Archangel 2008, Tanagra, Greece

12/13 September 2008



In September 2008 the Hellenic Air Force staged another big airshow at their Tanagra Air Base, an hours drive to the north of Athens. Named for Archangel Michael, the patron saint of the Hellenic Air Force, the show had been staged once before in September of 2005. On that occasion the Greek had organised a major international air show for the first time. The 2008 event was announced rather shortly before the actual date, as had been the case with the 2005 one.

Nevertheless, the show proved to be an excellent opportunity to view Greek  Air Force hardware up close, including some type rarely seen outside of Greece. Tanagra is tasked with air defence of the country´s capital Athens and houses two squadrons of Mirage 2000´s for that purpose within fighter wing 114 Pterigha Makhis. Component squadron 331 Mira "Aegeas" flies the newly acquired  Mirage 2000-5EGM, with the 20 year old Mirage 2000EG flying with sister unit 332 Mira "Geraki". One of the former's Mirage 2000-5EGM's is seen here during a mass take-off.



  Although NATO has based an E-3A AWACS detachment at Preveza in western Greece from the ealy 1980's, the HAF nevertheless desired an own Airborne Early Warning unit. Consequently, an order was placed with Embraer for a quartet of EMB.145H AEW&C machines. Purchased in 1999 and to be flown by 380 "Uranus" ASEPE (Aeroferomeno Sistsina Egezis Proidopiissis-Elenhou or Airborne System Early Warning and Control), the four jets are to be based at Elefsis near Athens. System integration difficulties with the Brazilian airframe and its Swedish Ericsson EriEye radar have prevented acceptance for a long time, hence the civil registration on the rear of the aircraft. Nevertheless, a pair of these aircraft were present during the show.

Three types that make up Greek air power. To the left, one of the A-7E Corsairs still in operation. Newly supplied A-7H's have now been retired, however some of the 54 A-7E's and 18 TA-7C's are still available for two squadrons within 116 PM at Araxos. The specially painted A-7E is from 336 MTV "Olympos". The F-16C Block 52+ at centre is part of 337 Mira "Ghost" which is based at Larissa within 110 PM. Some, but not all, are fitted with conformal fuel tanks. The jets' focus is on air defence, working with the EMB.145H's above. Old, but still going strong are the RF-4E Phantoms from 348 MTA at Larissa as well. 

All these types took part in a mass take off, providing excellent photographic opportunities during both taxiing past the public as well as during launch and recovery. 

Every self respecting air force nowadays shows its rotary wing hardware during an air power demonstration of some sort. The Greek were no exception. To the left, a Greek Army AH-64A Apache is seen cavorting over the base during a CSAR demonstration, the actual pull-out being done by an AS.332C1 Super Puma. 

Part of the static display was the S.70B-6 Aegean Hawk to the right. This helicopter operates from Greek Navy frigates in an Anti Submarine role.

The Hellenic Air Force operates a wide variety of transports. The newly acquired Alenia C-27J Spartan could be admired both in the static park as well as during a mass flypast of most types in the inventory. The Hellenic Air Force has been unique in operating the Japanese built NAMC YS.11 transport. Equally unique must have been that the only surviving example of the type could be seen in Tanagra's static park! Having been retired from transport duties, the type is now used for navaid calibration. The mass flypast mentioned before included this pair of C-130H Hercules, the front one displaying artwork to commemorate the type's 170.000 hours flown until 2007. 

Being situated in Southern Europe, Greece gets more than its fair share of wildfires. In order to combat them, the HAF  operates a fleet of large Canadair CL.415GR amphibians, one of which can be seen in action to the right, about to extinguish a burning demonstration target. The Canadairs maintain detachments at various locations during the fire season from their base at Thessaloniki-Mikra where they fly with 383 MEEA "Proteas". The turbine powered CL.415GR's joined a number of piston powered CL.215's some time ago. 



It may be strange to see agricultural aeroplanes in service with any air force, but they have their use as back-ups to the big Canadairs for fire fighting duties. Two types of crop sprayers are in use, the American Grumman G.164 AgCat biplane seen here, as well as the Polish built PZL M.18 Dromader. Operating with 359 MAEDY(Crop Spraying Squadron) home based at Dekhelia-Tatoi, they may be found throughout Greece during the summer period.

In Europe, the Hellenic Air Force is unique also in still operating the Douglas C-47. A handful of former USAF as well as former RAF examples still fly within Greece from Thessaloniki-Mikra with 355 MTM over 70 years after the type first flew in prototype form and more than 40 years after some air forces already retired their Dakotas.

Six Lockheed P-3B Orions, acquired second hand from the U.S. Navy, provide Greece with a maritime patrol capability. They replaced a number of Grumman HU-16B Albatross amphibians during the early 1990's. Out of those six, two could be seen at Tanagra which is not a bad score. Although their ASW equipment may not be to the latest standard, they still represent a useful coastal surveillance force.

In the HAF training is done on some rather extraordinary equipment as far as European air forces go. For elementary traing, the HAF relies on the Cessna 172 in its military guise. As a military trainer the type is known as the T-41D Mescalero and can be seen to the left. Advanced training has been the domain of the Rockwell T-2 Buckeye. Two versions are in operation, the T-2C and the T-2E. The jet at centre is a T-2E. Most recent addition and seen here during its display over Tanagra is the Beech T-6A Texan II, a complete redesign of the Pilatus PC.9 and used for primary training replacing Cessna T-37 jets. 

Although the air display contained exclusively Greek types, the static park did show a number of foreign aircraft. One of the most interesting ones being this Romanian built IAR.330 Puma in its SOCAT combat support version. Other NATO partners displayed F-16's as well as  Eurofighter Typhoon, Tornado and Mirage 2000D giving the show an international flavour.


Displayed on base were a number of types operated by the Tanagra based squadrons in the past. Greece and Turkey for that matter as well were the only countries in the world operating redundant USAF F-102A Delta Daggers, but the F-104G Starfighter was no stranger in Greece as well. The immediate predecessor to today's Mirage 2000, the Mirage F.1CG was preserved as well. No less than three examples of this French fighter could be found, including this especially marked one.

All in all, an excellent opportunity to stock up on one's collection of Hellenic Air Force images. Add to that the fine weather experienced. Well done, Hellenic Air Force. Who knows, another show like this in two or three years time? 

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink