For 16 days in September, the legendary home of the Greek gods atop Mount Olympus has been at the center of one of the most impressive aircraft gatherings of this fall. Israeli helicopters and transport planes, alongside their Greek colleagues and counterparts, concluded two weeks of exercise in the Hellenic mountains.
The Israeli Air Force participated with Blackhawk and Sikorsky CH-35 heavy transport helicopters and, among other feats of the trade, succeeded in landing on top of the 2,918 metre hig Mount Olympus. The IAF was represented at the exercise by a Beechcraft King Air B-200 light transport plane which, according to the Israeli military, flew no less than 200 sorties in the 16 days and nights of the exercise whose main purpose was to help Israeli pilots get familiar with different flight conditions than those experienced in Israel.
“The exercise included cooperation between different IAF divisions and squadrons and cooperation with the Hellenic Air Force while flying in unknown territory, changing topography and tall mountains,” said the commander of the Israeli Palmahim Air Force Base, who also led the exercise.
It took a lot of planning and logistical effort to prepare for this month’s exercise in Greece. According to IAF officials, more than six months of planning were required, of which six weeks were needed just to get ready the equipment flown across the Mediterranean.
“Greece is a strategic partner of the State of Israel. This exercise is part of a priceless cooperation. (…) Our goal is first and foremost to train our crews in new conditions. Israel’s an amazing country, but it’s small,” said the head of the IAF helicopter and air support squadron, Brigadier General Nir Nin-Nun, in a statement released by the Israeli Air Force.
This was the fourth participation of Israeli warplanes in an exercise hosted in Greece, while last year, in October, Greek fighter planes returned the honour and joined American and Polish pilots in Israel’s Blue Flag exercise.
For Israel, this is the second exercise abroad for the IAF in just two months. In August, Israeli warplanes took part in a U.S. led exercise in the Nevada desert, alongside Pakistani and U.A.E. pilots. Israel doesn’t have a diplomatic relationship with neither country.