There are precious few military aircraft which attain “immortality” with the public following their operational careers, and fewer still achieve such immense popularity while serving on active duty. However, one such aircraft which can claim the latter status is the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, affectionally referred to as the “Rhino” by aircrews and aviation enthusiasts alike. While most air arms have long-since retired their Phantoms, the type is still on the front lines with a handful of air arms, and despite these aircraft not technically qualifying as “warbirds” in the true sense of the word, the iconic fighter is so beloved that every news item featuring the F-4’s current flying exploits is eagerly sought out by many (Click HERE for previous articles).
So with that being said, our good friend Steven Comber at the Centre of Aviation Photography (COAP) sent us a set of magnificent images featuring Hellenic Air Force (HAF) Phantoms which he took last week in the skies over Tanagra Air Force Base near Athens, Greece during the 9th Athens Flying Week International Air Show; the biggest aviation event in Greece.
The Phantom entered service with the HAF in 1974 under the arms program Peace Icarus. Although it is a third-generation combat jet, and ancient by modern standards, 36 F-4E Phantoms have received significant upgrades with advanced electronics under the program Peace Icarus 2000, extending the type’s operational relevance. The fighters are based at Andravida Air Base (117 Combat Wing, 338 and 339 Squadrons with call signs “Aris” and “Aias” respectively) and at Larissa Air Base (110 Combat Wing, 337 and 348 Squadrons “Ghost” and “Eyes” respectively). Following the upgrade program, all HAF F-4Es now wear “Aegean Ghost” camouflage schemes, while their RF-4Es wore Vietnam War-era “Southeast Asia” camouflage until their retirement in 2017.
During the show, visitors had the opportunity to witness flying displays performed by the French Air Force’s Dassault Rafale Solo Display Team, the Hellenic Air Force’s historic Supermarine Spitfire, the Patrouille de France, and Saudi BAe Hawks, as well as the HAF Zeus F-16 Demo Team, the Royal Danish Air Force’s F-16 Solo Display and US F-15s, among others.
The program included the demonstration of a Combat Evac exercise by the Greek armed forces along with water-drops from fire-fighting aircraft. Furthermore, there were a number of special aircraft formations commissioned by the Athens Flying Week to mark the Greek Revolution’s Bicentennial.
Many thanks to Steven Comber for these beautiful photos. To learn more about the Centre of Aviation Photography, please visit their website HERE. While the pandemic will have 2021 plans in flux for the moment, they are sure to have an amazing lineup of fabulous aviation photography adventures lined up for next year!