Down below Kotroni hilltop lays Marathon, the town where according the old stories the 42 km run found its origin after an by Athens won battle somewhere 490 BC. Although the grounds are inspiring out of historical believe, the Greek navy had allegedly other considerations when it decided to construct a new naval air arms facility, as previous base of Amphiali-Athens had become too small. The naval helicopter fleet was growing and the isolated Kotroni hilltop was ideally located to house the unit for the coming future. Close to seaside for easy Greek Navy Frigate ship access and not too far away from naval headquarters in Athens, Kotroni was also for Greece centrally located and therefore ideal to reach all countries detachment locations.
After becoming operational in 1986, Kotroni Naval Air Station received the latest navy asset from Amphiali, the AB-212 for which a Naval Aviation school was founded to train crews on this new type. The unit, divided into 2 flights, operated also some Alouette III’s. A few years later, in 1996, another new type entered the Greek Navy, when deliveries started of S-70B-6 “Aegean Hawk” helicopters to Kotroni.
Some years ago, in 2013, the Alouette III’s were taken out of service, but the AB-212 and S-70B choppers remain as the backbone of Greek Naval Aviation which form 2 squadrons at Kotroni, 1 and 2 MEN. The base is also hosting a Greek Helicopter Coast Guard unit flying several SA-365 Dauphin.
To find out more on nowadays navy activities we (or: Global Aviator magazine) we spoke to Kotroni base commander Lt. Col. Savvatis, shortly before he moved to a new position in Brussels, Belgium.
Lt. Col. Savvatis has an active history in one of the local based squadrons, namely 1st “Mira Elikopteron Naftikou” (MEN), or 1st Navy Helicopter Squadron which operates the AB-212. During the last years in 1 MEN, he held the position of Commanding Officer.
Originally the Hellenic Navy operated the AB-212 in two versions; the Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) variant and the Electronic Warfare (EW). Currently only the ASW variant is in use after the Greek Navy took their 2 Electronic Warfare (EW) types out of service some years ago. The EW role is still vital, but it appeared to be more efficient to embed this role within the tasks of the S-70 Aegean Hawk.
Lt. Col. Savvatis explains that for the ASW task, the about 8 AB-212 choppers of 1 MEN regularly deploy to Greek Navy frigates. For their sea based operations the AB-212 is equipped with variable depth sonar, a surface surveillance radar, an Automated Identify System (AIS) for detection and tracking of enemy surface targets and a Sapphire II Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) system. The last 3 roles are mainly for the Anti Surface Warfare (ASuW) of 1 NEM. Also a GPS system with a moving map is being installed into the AB-212 fleet, which combines the received signals from sonar, radar, AIS and FLIR into one overall view. This tactical system, called OCTOPUS, is developed by 1 MEN navy personnel. AB-212 available arms consists out of Mk.46 mod 3/5 ASW torpedoes and a MG-3 gun.
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