by Aggelos Skordas
The remains of the fallen Greek Mirage 2000-5 fighter plane have been found off the coast of Skyros, the Hellenic Air Force has announced, while Defense Minister Panos Kammenos confirmed the death of the pilot, flight lieutenant Giorgos Baltadoros. “He fell for faith and country, fighting to defend National sovereignty and our territorial integrity. The country bows in mourning. Deepest condolences to his family and all Hellenic Air Force personnel”, Kammenos wrote in a tweet post.
Earlier Greek authorities launched a rescue operation in order to locate the fighter jet that crashed in the sea area nine miles off the northeast coasts of Skyros, in Southern Sporades archipelago. The Mirage 2000-5 disappeared from the radar at 12.15 pm, prompting an alarm in the Hellenic Air Force operation center. A C-130 transport aircraft, military Super Puma and Chinook helicopters, a frigate, Coast Guard vessels and a nearby sailing boat were involved in the operation in order to search for and retrieve the pilot. Unfortunately, the plane’s wreckage, the pilot’s helmet and the survival kit were later located offshore Skyros.
At the time of the crash, the weather conditions in the wider area were good while the pilot was reportedly experienced. The Hellenic Air Force leadership is attempting to ascertain the chain of events, based on the second pilot’s reports. According to Greek media the fallen jet was returning to Skyros Air Base where the 135thCombat Group is stationed. Along with another aircraft of the same type it was intercepting Turkish aircrafts, which violated the Greek airspace in the Aegean.
Turkish press, citing military sources, said fighter jets were nowhere in the area where the Greek Mirage crashed into the Aegean Sea near the island of Skyros. According to pro-Erdogan newspaper Haberturk, “despite initial reports in the Greek media that the Greek plane had a dogfight with a Turkish aircraft before it crashed, the Turkish Armed Forces denied the presence of Turkish planes in the area”. Similar reports were pressed by other Turkish newspapers, such as Milliyet.
The fallen pilot, Giorgos Baltadoros, was serving at the 331stAll Weather Squadron “Theseus”, stationed at the 114thCombat Wing, Tanagra Air Base, where from 2007 newly acquired Mirage 2000-5 are operated by the 331stAll Weather Squadron. Baltadoros, born in 1984, was married and father of two.
French-made Mirage 2000-5 is considered among the most modern fighter jets. In August 2000, Greece ordered 15 new Mirage 200-5 for 1.1 billion dollars order and had 10 existing Mirage 2000 upgraded to Mirage 2000-5.
On May 2017, another Greek Mirage 2000 crashed off the nearby island of Skopelos after malfunctioning during a training exercise. The pilot of that aircraft ejected and survived.