The Israeli and Greek Air forces embarked Monday, Oct. 11, on a joint four-day exercise code-named Minoas 2010 over Crete and the western Peloponnese Peninsula, debkafile's military sources report. Both areas are characterized by long coastal strips and high mountain peaks rising as high a 2,400 meters and extending into the surrounding Ionian and Mediterranean Seas. Taking part are 16 Apache and Black Hawk UH-60 assault helicopters – eight Israeli and eight Greek. Over the weekend, the Israeli choppers flew directly from home base to the big Greek Suda air complex on the island of Crete. They were refueled in flight by the Israel air force as part of the exercise.
Minoas 2010 continues the interrupted joint maneuver held in May from the point where Athens broke it off over the Israeli commando raid on the Turkish Marmora before the protest vessel could reach the Gaza Strip to bust the Israeli blockade.
The helicopters are practicing tactics designed for large expanses of water, island groups – the Argo-Saronic Islands east of the Peloponnese and the Ionian Islands to its west – and high coastal peaks with deep canyons and gorges. This sort of terrain resembles Persian Gulf shores, including the coastal strips enclosing the strategic Strait of Hormuz and the western and southern shores of Iran where key Revolutionary Guards Corps bases are grouped.
Strategic cooperation between the Israeli and Greek air forces has grown in the last two years, further boosted by the breach in Turkish-Israeli military ties. In April 2008, they conducted a large-scale air maneuver which saw 110 Israel fighters of various types flying directly to the same area as the current helicopter exercise.
Western military experts at the time saw this exercise as demonstrating Israel's long-distance ability to fly fighter-bombers to and from Iran if it is decided to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.