HELLENIC DELTAS

HELLENIC DELTAS

Report and photos by George Karavantos

October 18, 2018

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, 331 and 332, which were based at 114 CW, in Tanagra AB, marking the beginning of a new era for the HAF.

The 114 Combat Wing was formed on the 22nd of August 1956 and it initially consisted of three Squadrons. The first F-104 Starfighters arrived at Tanagra AB in April of 1964 and they kept operating from there until June 30, 1977. On February 16, 1967, the F-102 Delta Dagger arrived and stayed at Tanagra AB for almost 10 years until they retired in the beginning of 1977. The first French fighter for Greece, the Mirage F-1CG, touched down for the first time on runway 10-28 on the 4th of August 1975 and ever since 114CW has always operated Mirage fighters.

331 Squadron was founded on the 18th of April 1988 for the acceptance of the Mirage 2000 into HAF service. The squadron was named “Thisseas” after the ancient Greek hero and its emblem shows Theseus pointing out a direction that two Mirages follow. The first aircraft landed at Tanagra AB on April 27 and at the same time all the training in different levels by French instructors had commenced. There were also a number of experienced pilots, who were previously selected from other HAF squadrons and had already been trained on the Mirage 2000 in France.

About a year after the Mirage 2000 had entered service with 331 Squadron, the 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 in the bottom right. The second Mirage 2000 Squadron mainly used the former 334 Squadron facilities at Tanagra (which was operating the Mirage F-1CG), as 334 Sq had relocated to Iraklion, Crete. 332 Squadron started with Mirages received from 331 Sq 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.

Despite the previous weapon of choice for the Mirage F-1CG being of the American AIM-9 Sidewinder, this time French missiles were selected for the French aircraft. Procured along with the aircraft, the short-range IR-guided Matra Magic IIs were initially the only missiles equipping the Mirage 2000s. In 1996 the capabilities of the Mirages were enhanced with the short to medium range radar-guided Matra Super 530D. These two air-to-air missiles in combination with the modern self-protection system ICMS (Integrated Counter Measures System) made the Mirage 2000 one of the best and more advanced fighters operated in the region at that time.

In 1999, HAF officials decided to order a new anti-ship missile, the AM.39 Exocet. With the addition of this new weapon the Mirage 2000 gained the anti-shipping role, and for this reason the EG/BG were designated EGM/BGM.

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 examples 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 M2000s, the 10 airframes were selected based on their lower level of fuselage fatigue compared to the other single-seaters. The two most important new systems of 2000-5 Mk.2 were the RDY-2 radar and the self-defence suite ICMS Mk3. These two systems became the audit field of extensive testing of the Greek-French team IFEPG (In Flight Evaluation Program Group) which lasted three years starting from the Summer of 2003 in order to determine the compliance of these systems with their specifications.

331 Squadron was selected to receive the new and upgraded aircraft, giving it a fleet of 25 aircraft. From the initial batch of 40 M2000EG/BG that the HAF had acquired, the remaining fleet after losses and accidents, minus the 10 upgraded ones was around 25 EGM/BGM aircraft. So on the 1st of March 2007 the Squadron handed over all its remaining older Mirages to 332 Squadron, so each would have 25 aircraft.

The new era for 331 began on the 3rd of May 2007 when the first Mirage 2000-5 touched down on the runway of Tanagra airfield. Training followed provided by French personnel and the Squadron became operational again almost a year later. The squadron received the last-ever built Mirage 2000, which rolled off the production line on 23 November 2007.

New and more sophisticated weapons arrived along with the new Mirages and these were the advanced air-to-air missile MICA in both radar-guided and IR-guided versions. Also for the first time in the history of the Greek Mirages, a new air-to-ground stand-off weapon, the SCALP munitions dispensing cruise missile, was introduced to the inventory of the HAF. While it is compatible with the 2000-5 Mk.2, the Magic II missile is only being carried by the older EGM/BGM variants since the -5 has the modern MICAs. While it was possible to integrate the Exocet anti-ship missile on the -5, the HAF decided not to proceed with this option, since with the introduction of the SCALP the -5 already has a secondary role.

When 331 Squadron started to receive the new Mirage 2000-5, 332 Squadron received its remaining EGM/BGMs. To this day 332 Squadron continues to operate these older versions. The non-upgraded Mirage 2000 EGM/BGMs still have the capability of the Super 530D and to launch the Exocet anti-shipping missile. However, the Super 530D which lacks a CW (Continuous Wave) Illuminator is outdated compared to the other medium range missiles including the MICA-EM of the M2000-5, but also the AIM-120 AMRAAM of the F-16.

The Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2, offers many tactical advantages compared to the Mirage 2000EG. The Thales RDY all-weather synthetic aperture radar offers increased capabilities compared to the previous RDI of the Mirage 2000EGM. It has the ability to track 24 targets and is capable of simultaneous launch of up to four missiles against multiple targets. It also provides the aircraft with air-to-ground radar capabilities.

Other enhancements to offensive systems include a datalink for the mid-course targeting of MICA ER missiles. Other upgrades included the addition of an on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS), updated secure radio, and digital datalink for tactical information sharing. The Greek Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2 was also fitted with the updated ICMS Mk3 (Integrated Counter Measures System) suite. The Mirage 2000-5 cockpit has with high resolution Multi Function Displays for situational awareness and reducing the pilot’s workload. The pilot has the ability to control most of the necessary functions of his on-board equipment with HOTAS, his hands not leaving from the stick and the throttle.

All Greek machines (-5 Mk.2s and EGMs) feature the Thales Totem 3000 inertial navigation system of the Mk.2 with ring laser gyroscope and GPS providing much greater accuracy, reliability, and shorter alignment time than the Mirage 2000 original ULISS 52 navigation system. The fuselage, engine, and many other components of the aircraft are also identical. Despite the differences compared to 331 Squadron’s 2000-5 in terms of electronics, radar, systems, cockpit and of course capabilities, both are still Mirage 2000s.This helps a lot in keeping both types fully operational as spare parts and similar components can be exchanged between the Squadrons.

The main visual difference between the Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2 and the Mirage 2000EGM/BGMs is the absence of the pitot tube on the nose cone of the 2000-5 Mk.2 because of the new RDY radome, which also has the antennas of the IFF interrogator. While initially the Mirage 2000-5 could also be distinguished by its hose-and-drogue aerial refuelling receptacle, it was later also added to the surviving EGM/BGM aircraft. Other visually notable differences are the four extra fuselage hardpoints on the 2000-5 for MICA missiles. The initial 40 Μirage 2000s were given serial numbers 200 up to 240 (the two-seaters being 200-204), while the newer M2000-5 serials start from 500.

Now we take a look at the HELLENIC DELTAS…

Click on an image below to page or swipe through the gallery:

George Karavantos
Photojournalist at Aviation Photography Digest

George Karavantos is from Athens, Greece. His love with military aviation started at the age of 10 when he accidentally read a Greek aviation magazine. Since then, he never stopped reading about fighter aircraft and taking photos of them. He was too tall to become a fighter pilot, so he became an airline pilot. Nowadays he is a Captain and a Flight Instructor on the A320 aircraft. Despite his profession, military aviation will always be his obsession.


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