A Hellenic Air Force (HAF)-operated McDonnell Douglas F-4E (AUP) Phantom II crashed in the waters of the Ionian Sea, some 25nm (46km) south of Andravida – the type’s home base – on January 30.
While details surrounding this incident remain unclear, the HAF confirmed that the fighter-bomber (reportedly serial 01507) was conducting a training flight. Local reports from media outlets in Greece have suggested that the F-4E crashed during a low-flying training exercise in tandem with another aircraft, which played a crucial role in reporting the location of the crash.
A large-scale search and rescue operation launched by the HAF and the Hellenic Navy after the crash was reported resulted in the discovery of the aircraft’s wreckage, along with the body of its co-pilot, who was later identified as 29-year-old Lt Cdr (I) Marios Michail Touroutsikas. Search efforts to find the Phantom II’s pilot, 31-year-old Capt Efstathios Tsitlakidis, are still underway, although it is believed that he also did not survive the crash. In light of these losses, Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos announced that Greece would hold three days of military mourning.
Parts of the fighter jet debris found around 35 nautical miles south of Andravida, #Greece.— Daphne Tolis (@daphnetoli) January 30, 2023
The Greek F-4 Phantom II jet, carrying a two-member crew, crashed on Monday morning into the Ionian Sea during a training flight. @HAFspokesperson pic.twitter.com/kAAQDBG9jt
It has been reported that two HAF-operated Agusta-Bell AB.205A-1 utility helicopters and one Sikorsky S-70B-6 Aegean Hawk multi-role maritime helicopter from the Hellenic Navy were used to support the search and rescue operation, along with several vessels from the Hellenic Coast Guard. The HAF also had a Lockheed C-130B/H Hercules tactical transport on standby to provide additional support, but it is unclear as to whether this aircraft was employed.
The crashed F-4E (serial 01507) belonged to 338 Mira (Squadron) ‘Aris (Mars)’ – a unit that is subordinated to the HAF’s 117th Combat Wing (CW) at Andravida Air Base. The squadron still has some 25 modernised and potent F-4E (AUP) Phantom IIs on strength at Andravida, where the type also serves with two other smaller HAF units: the 117th CW’s Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) - Sminos Metekpaidefsis ston Tipo (SMET) ‘Toxo (Bow)’ – and the Tactical Weapons School (Kentro Aeroporikis Taktikis; KEAT).