HAF A-7 Corsair II Retirement

On October 17, 2014 the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) retired the Vought A-7 Corsair II with a retirement ceremony at Araxos Air Base. The day before the retirement ceremony a spotters- and press day was organised by 336 Mira, the last squadron to operate the type within the HAF. With the HAF being the sole operator of the type left it was the last opportunity to come up close and personal with SLUF, as it was nicknamed by USAF pilots.

The A-7 was developed as a cost effective replacement for the A-4 Skyhawk in the early sixties of the last Century. It was developed out of the F-8 Crusader hence itsappearance with large air intake and high mounted wings. The first prototype of the A-7 flew in 1965 and only two years later it made its combat debut in Vietnam. Several variants were build for the USN and USAF with most differences being more powerful engines and upgraded avionics.

The Hellenic Air Force was the first foreign country to operate the A-7 Corsair II. An initial number of 60 A-7H were ordered. The A-7H was a special variant developed for the HAF, lacking air-air refuelling capabilities but with the addition of a self-start capable engine and possibility to launch Sidewinder missiles from rails mounted to the fuselage of the aircraft. On May 6, 1975 the 115th Combat Wing, based at Souda Bay, Crete received the first A-7H aircraft entering service with 340 squadron, followed by 345 squadron one year later and 347 squadron in 1977. In 1980 five TA-7H, the dual seat variant, were delivered as training aircraft.

Together with the F-4E Phantom, the A-7 Corsair II was the backbone of the Hellenic Air Force for many years. In 1992 a surplus of ex-US Navy A-7E and TA-7C aircraft were added to the fleet, entering service with 116 Combat Wing, based at Araxos. More then 65 aircraft were delivered and operated by 335 squadron and 336 squadron, the latter being the last active squadron until October 2014.

The motto 'Fly Low, Hit Hard' was applied to the HAF A-7 Corsair II operations within 336 squadron, hence the traditional tactical strike and ground attack role of the type. Though nicknamed 'Pirates of the Med', operations were aimed at working up new pilots in between basic flight training and F-16 operations for the last couple of years.

The Retirement Ceremony

In an official retirement ceremony at Araxos Air Base, Greece, the Hellenic Air Force retired the Vought A-7 Corsair II on October 17, 2014. The event, which was open to the public, was attended by the Greece Minister of National Defence, Dimitris Avramopoulo and Chief of the HAFGS, Lieutenant General Evangelos Tournas.

During the ceremony a special painted A-7E Corsair II was unveiled, sporting a grey camouflaged paint scheme with all squadron badges who operated the Corsair II within the HAF, painted on the tail. After the ceremony the two HAF display teams (F-16 display team 'Zeus' and T-6 display team 'Daedalus') presented themself to the public and the events were closed by a missing man formation consisting of an F-16C, Mirage 2000, F-4E and TA-7C where the latter left the formation. It was a symbolic end for an aircraft that served in the Hellenic Air Force for thirty-nine years.

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