In April 2019 Visual Approach Images was a guest of the Hellenic Air Force 120 Training Wing (120 TW) at Kalamata Air Base in south western Greece. A specific request had been made through official channels to be permitted to photograph the North American T-2 Buckeye jet trainer airplanes. The Hellenic Air Force is the worlds last remaining operator of these veteran machines, and which will eventually be replaced by more contemporary equipment as the task of keeping the 1950s designed jets serviceable becomes increasingly difficult.
The 120 TW comprises 4 squadrons - 361 and 364 squadron which operate the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II advanced turbo-prop trainer, and 362 and 363 squadrons which operate the T-2 jet trainer.
All Hellenic Air Force student pilots are initially assessed through basic flight training on the Cessna T-41 (a version of the Cessna 150 light aircraft) at Dekelia AB near Athens. After successfully passing assessment and selection for further training, the 4 squadrons at Kalamata provide the majority of pilot training for the Hellenic Air Force. All students pass through the 120 TW for initial and basic training on the two turbine-powered types before being streamed through continual assessment into helicopters, transport airplanes or fast jets.
The T-2 Buckeye was originally designed and built for the United States Navy as a basic pilot trainer with carrier operations capability. Powered by a single Westinghouse J34 engine, the airplane first flew in 1958 as the YT2J-1 (later re-designated the T-2A). The single engine was quickly replaced by two Pratt and Whitney J60 engines, and this version was delivered to the US Navy in 1965 as the T-2B, followed by the General Electric J-85 engined T-2C model in 1968 .
Two export customers received T-2D models (Venezuelan Air Force) and T-2E models (Greece - Hellenic Air Force) respectively. The last T-2E for the Hellenic Air Force was the last of 529 airplanes built when production ended in 1976.
40 T-2E model airplanes were delivered to the Hellenic Air Force between 1974 and 1976. 4 More ex NS Navy T-2C models were acquired from AMARC in the mid 1990s and it was these airplanes that were photographed on active training missions during the visit to Kalamata.
361 and 364 squadrons began operating the T-6 Texan in 1998. An initial 25 were delivered and a further 20 NTA versions followed. The NTA airframe allows munitions to be mounted on wing hard points for weapons and systems training.
The T-6 is also the airplane used by the Daedalus aerobatic demonstration team which flies the flag for the Hellenic Air Force at various airshows around the world.
To view the gallery from Kalamata click on the image below