The Mirage 2000 together with the F-16 played a crucial role in the modernization of the Hellenic Air Force fleet.

Hellenic Air Force Mirage 2000
Hellenic Air Force Mirage 2000.

In March 1985, the Greek government announced the purchase of 36 single-seat and 4 two-seat Mirage 2000s 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 the two newly founded Squadrons of the 114 Combat Wing, the 331Sq and the 332 Sq, marking the beginning of a new era for the HAF.

The 114 CW was formed on the 22nd of August 1956 and it was initially consisted of three Squadrons. The first F-104 Starfighters arrived at Tanagra AB in April of 1964 and they were kept operational until the 30th of June, 1977. On February the 16th, 1967, the F-102 Delta Dagger arrived and stayed at Tanagra AB for almost 10 years until they were 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.

The 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 the 27th and at the same time all the training in different levels by French instructors 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.

This new aircraft was officially named EG, which stands for “Export Greece” and was based on the existing Mirage 2000C that was already operational with the French Air Force.

About a year after the Mirage 2000 had entered service with the 331 Squadron, the second squadron was formed on the 11th of August 1989. The 332 Sq was named “Geraki” (Hawk) with its emblem depicting a Hawk over the map of Greece with the Hellenic flag in the bottom right. The second Mirage 2000 squadron mainly used the facilities of the former 334 Squadron at Tanagra, it had relocated to Iraklion, Crete. When 332 Sq reached full operational status on the 15th of July 1990, all personnel was redistributed between the two squadrons so that both could maintain the same level of knowledge and experience.

On June the 30th, 2003, the Mirage F-1CG was prematurely retired after 28 years of continuous service. From that point on, the 114CW only consists of these two Squadrons operating solely Mirage 2000 delta-winged fighters. In the begging the main role of both Squadrons was all-weather interception.

Despite the previous weapon of choice for the Mirage F-1CG which was the American AIM-9 Sidewinder, this time French missiles were selected for the new 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 Mirage 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 more examples from the existing HAF fleet were brought up to 2000-5 Mk.2 standards 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 the new M2000-5 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.

The 331 Sq was selected to receive the new and upgraded aircraft, having a fleet of 25 aircraft. From the initial batch of 40 M2000EG/BG that the HAF had acquired, the remaining fleet after losses, 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 the 331 Sq began on the 3rd of May 2007 when the first Mirage 2000-5 touched down on the runway of Tanagra airfield. 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 the 23rd of 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 M2000-5 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 -5s, the HAF decided not to proceed with this option, since with the introduction of the SCALP the 2000-5 had already a secondary role.

When 331 Squadron started to receive the new Mirage 2000-5, the 332 Sq received its remaining EGM/BGMs. To this day, the 332 Squadron continues to operate these older versions. The non-upgraded Mirage 2000 EGM/BGMs still have the capability to launch the Super 530Ds and the Exocets anti-shipping missiles. 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 to the AIM-120 AMRAAM of the F-16.

The Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2, offers many tactical advantages compared to the older model. 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 include 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 cockpit of the Mirage 2000-5 is fitted with high resolution Multi Function Displays for better situational awareness and less pilot’s workload. The pilot has the ability to control most of the necessary functions of his on-board equipment with the HOTAS system.

All Greek machines (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. 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 hardpoints under the fuselage of the 2000-5 for the MICA missiles. The initial 40 ╬ťirage 2000s were serialled 200 up to 240 (the two-seaters being 200-204), while the newer M2000-5 serials start from 500.

The Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2 along with the F-16C/D Block 52+ are the most modern fighters in HAF service. If upgraded, the EGM/BGM aircraft that are now 25 years old will soldier on alongside them, but due to the financial crisis in Greece nothing is for sure.

Nevertheless, the personnel of 114CW do their best every day to keep each squadron fully operational and, for the Combat Wing in general, maintain the highest level of proficiency and professionalism. For the men and women one thing is certain, no matter what problems they, or their country faces, they must be ready to defend their homeland. That’s their duty, and we have seen and realized that they successfully do so each and every day.

➤ More reports about Hellenic Air Force fighters are available here.

Text and Pics: George Karavantos (Facebook Page)

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