Farewell to the Corsair

Araxos, Greece, 16 and 17 October 2014

 

 

The Corsair first came to Greece in 1975, when the HAF required a replacement for the final surviving Republic F-84F Thunderstreaks. The A-7H, H for Hellas, was based on the U.S. Navyís A-7E version, but was delivered without refuelling probes and foldable wings but did include the heavier wheels and brakes of the USAFís A-7D. The type operated primarily in the maritime strike role with a secondary air defence role.

First deliveries were of the A-7H version.The Hellenic Air Force quickly followed suit with a contract for new built two seater Corsairs, albeit for just five TA-7H aircraft. In the early 1990ís, when the HAF required a replacement for those Lockheed F-104G Starfighters operating in the attack role an order was placed for a batch of former U.S. Navy A-7E single seaters and TA-7C two-seaters. All in all, another 60 copies were inducted in the HAF from 1993 onwards, 42 A-7E single seaters and no fewer than 18 TA-7C two-seaters.

October 17, 2014 finally saw the official farewell ceremony marking the type leaving Greek Air Force service with just 336 Mira still flying the type. In fact, this occasion marked the end of any A-7 flying anywhere in the world as other users like the U.S. Navy, Portuguese Air Force and Royal Thay Navy already bade their farewells years earlier. The occasion was preceded by a press and photographers day on October 16, 2014.

 

Dozens of A-7 Corsairs were presented to the photographers over these two days. Some complete, others not so anymore. To the left, an ex U.S. Navy A-7E already retired some time earlier. At centre, one of the original A-7H models. The tiger marked A-7E at right was only grounded weeks before this picture was taken.

A number of Corsairs were still airworthy during October of 2014. One of them being the very popular Black Pirate A-7E shown to the left. The pair of TA-7C two seaters represent the colour schemes worn during the final years of A-7 flying in Greece. 

The Photo Day allowed the Corsair's successor to be sampled. These F-16's represent the Hellenic Air Force's main combat strength. At left, an F-16D Block 52+ including conformal fuel tanksreturns from a training mission. The F-16D Block 52+ without its conformal tanks also belongs to 335 Mira. Also taxiing in is the F-16C Block 52+ from 340 Mira which is the Hellenic Air Force's display jet.

Notable visitors included an Embraer ERJ.145, a C-130H Hercules and a C-27J Spartan.
The brief but interesting flying display included amongst others this Beech T-6C Texan II trainer as well as displays by a solo F-16C and formation flights of A-7, F-16 and F-4E Phantom. The latter is shown right.

Any farewell ceremony can not go without a colourscheme for the occasion. This was applied to the A-7E shown. It included squadron badges from all units to have flown the Corsair in Greek service as well as serial numbers of all Corsairs to have served in the Hellenic Air Force. The sight above of three Corsairs breaking over the airfield can never be seen anywere again. 

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink

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