισμού) and the 339 All Weather Squadron (339 Μοίρα Παντός Καιρού ), both equipped with F-4E Peace Icarus 2000.




The work on the base began in 1955, but only in 1960 the base was completed taking the name of Killini-Andravida Air Detachment. On 1961 it was then assigned to the 117th Combat Group. In this way he became an effect airbase operational. The wing was formed by only a group, with 339 Sqn using  the F-84F came from the base area of Elefsis, near Athens. In 1969 the 117th Combat Group was renamed the 117th Combat Wing and was selected to receive the F-4 fighter just ordered through a USAF FMS  contract (Foreign Military Sales ). As a result, the base was subjected to an intensive upgrade program, that  forced to move the squadron to the nearby Araxos, passing the 339 Sqn then in office at 116 Combat Wing. However, only at the beginning of 1974 the first F-4E landed on the base and by the end of the year all the aircraft were delivered. Only then the 339 Sqn returned on the basis of Andravida, along with 338Sqn, which was closed in June 1974. These two groups share the roles of fighter-bomber and interceptor. To these are added the 368th Squadron Training (368 Applied Training Flight) with 4 T-33, but it was disbanded in March 1989. Since 1978 the airport was equipped with a third runway and a weather radar in 1979 and also the logistics component was completed. Since then the base has been structured and operated in the same way. Over the years the two groups, along with 337 Sqn of the 110 Combat Wing, exchanged aircraft and missions until 2000 when the program Peace Icarus 2000 begins, the update of the F-4E. On that occasion, in fact, the 338Sqn assumed the role of fighter-bomber and interceptor to 339 Sqn, both with F-4E date.

Air Tactics Center

On Andravida AB is also present the Air Tactics Center (or Air Warfare Center, KEAT) which  is divided into two sections, the Inter-Branch School Electronic Warfare (DSIP), which brings together officers from all three Weapons, and Tactics and Weapons-School (SOT), involving only the staff of the Air Force. The school course is held 2-3 times a year and lasts about 6 weeks. Currently the pilots of all combat units, arriving at the base with its own aircraft, as well as air traffic controllers participate. So pilots of F-16, (R) F-4E, A-7 and Mirage 2000 take part at the school. Weekly then the pilots return to their base for any operational assignments. Those who are invited are usually the most promising and capable captains and lieutenants with at least 500 hours of flight time, on proposed by the group commander. At the end of the course participants are graded as "instructors SOT.

338th Fighter Bomber Squadron "Aris"

The 338 Sqn was established the December 24, 1952, at theElefsis Base as 338 Fighter Bomber Squadron equipped with F-84G Thunderjet. In 1953 the group was moved to Larissa AB in Thessaly, where he remained until November 1956, when it was re-incorporated into the 112th Combat Wing Elefsis. In 1958 May it was then transferred to Souda Base(Crete), home of the 115th Combat Wing, where he remained until 1960 when he was put in Stand-by Position. In 1963 he was reactivated as the 338th Fighter Bomber Squadron always part of the 115th Combat Wing, re-equipped with F-84F Thunderstreak. In April 1974 the group was divided into two squadrons, one on F-84F and one on the F-4E, until August of 1974, when with the resumption of deliveries from the U.S. (temporarily blocked as a result of Cypriots tensions) of the F-4E, the two squadrons were brought together, under the command of CO Lt.Col. Harilaos Aggelopoulos. In 1991 exchanged their F-4E with the 337th Sqn 110 Combat Wing giving the F-4E ex-Missouri ANG. Between 1999 and 2003, because of the Peace Icarus 2000 update program, the two groups exchanged againg the aircraft. Result of this, the 338th Sqn is now equipped with F-4E AUP (Peace Icarus 2000) and has as its primary role as fighter-bomber, with benefits equal to those of a fighter of 3rd generation.

339th All Weather Squadron "Aias"

The 339th Fighter Bomber Squadron was formed on July 7, 1952 at the Elefsis base equipped with F-84G. In August 1959 the group was re-equipped with F-84F and was transferred to the Larissa Air Base in Thessaly, with the 110th Combat Wing. In April 1960 he was then again transferred to the 111th Combat Wing, Nea Anghialos, still in Thessaly. In March 1961 he was again moved  to the new born 117th Combat Wing at Andravida. In 1973 the group was chosen to receive the first F-4E Phantom II by the United States and during the expectation it was transferred to the 116th Combat Wing of the nearby base Araxos. Deliveries of the new fighter began April 5, 1974 at the Andravida Air Base. The first CO was Lieutenant Colonel Sotirios Kontogiannis. The official ceremony was held on 20 April of that year. In the same year, on July 20 the last crew  trained by the 31st TFW in Homestead (Florida, USA) returned.
Two days after the new F-4E were immediately called into action when the Greeks F-5A came into contact with the Turkish F-102A. Within three months a group of F-4E was on temporary duty at Heraklion Base, where it played several CAP missions over the Aegean. Unfortunately, in this period was also recorded the first loss, caused by during landing problems. Towards the end of 1970, all aircraft were equipped with the DIAS EW suite and the group was renamed as 339 All Weather Interceptor Squadron. In 1979 the group was then refitted with the new F-4E ordered through the contract FMS Peace Icarus II and it gave the "old" F-4 to 337th Sqn of Larissa. Since 1982 the group took as main role interception and only as a secondary role the fighter-bomber. Since 1999, the group began to send the aircraft to the Hellenic Aerospace Industries at Tanagra for the upgrade program (Peace Icarus 2000) and SLEP (service-life extension program). Deliveries of the aircraft began in 2003. Since then, the group trains and fly with the F-4E AUP updated standard.

The F-4E history in the Elliniki Polemiki Aeroporia (Greek Air Force)

 The Greek  air force is one of the last that flies this glorious aircraft, build in 1958 in McDonald-Douglas factories, on U.S. Navy request. It was later adopted also by the USAF and during the years by many other air forces, including Great Britain, West Germany, Spain, Turkey and Greece, to name a few. Particularly in Greece his purchase was rather difficult. In 1967 the United States-Greece relations were somewhat thesis, since the government in Greece,the military junta were poorly seen from U.S. Congress, largely because of the rising tension between Greece and Turkey for what happened in Cyprus. Consequences of the difficult relationships were non-delivery of the 3rd and final batch of F-5A / B and the block in November of that year of the sale of spare parts for their fighters,never officialy. For this reason, the EPA (the Greek air force) wanted to buy aircraft not manufactured by the United States. Particular interest was raised by the French bid which include an assembly line for the Mirage F-1C in Greece, plus a 20% on sales of the fighter. However, this contract was very expensive and was therefore discarded. Also in 1972 the Nixon administration lifted the de-facto embargo and even the United States offered to Greece not only the F-4E, but also A-7H, T-2E and C-130B.
The maxi-contract would be paid through the Foreign Military Sales and it would fully update the EPA. The junta, well aware of this and also looking at buying a political advantage to improve relations with the U.S., did not miss the offer and February 13, 1972 signed a contract named Peace Icarus to purchase 36 F-4E for a value of 160,000,000 USD.  As already mentioned, the 117th Fighter Wing was selected to receive the new aircraft. Consequently, the Andravida Base began the construction of a new taxi-way and reinforced shelters. Crews from the F-84F went to Homestead AB, Florida, home of the 31st TFW to train on Air-Air and Air-Ground task. The first pilots returned to Greece in April 1974 simultaneously with the delivery of the aircraft. By July 20, 1974, 24 F-4E were in Greece, and 42 pilots, declared "combat ready" by their American instructors, including 8 trainers, had already returned to their base. On the same day, Turkey invaded Cyprus. In response to this, the military arranged the F-4E in various FOB, including Tanagra and Heraklion. On 22 July of the same year, 3 F-4E of 339th Sqn on a CAP missions over the Aegean Sea, they heard through the radio a dogfight in progress between the Greek F-5A and Turkish F-102, the first lieutenant, Ioannis Dinopoulos, intervened to shoot-down a first F-102 and preventing the return of a second plane that crashed during landing. Within three months of the Greek air force pilots were ordered to fly CAP missions with armed missiles. During the same period, a result of serious problems during the landing, was also recorded the first loss of F-4E. However, the planes were never sent to Cyprus, since the new democratic government feared an open war with Turkey. At the end of 1974 the various Greek detachment were closed and all personnel returned to their bases.

In 1976 was signed Peace Icarus II contract, which provides the purchase of 20 F-4E (2 of them as "attrition replacements) and 8 RF-4E. The first were assigned to 337 Sqn of Larissa , while the RF-4E were assigned to 348th Sqn also at Larissa, where together with the RF-84F (operational until 1991), were responsible for reconnaissance missions. While the Mirage F-1 CG, purchased by Greece during the years were the best Dogfighter, in 1970 was assigned the role of interceptors to the Phantom equipped with the electronic DIAS EW suites thanks to the greater autonomy. In the late 'eighties, Greece acquired third generation aricraft, but despite this, the Phantom remained an important part of Greek air defense, because they could fly in any weather. In 1991 the United States of America and Greece signed the Southern Region Agreement. As compensation for signing it the U.S. provided 28 new F-4E of 131th FS, Missouri ANG, which were intended to 338th Sqn. Were also purchased 27 former Luftwaffe RF-4E. Meanwhile, the Service Life Extension Program begins for all F-4 of the Greek air force. In addition 36 F-4E,  of the 338th and 339th Sqn, were also upgraded to Peace Icarus 2000 standard (AUP).

Based on an agreement between the Hellenic Aerospace Industries and the German Dasa,the upgrade was based almost on ICE updating of the German Luftwaffe. Specifically, it was introduced the new APG-65 radar, the ability to launch the Amraam, the AIM-9M el'IRIS-T, at the expense of compatibility with the AIM-7. Were also introduced AFDS, an advanced IFF screens and new MFD. Finally it was integrated air-ground capabilities, including the JDAM and GBU series, the Rafael Litening II, the AGM-142 Popeye. The work was carried out by the Greek industries, except for the two prototypes (72-1523, 77-176, princepess of Andravida) updated in Manching's DASA Germany. The phantom recently received from the United States were not updated and were stored in 2003, while they were assigned to the 337th Sqn.
The Phantom over the years often changed livery. Initially they used the SEA livery. But with the purchase of the Mirage F-1CG they adopted the Aegan Blue, more suitable to the Greek environment. The F-4 ex-ANG, on the other hand, keeped the Gray Hill II. In 1996, given the success of Ghost painting of F-16, recently buyed, all the F-4E were repaainted with this livery. About the RF-4E, the first 7 to still retain the SEA color, while the remaining 27 former Luftwaffe RF-4E are now moving from Europe to the SEA.
                Text by Marco Sommacal

    Marco's Photo Gallery    

Massimo's Photo Gallery





We would thank all the staff of the 117th Combat Wing and the 339th Mira. In particular, Lt. John Racniotis, pilot of the 339th Gruop, which accompanied us during all the wonderful visit. A special thanks also to all the Security Office, that waiting for us, permited us to make the most of the day, thanks. Thanks, finally, to Col. Roberto Cattaneo of the Italian Embassy in Greece for made possible this day.