Hellenic Air Force – Saying Goodbye to a Legend

Farewell to a Legend…

by Georgios Kountouris
BEng, MBA

Nearly 50 years have passed since the Vought A-7 Corsair II entered worldwide service and on October 17th 2014 the Hellenic Air Force made the final official flight of the venerable fighter/bomber. The Official Worldwide A-7 Corsair II Retirement Ceremony took place in Araxos Air Base near the 3rd largest Greek city, Patras with a plethora of people visiting the area to salute the “SLUF” for the last time.

The Hellenic Armed Forces high command was present at the ceremony along with the Greek Minister of Defence to speak the last words to the Greek people about this aircraft, its contribution in difficult times, as well as about the planned replacement to this fabulous bird. The Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 52 Plus Advanced will be taking the missions, previously flown by the Corsair, with the replacement plan being already underway.

The ceremony was held in one of the base’s maintenance hangars. Following the HAFGS’s commander and the MoD’s speeches, the names of the 13 HAF’s A-7 pilots that lost their lives flying the aircraft were recalled and honored by the guards firing 3 shots in the air. A moment of silence was kept, but it was finally broken by the sound of two low flying A-7’s in tight formation that streaked diagonally directly over the ceremonial area.

Inside the northeastern corner of the maintenance hangar, an A-7 was parked that was covered with a dark blue fabric, hiding the special two-tone grey camouflage scheme that the Araxos AB ground crew had selected to commemorate the A-7’s 39 year long service in the Hellenic Air Force. The crowd welcomed the unveiling of the last specially painted A-7 Corsair in the world with great joy, with the plane spotters and the crowd snapping thousands of pictures of the aircraft. All the serial numbers from all A-7 types as well as the total flight hours flown by the HAF were painted on this commemorative A-7E, as well as the emblems from all the HAF’s squadrons in which the A-7 saw action.

In total, 130 aircraft were delivered to the H.A.F., 60 being of the specially built A-7H/TA-7H (H=Hellenic) version with the 1st delivery placed in 1975, while the others were of the A-7E/TA-7C ex-US Navy aircraft that were delivered in the 90’s. The Hellenic Air Force was the second largest A-7 user worldwide following the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. Portugal’s and Thailand’s Air Forces also flew the A-7.

Outside the ceremonial hangar, a TA-7C was parked displaying an array of free-falling and cluster bombs, once being the main weapons load of the aircraft during the 80’s and 90’s.

The airshow that followed took place over the Araxos AB, with the show-centre being almost directly over the ceremonial area. The former pilots, ground crew as well as the fans of the aircraft and the crowd looked to the skies with awe, as the two TA-7C’s performed a simulated bombardment of the Araxos AB, a mission that the A-7’s and their crews knew well.

Next up, was the HAF’s “Daedalus” T-6A Texan II solo display aircraft, as well as the HAF’s “Zeus” F-16 solo display aircraft that “rocked” the airbase.

The airshow was closed with a 4-ship missing-man-formation comprised of one F-4E, one TA-7C, one Mirage 2000-5 and one F-16C all of them from HAF’s fighter squadrons. The A-7, that was placed at the tip of the formation, pulled up hard towards the sky to a vertical climb, as the formation streaked past the crowd, thus marking the end of the A-7’s service worldwide and as the crowd noticed: “they left Greek skies to meet other Gods”.

At the static display at the south western tip of the ceremonial area there were one F-16D Block 52 Advanced armed with LGB’s, AIM-120 AMRAAMs and IRIS-T (AIM-2000) and AIM-9 weapons, one F-16C Block 52 Advanced armed with JSOW’s, IRIS-T and AIM-120’s as well as one A-7E that bared the special all-black Corsair paint scheme. Opposite these three aircraft, one freshly painted, but retired A-7H was parked along with a fully loaded A-7E that was armed with six LGB’s and two AIM-9L’s.

Rumors that the A-7 aircraft will perform their final flight during Greece’s National Parade in Thessaloniki on October 28th 2014 are now being voided, since some HAF personnel spoke unofficially “of no available flight hours being available on any Greek A-7 airframe”. It seems after all, that this aircraft type has been really put through its paces while in service in the Hellenic Air Force.

Thank you for your excellent 39 years of service, you will be greatly missed.

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Κατηγορίες: Market News

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