Coningsby’s Commander takes to the skies in Greece

From left, Wing Commander Lewis Cunningham, British Ambassador to Greece Ms Kate Smith CMG, and Group Captain Group Captain Mike Baulkwill. Picture: SAC Nicholas Egan/UK MOD Crown Copyright 2018. EMN-180326-161523001
From left, Wing Commander Lewis Cunningham, British Ambassador to Greece Ms Kate Smith CMG, and Group Captain Group Captain Mike Baulkwill. Picture: SAC Nicholas Egan/UK MOD Crown Copyright 2018. EMN-180326-161523001

RAF Coningsby’s Station Commander, Group Captain Mike Baulkwill, has visited 3 (Fighter) Squadron during a major NATO exercise in Greece.

‘Iniochos 18’ is a multi-national air warfare exercise organised annually by the Hellenic Air Force in Greece.

This year, in addition to participation by 3 (F) Sqn who are normally based at RAF Coningsby, there were contingents from the United States, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Cyprus and Israel - and the host country.

Over 70 fast jets of various types flew on sorties that featured simulated full scale war fighting across Greek airspace.

The Group Captain said: “It is one of the pleasures of my role as Station Commander to visit personnel from RAF Coningsby when they are deployed on operations and exercises to see how well they are doing their jobs.

“A bonus for this visit is that I also had the opportunity to fly a sortie on the exercise.”

The Station Commander is a fully qualified Typhoon pilot and was formally the officer commanding of 6 Squadron RAF, a front line Typhoon Squadron.

Despite the high intensity of the exercise, 3 (F) Sqn were able to welcome some distinguished visitors during a very special day, organised by the Hellenic Air Force.

The principle guests were the Greek Defence Minister, Mr Panos Kammenos, the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis and the British Ambassador to Greece Ms Kate Smith CMG.

After arriving on board a Hellenic Airforce C130, the visitors were treated to a fly past by the participating nations on the exercise.

Mr Kammenos thanked the various nations for taking part in the exercise and welcomed their commitment to work with the Greek Armed forces to promote peace in the region.

During the day, the British Ambassador joined Gp Capt Baulkwill and the officer commanding 3 (F) Sqn, Wing Commander Lewis Cunningham to meet some of the deployed personnel.

She was shown some of the equipment used by pilots, including an explanation by Wing Commander Cunningham of the ‘hi tec’ flying helmets all Typhoon pilots are equipped with.

Summing up the exercise, Wing Commander Cunningham said: “This has been the first time that Typhoon has deployed to Greece.

“This exercise offered us a great opportunity to prepare for future operations and strengthens our existing relationship with the Greek Armed Forces.”

•The exercise was staged from March 5-23. It is the first time the RAF have participated for many years.