Hellenic Air Force Deltas
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. The base which was selected to operate the new aircraft was 114 Combat Wing, based in Tanagra AB, which was already operating the other French aircraft that Greece had purchased, the Mirage F-1CG.
The 114 CW, 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 were kept operational 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 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.
In 1989 the first Mirage 2000 aircraft were introduced into HAF service and delivered to the two newly founded Squadrons, the 331 Mira and the 332 Mira, marking the beginning of a new era for the HAF. The aircraft was named EG, which stands for “Export Greece” and was based on the existing Mirage 2000C that was already operational with the French Air Force.
On June 30, 2003, the Mirage F-1CG was prematurely retired after 28 years of continuous service. From that point on, 114CW only consists of these two Squadrons operating solely Mirage 2000 delta-winged 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” or “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, as 334 Sq had relocated to Iraklion, Crete.
The main role of both Squadrons was initially all-weather interception. 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 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 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 2000-5 Mk.2 were the RDY-2 radar and the self-defence suite ICMS Mk3.
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 2000-5 has the modern MICAs.
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 serialled 200 up to 240 (the two-seaters being 200-204), while the newer M2000-5 serials started from 500.
Article by George Karavantos