Wednesday, March 3, 2010

335 Squadron Passes OpEval

Several sources, first of which Diplomacy GR (www.diplomatia.gr) reported that last Thursday 335 Squadron passed its Operational Evaluation test. According to the reports the last phase of the valuation included 4 F-16 aircraft and one Erieye AEW aircraft which cooperated using the Link-16 network. Ground attack scenarios using JSOW weapons were also conducted.

Several weeks ago the last of the 30 F-16 Block 52M aircraft was delivered to 335 Squadron in Araxos. These aircraft are almost identical to the 58 F-16 Block 52+ aircraft delivered as part of the Peace Xenia III program and which operate out of Souda and Larisa Airbases. The main difference is the ability to cooperate with other aircraft with the Link-16 infrastructure, allowing these F-16s to target hostile targets with information fed directly from Airborne Early Warning aircraft or other sources. This can give significant tactical advantages in various combat scenarios. At this moment in time the F-16s from 335 Squadron are the only Greek fighter aircraft equipped with Link-16 capability.

One other important difference with these latest aircraft is that they have been delivered with the ASPIS II self protection suite fully installed. The Greek Air Force so far is refusing to take official delivery of the system due to technical reasons. As a result the 58 remaining aircraft from the Peace Xenia III programme are still flying with a self protection system.

It should be noted that the CCIP programme the Turkish Air Force will perform on its F-16 fleet includes the Link-16 system. This makes it imperative that the Greek Air Force performs an upgrade of its existing F-16 fleet to include this capability.

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