USMC AV-8Bs Exercise with Greek F-16s at Souda Bay

The four USMC AV-8Bs from VMM-365 REIN on the flightline at Naval Support Activity Souda Bay on September 5 during their bilateral exercise with the F-16s of 115 Pteriga Mahis. US Navy/Joel Diller

FOUR US MARINE Corps AV-8B Harriers deployed at the beginning of this week to Souda Bay, Greece, to conduct training flights with Hellenic Air Force (HAF) F-16C/Ds.  The aircraft arrived on September 4 and comprised 165597 ‘YM-51’, 165383 ‘YM-53’ and 163874 ‘YM-56’ plus one more coded ‘YM-55’, serial unconfirmed but possibly 165567.  All are attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) AV-8B detachment aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) as part of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM)-365 Reinforced ‘Blue Knights’.

The aircraft deployment was intended to increase their interoperability with foreign partners while exchanging best practices.  During the exercise, the AV-8Bs conducted integrated flight profiles with HAF F-16s from the resident 115 Pteriga Mahis’ (Combat Wing’s) two squadrons, 340 Mira ‘Aleppou’ and 343 Mira ‘Asteri’.

US Marine Corps Capt Eric Schiebe, a division leader under instruction, explained that the training flights focused on deep air support aerial interdiction, strike coordination and reconnaissance, anti-surface and anti-air warfare.  “This bi-lateral exercise provides a unique opportunity for US and Greek forces to share characteristics and operating best practices specific to their aircraft in a realistic environment,” said Schiebe.  The exercise also provided for the advanced qualifications for the MEU pilots.

The 24th MEU is currently underway with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group in support of maritime security operations and theatre security co-operation efforts in the US 6th Fleet area of operations. US 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance US national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.