Greece operates the F-4E as a fighter-bomber and interception jet – these were upgraded by DASA – at the 117th Combat Wing near Andravida and recently the 348th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron flying the RF-4E Phantom reconnaissance version, equiped with several cameras in the nose section for aerial photography. The last remaining Recce Phantoms were flown at Larissa AFB.
The 348th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron – 348 Μοίρα Τακτικής Αναγνώρισης «Μάτια» - received the first Recce Phantom in 1978. All together 8 jets arrived at that time, using the type together with the RF-5A and the RF-84F. The Tiger was phased out when another batch of 20 Phantoms were acquired from the Luftwaffe in 1993 with several others as spare parts. Interesting to note that the German Phantoms flew in their Norm 83 pattern during the years over Greece, not getting their Hellenic look.
The year 2017 hardly started when there were rumors that the 348th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron would be shut down shortly. People were anxious to know if the Hellenic Air Force will put together an open day for the Phantom and on a february day, the news came...limited number can enter on the 4th of May. Very shortly the net blew up and we were able to see first hand during the spotters day, people from a lot of countries came: Japan, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and of course Greece as well. This shows how the Phantom is loved by many, no wonder the jet is an iconic one, you have to just look at it, knowing why people like it.
With a registration confirmation and a hotel booking we only needed good weather. Luckyily for us, that was pre-arranged by the Gods at Mount Olympus, which was coverd in snow during our visit, clearly visible from the base. Gates were open to the spotters community at 9:00 in the morning and shortly people „attacked” the souvenir stand, literally fighting for a near place so they could get their hands on some goodies. But wait! Who's there? A character so familiar was walking around...could be him? Yes...it was Spook himself:
„The aircraft's emblem is a whimsical cartoon ghost called "The Spook", which was created by McDonnell Douglas technical artist, Anthony "Tony" Wong, for shoulder patches.”
Two local greek fans dressed as the mascot of the Phantom II jet, walking around the fans and even saluted the Phantom jets which taxied all the time after landing. Besides the three RF-4E jets, several F-16 Falcons flew on the spotters day, these were regural daily and training flights from the 337th squadron. The highlight was the QRA shift that moved to an island base, carying live weapons, giving us a rare chance to make photos without restrictions. One Mirage 2000 from the 114th Combat Wing and one F-16 from the 111th Combat Wing visited the base during their training doing a touch & go, even two Belgium F-16 from the 1th Squadron landed for a couple of hours, possibly moving to or from the Middle East. The HAF T-6Α „Daedalus” Demo Team and F-16 „Zeus” Demo Team did their training as well on the spotters day to prepare for the ceremony on the other, both teams flew without the special painted plane.
The 5th of May ceremony, with VIP and high ranking officials, started with an Eastern Orthodox praying for the „Roll Call of the Fallen”, during the years, all together 7 RF-4E Phantom jets were lost, during these minutes people gatherd together, rememberd all the souls who were lost during service. After the commemoration, the final three RF Phantoms with one F-16 and one Mirage in formation flew over the base, making their final flight in the history of the Hellenic Air Force. With one more formation flight – only the Phantoms – it was time to land. The special painted jet for the ceremony, parked between an F-16 from the 337th All Weather Squadron – 337 Μοίρα Παντός Καιρού – and a non-operational RF-84F. The VIP quests and high ranking officials moved closer after all engines were shut down, and a few minutes later spotters and all other inquirers were also had the chance to get their close enacounter. For everyone on the ground it was a touching moment, knowing that it is was the final flying. But there was no crying, no sad moments, only happy faces...veteran soldiers were happy to meet their old colleges and see their loved machine...outsiders were happy, because they can say: „I was there” and me the outhor of this article I can say: „I was there” and I am happy for that. Spook will live forever! Never forget!
IN THE END WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE ORGANISERS, THEIR HELP! Ευχαριστώ!