Two Greek F-16 Squadrons and the IAF's "First Jet" Squadron that operates the "Barak" (F-16C/D) united for a unique joint training exercise - "Viper Valley 2016". For two weeks Israelis and Greeks trained together in Israeli skies.
Col. Amnon, Ramat-David AFB Commander: "The Greek deployment is of historic significance because Ramat-David AFB usually doesn't host foreign fighter division deployments. This is a trailblazing event. The last time foreign fighter aircraft were hosted in Ramat-David AFB was in 1956 Operation ‘Kadesh', when French ‘Mystere' arrived for an operational deployment".
The Israeli and Greek forces were divided into "Blue" and "Red' teams. The "Blue" teams included Israeli and Greek aircrews who trained together and the "Red" teams were made up of Israeli pilots only.
Col Amnon: "The process begins with an initial idea that develops and undergoes a number of stages such as appointing a responsible figure from the leading squadron who, among other things, decides the flight scenarios". Maj. David, the deployment leader from the "First Squadron": "After igniting the first idea, we take it down to details".
"Most of the effort we put into preparation was dedicated to organizing the schedule, checking what happens every day and making sure we have all of the necessary equipment for the exercise", shared Maj. Dimitrios Gritzaliotis, Commander of the Greek deployment to Ramat-David. "The exercise's schedule is tight and we are facing Air-Air and Air-Ground scenarios in a smaller airspace than we are familiar with, a factor that is a big challenge for us".
Together Against the Enemy
In the exercise, the aircrews faced various scenarios that included: attack, air defense, night attack sorties in deep enemy territory while facing anti-aircraft threat and aerial refueling.
"The process of choosing these scenarios included a fair amount of deliberations", said Maj. David. "International training exercises are usually performed in accordance with NATO combat doctrine. In the current exercise, we decided to choose slightly more ‘Israeli' scenarios, in other words, the planning and execution method of the sorties was characteristic of Israeli squadrons".
An exercise of this nature includes many challenges: weather challenges, refueling foreign aircraft, low flight and above all - the language and performance gap. All of the aircrews participated in a thorough preparation program before the exercise that included instructions workshops, training sorties and designated exercises that simulated possible malfunctions. The debriefing room was occupied lengthily while safety procedures, weather briefs and briefs regarding the foreign playground, were repeated time and time again.
For about two weeks, the aircrews prepared in english, english signs were installed on the runways and the presence of a greek representative in the control tower was emphasised.
"The Greeks are longtime partners of ours and the current exercise is another step forward in our cooperation", said Col. Amnon. "The fact that this was a relatively small deployment allowed us to create an intimate training exercise and develop tighter relationships".
"I hope to profit from this cooperation in a way that both sides see the scenarios they train for daily and from a different point of view", added Maj. Gritzaliotis. "We expect to continue the cooperation between the two air forces and in the near future host the Israeli aircrews as they did us".