Andravida Air Force Base, Greece houses one of the worlds last F-4 Phantom II units. The Squadron, 338 Mira, operates around 18 heavily upgraded F-4E’s in the air-to-air and air-to-ground role. With the purchase of 20 F-35A’s the days of the legendary fighter seems to be numbered, but till the delivery of these fifth gen Lightning II’s around 2027 the F-4 still plays a vital role within the Hellenic Air Force.
In 1972 Greece signed a contract for 36 F-4E’s in a deal named Peace Icarus 1. Two years later, on April 5th 1974, the first Phantoms touched down on Andravida’s runway. The first jets went to the first Greek Phantom Squadron, being 339 Mira, followed two months later by 338 Mira. But after the delivery of these first batch in November 1974 and the rising tensions with neighbor Turkey the Hellenic Air Force requested more Phantoms. Therefor a second contract, named Peace Icarus II, was signed in 1977 for the delivery of another 18 F-4E’s (and eight RF-4E’s). A third Squadron was activated on Andravida, being 339 Mira, receiving these 18 jets during the second half of 1978.
After operating the F-4’s for 20 years Greece launched a study to replace or upgrade their trustful fighters. Because the Phantom still proved to be a capable weapon-platform and purchasing a new jet would be too expensive it was decided to upgrade the Peace Icarus I and II Phantoms. Although an extra batch of former USAF Air National Guard F-4E’s with better avionics was delivered to Greece in 1991 these jets were considered lees suitable for the upgrades due to their age and high airframe hours.
In August 1997 the German company DASA (nowadays called EADS) received the multi million contract to upgrade 36 jets. Based on the upgraded German F-4F’s the Greek Phantoms received new AN/APG-65 digital multi mode radars, new air data computers and new navigation systems. This would enable the Phantoms for example to carry the new AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. The upgrade programme was called Peace Icarus 2000 and at the same time Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) was given a contract to give the Phantoms a Service Life Extension Program making sure Greece could keep flying their jets till at least 2015.
The first completely modified F-4E-AUP (Avionic Upgrade Package) was delivered to the 117th Combat Wing at Andravida on December the 18th 2002 followed by the final airframe in October 2005. 338 Mira received 15 examples, 339 21. While the primary task of 338 was ground attack 339 Mira focused more on the air-to-air role. This changed on October 31st 2017 when 339 was disbanded and merged with 338 Mira to become a multi role Fighter Bomber Squadron.
Although flying in Greek skies for almost 50 years the Phantom still plays an important part in aerial defence. The Avionic Upgrade Package enhanced the F-4’s effectiveness and with its new sophisticated radar, sensors and advanced weapon systems the F-4E-AUP can even compete with more modern 4th generation fighters like the F-15 or F-16.