The Largest International Military Exercise in Greece for NATO Allies and Partner Nations

By Colonel

By Col



, GR


 December 2019

‘I am delighted to be back in Andravida and very proud that we have the U.S. Air Force again participating so significantly in Iniochos ’18. This has become an important multinational exercise with broad participation from across Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, which reflects our vision of Greece as a builder of bridges, as a pillar of regional stability …’

Mr Geoffrey R. PyattUnited States Ambassador to Greece1

The ‘Charioteer of Delphi’2

The ‘Charioteer of Delphi’ statue (470 BC), also known as ‘Iniochos’ (Greek: Ηνίοχος), the rein-holder, depicts the driver of the chariot race at the moment when he presents his chariot and horses to the spectators in recognition of his victory. Despite the importance of the moment, the youth’s demeanour encapsulates the moment of glory, and the recognition of his eternal athletic and moral stature, with abundant modesty.3

At its inception dating back to the 1980s, ‘Iniochos’ was established as an annual Hellenic Air Force (HAF) small-scale tactical-level exercise. It was designed to create a realistic training environment for the Hellenic fighter aircraft squadrons tailored to the necessity for training in Composite Air Operations (COMAO) in accordance with Hellenic national defence policy, doctrine plans and tactics.4

However, recent decades’ battlefield fighting conditions, the emergence of new traditional and non-traditional threats, the effects of globalization, technology advancements, scarcity of resources and climate change, as well as the control of and access to natural resources are some of the factors that are shaping the future physical environment.5 Identifying the emerging challenges that will dictate the next generation fighter pilots’ training needs, and may be driven by the battlefield situational descriptors of complexity and congestion, HAF transformed the ‘Iniochos’ exercise design in accordance with contemporary battlespace needs. Amongst the many facets of ‘Iniochos’, this article focuses on the evolution of the exercise overtime by highlighting the key components that make it an essential and unique Invitation Exercise (INVITEX) across Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Docking the Pillars

To provide a ‘true’ warfighter training for the combat aircrews on a modern, reactive battlefield environment, the HAF developed the design, planning, execution and evaluation of the exercise, inspired by previous lessons learned. From inception to 2013, the exercise execution, and Command and Control (C2) were decentralized, allowing air platforms to operate from both their home bases and remote airfields.6

In the last decade, potential adversaries of the Alliance were developing robust Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities in response to NATO capabilities.7 At the same time, many NATO members reduced their defence budgets. Experiencing the effects of defence cutbacks, the HAF was searching for effective solutions for their aircrew training, without sacrificing the quality and maintaining combat training tailored to the new emerging battlefield environment. In 2013, the ‘Single Base Operations (SBO) Concept’ was adopted. The exercise was upgraded to simulate medium scale Joint Air Power (JAP) operations, including missions across the full spectrum of the air operating domain, and established a demanding exercise battle rhythm to simulate as many 24/7 air warfare operations as possible.

Single Base Joint Air Operations

The new concept was tested in 2014 in HAF-only format and in April 2015, the HAF decided to launch the exercise as an INVITEX. The invited participants were the Israeli Air Force (IAF), the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and US Special Operations Forces (SOF) that supported the training with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs).

In the past four years, the exercise was held as a two-week INVITEX at the HAF Air Tactics Centre (HAFATC) in Andravida Air Force Base (AFB). It constitutes very significant training event among Allies’ & Partners’ armed forces, in which JAP operations are launched in a battle rhythm of 24/7, providing a significant Air Level of Effort (Air LoE). The LoE ranges close to 1,000 sorties over the two week period, mainly operating from Andravida AFB.

In order to allow participants to increase joint interoperability, national and international assets from the land and maritime operating domains have also been combined into the exercise.

The ‘Chameleon’ Concept

After sharing knowledge and gaining considerable experience with high profile Air Powers, the HAF stakeholders identified the need for training in contested airspace operations. The vision of the HAF is to design a ‘chameleon’ exercise concept, which could be adapted to the training needs across the JAP spectrum while maintaining the individuality and integrity of its exercise.

Air operations are taking place in the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR). The ‘chameleon’ concept is based on a campaign scenario, which will be adjusted every year according to the current military advancements/developments and threat projection. Additionally, the feedback from participating forces, as well as the lessons learned from previous exercises are consolidated and applied with each iteration.

The scenario is an escalation from a localized crisis over territorial disputes and hybrid warfare to a full-scale international conflict. Consequently, a large flying force will be tasked to operate with maritime and land forces jointly. These will be supported by assets of non-physical operating domains (e.g. electronic warfare and information operations).

The Exercise Key Components

During the 2016 Warsaw Summit Communique, it was described the necessity of NATO developing training and exercises with more realistic, full-spectrum, deterrence focused scenarios by engaging all levels of command – from political to tactical level – employing, as well, tactical live flying.8 ‘Iniochos’ stakeholders increased their efforts towards exercise realism investing in better threat presentation, dynamic scenarios and thoroughly precise event assessments which are now key elements of ‘Iniochos’.

Realism is augmented through a demanding and high tempo daily battle rhythm, which starts before sunrise and ends after midnight. This allows tactical units to exercise on time-restricted planning and execution, along with their ability to meet the required scenario timeline. Realistic attrition rates are achieved among challenging scenarios which consist of multi-domain threats, real Surface-based Air Defence and live injects. The goal is to replicate the ‘Friction of War’ effect with the presence of complexity, congestion, degradation, contesting, deception, dispersion, confusion and concealment.9

Clausewitz defined ‘friction as the only conception that distinguishes real war from war on paper’.10 The HAF applies the concept by creating a battle environment characterized by imperfect information and constant contention. ‘Friction’ is the element, which dominates the modern battlefield, stimulating human physical and psychological strengths.

The desired effect is supported by a thorough and precise exercise event assessment which is fulfilled by the qualified instructors of the HAF Fighter Weapons School (FWS), who are employing their expertise along with specialized debrief software. Every mission is reconstructed, and every event is assessed using multiple data sources (on- and off-board sensors, digital data, Global Positioning System [GPS] trackers, Link 16) and specifically designed shot assessment software. The accurate debrief closes the loop of participants’ feedback by delivering a reliable and valid training outcome.

The Exercise Descriptors

Increasing realism, combat readiness, and sharing knowledge are the core values of ‘Iniochos’. The aforementioned are described by the exercise objectives:

  • Realistic Training employing the most modern and latest updated tactics, in a multi-domain air warfare, enriched with ‘live’ Surface/Ground-to-Air threats combined with robust Air-to-Air adversaries.
  • Maximizing the participating aircrews’ combat readiness along with their platforms’ survivability.
  • Giving the opportunity to participating aircrews of sharing their background experience, ideas and concerns.

The missions are supervised by the HAF FWS, which assures that the planning, execution and debriefing phases meet the objectives of the exercise. Missions are executed within a 20-hour daily battle rhythm, in which three main flying waves and two side missions take place to test Allies’ and Partners’ physical and psychological strengths.

Figuring ‘Iniochos’ Importance for Allies and Partners

Apart from the SBO Concept, exercise design also creates a unique training environment for the following reasons:

  • Flying missions are executed in a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) reserved airspace, which is covered by large areas of high terrain, coastal and deep blue sea in a contested environment with air-to-air and/or fixed or mobile ground/surface-to-air threats, protecting either an area or a route (pop up threats).
  • Adversaries are Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) aware 4th gen aircraft employing Beyond Visual Range (BVR) tactics and carrying modern Electronic Warfare and radar capabilities.
  • Opposing forces are always presenting a multilayered Integrated Air Defence System (IADS) employing at the same time long or medium range Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) Systems, as well as a considerable number of Short-Range-Air-Defence (SHORAD) systems.
  • Participants train in medium and high threat contested Close Air Support (CAS) and Dynamic Targeting scenarios.

The campaign scenario is supported by a dynamic flow of information, interconnected events and interdependent missions to promote interoperability, coordination of effort and synergy. By prioritizing and addressing the operational needs to overcome any high threat scenario, the exercise prepares and trains the participants to observe – orient – decide – act and defeat the enemy according to George S. Patton’s motto ‘you fight like you train’.11

British Ambassador to Greece Kate Smith said in a tweet …12

‘The Iniochos 2018 multinational air force exercise “strengthens the relations of allies and friends”. Second day of the multinational exercise Iniochos 2018, including British Typhoons of the Royal Air Force for the first time. British pilots with their colleagues from six countries in an exercise strengthening the relations of allies and friends.’

Geoffrey, Pyatt, In ‘Ambassador Pyatt’s Remarks during “Iniohos 2018” Multinational Exercise’. [US Embassy & Consulate in Greece, News, 2018]. Available at:
Delphi (formerly also called Pytho), is famous as the ancient sanctuary that grew rich as the seat of Pythia, the oracle who was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. Moreover, the Greeks considered Delphi the navel (or centre) of the world, as represented by the stone monument known as the Omphalos of Delphi. It is now an extensive archaeological site, which occupies an impressive site on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus, overviewing the coastal plain to the south and the valley of Phocis, Greece.
Sakoulas, Thomas, ‘Charioteer of Delphi’, in, 2019. Available at:
Hellenic Air Force (HAF), ‘History of Iniochos Exercise’, in, 2019. Available at:
Allied Command Transformation (ACT), ‘Strategic Foresight Analysis’, Virginia, Norfolk, 2017. Available at:, (accessed Dec. 2018).
Ibid. 3.
Schmidt, Andreas, ‘Countering Anti-Access/Area Denial’. In: The Journal of the JAPCC, (Ed. 23), Kalkar/Germany, 2016: p. 69–77.
Lt Gen Wundrak, Joachim, et al, ‘Joint Air Power Following the 2016 Warsaw Summit: Urgent Priorities’. An Allied Command Transformation Headquarters Study conducted by the Joint Air Power Competence Centre, Kalkar/Germany, 2016. Available at:
Clausewitz terms ‘friction’ the ‘only concept that more or less corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper’. Friction is caused mainly by the danger of war, by war’s demanding physical efforts, and by the presence of unclear information or the fog of war (
Carl von Clausewitz. ‘On War’, by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton University Press, 1976). Available at:
The OODA loop is the cycle observe – orient – decide – act, developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Col John Boyd.
Kate, Smith, ‘British ambassador comments on RAF participation in Iniochos 2018 multinational exercise’. In ERT International news, AMNA, 2018. Available at:
Content Navigation

Colonel Konstantinos Zolotas is the Commander of the Hellenic Air Force Air Tactics Centre (HAFATC). He graduated from the Hellenic Air Force Academy (HAFA) with a BSc in Aeronautics in 1989. Colonel Zolotas is also studying ‘European Civilization’ towards a BSc course at the Hellenic Open University (HAP) and is a graduate of the HAF Air Tactics Centre A-G Operations course. He is an F-16 instructor and functional check flight pilot, and he is a command pilot with more than 2,500 flying hours in the F-104 and F-16 aircraft. He has served as a director of operations and as commander subsequently in the 347 Fighter Squadron from 2005 till 2009 and 115 Combat Wing’s Director of Operations from 2014 till 2016. Prior to assuming his current position, the Colonel served as a staff officer and Head Department at the A1 – Operations Planning Division of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff (HAFGS).

Information provided is current as of December 2019

Other Articles in this Journal

Transformation & Capabilities

The Romanian Air Force – 15 Years in NATO

Interview with Major General Viorel Pană, Chief of the Romanian Air Force Staff

The Rise of Consumer Drones Threat

Precision-Guided Munitions of the Future

And the Related Challenges to NATO

Mission and Vision of Italian Army Aviation

An Interview with General Paolo Riccò, Commander of Italian Army Aviation

Is NATO Ready for Galileo?

How the Combination of GPS and Galileo could Increase NATO’s Resiliency in PNT

Improving NATO Air Training

An Outlook to Future Tactical Air Training

Improving Ballistic Missile Defence Interoperability

Cyberspace NOTAM!

NATO’s Vision and Strategy on the Cyberspace Domain

How can Modelling and Simulation Support Integrated Air and Missile Defence?

Future Command and Control of Electronic Warfare


Satisfying ISR Requirements in Stabilization Missions – Is Contracting the Right Option?

A Reflection from a Robust UN Peacekeeping Mission towards NATO’s Future Operations

Out of the Box

Command and Control in Digital Transformation

The Future of the Command Post

Contact Us

Contact Information

Joint Air Power Competence Centre
Römerstrasse 140
47546 Kalkar

+49 (0) 2824 90 2201

Download Request for Support

Please leave us a message

Contact Form