Greece

KIOWA WARRIOR HEADING FOR GREECE

When one thinks of the Kiowa “Warrior” armed reconnaissance helicopter, images of the choppers flying over Vietnam immediately come to mind. Upcycling at its best, the Kiowa still has some life in it with reports suggesting that Greece has sent a Letter of Request (LoR) to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) pertaining to 70 U.S. Army retired OH-58D Kiowa Warriors. The helicopters will be free through the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) programme, the purpose of which is to transfer excess defence equipment to foreign governments or international organisations. First deliveries should be expected by the end of the year. Of these rotary wing aircraft, 60 will join helicopter battalions and the remaining 10 will be dedicated to initial training of Army Air Force pilots at the Army Aviation School.

In March 2016, U.S. Major General (now Lieutenant General) Michael D. Lundy Commander of the Army Aviation Center of Excellence stated in a hearing on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 and Oversight of Previously Authorized Programs before congress that OH-58D Kiowa Warriors are being made available to partner nations through Foreign Military Sales (FMS). In February 2016, the first 16 aircraft for OH-58D FMS was signed with Croatia. He confirmed that additional FMS cases with Greece, Tunisia, and Austria were in various stages of negotiations. In mid-2017, Lieutenant General Alkiviadis Stefanis, Chief of the Hellenic Army, General Staff met with his American counterpart General Mark A. Milley in Washington to discuss the Kiowa as well as 15 Boeing CH-47 Chinooks.

 

Greece will be financially responsible for training, spare parts for two years worth of operations, support, and transportation estimated at $40/45 million, a huge saving from what would have been a cost of $294.5 million. Transfers of this nature enhance relationships between countries with both parties in a win-win situation – the U.S. meeting its foreign policy and national security objectives by assisting a NATO ally in improving their security and Greece equipping itself to protect its borders and ultimately providing stability in the region. U.S. naval base in Souda Bay in Greece is of strategic importance to the U.S. and Greece in turn plays an important role in regional security in the Balkans. The Kiowa has reconnaissance, observation/scout, surveillance, target acquisition and designation, and special operations forces anti-tank, anti-surface vessel, and troop assault gunship capabilities.

OH-58Ds were developed under the programme Prime Chance with work initiated in September 1987 with the goal of deployment to the Persian Gulf to participate in the Kuwaiti tanker reflagging exercise. 1990 saw the first fully integrated Bell OH-58D armed Kiowa Warrior prototype fly at Bell Helicopter’s Flight Research Center. In 1999, the U.S. Army received its final conversion deliveries. By 2012, the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior achieved two million flight hours.

Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA

MODERNIZATION OF GREECE’S F-16 FIGHTER JET FLEET

Pressure from Hellenic Air Force chiefs has Greece looking at modernizing and adding to its fighter jet capability by upgrading its existing F-16 fleet, with dreams of investing in 20 fifth generation F-35’s from American aerospace company Lockheed Martin. The decision is partly fuelled by Turkey’s plan to order 24 Lockheed Martin F-35s to replace its F-16 fleet.

The move undoubtedly unsettled Greece and in September 2016 during the Thessaloniki International Fair Greek Defence Minister, Panos Kammenos, stressed the need for Greece to update its fighter jet capability to answer to Turkey’s modernization of its fleet. Kammenos told Greek newspaper Kathimerini that this would allow Greece to restore a sense of balance with regards to military capabilities in the Aegean.

A Letter of Request (LOR) has been sent by Greece to the U.S. to upgrade its F-16 Block 52 and Block 52+ to F-16 Block 60s, with an expected time frame of 7 years and an estimated cost of several billion dollars. The LOR further explored the possibility of Greece participating in the F-35 programme. It is clear that Greece is aiming to sustain the numbers and quality of its fighter aircraft to be able to compete with Turkey who is expecting to receive 100 F-35s from 2018 to 2025.

F-35’s are pricey coming in bare bones at an estimated $109,88 million each (in FY2016). Compared to F-16s, which are tailored for maneuverability in combat situations, the F-35 is specifically designed for taking out advanced Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS) such as the Russian S-300 and S-400. The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, and advanced sustainment. Three variants of the F-35 will replace legacy fighters for the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, and 10 other countries around the world.

Greece currently has a total of 155 F-16C and F-16D fighter aircraft. Apart from the fighter jet modernization, Greece wants to maintain its S-300 missiles, which will cost around $9.5 million as an upgrade to S-400 cannot be done due to European economic sanctions on Russia. Greece is also looking to invest in drones, weapons maintenance, training, and more with a plan that if executed could easily cost $10 billion.

Hellenic Air Force’s Current F-16 Fleet

F-16C/D Block 30, 50 Fighting Falcon

Single-seat, single-engine, multirole fighter designed for all weather operations and capable of carrying a variety of weapon systems. Greece has in its air arsenal about 70 F-16s – Block 30 and Block 50.

In 1989, Greece purchased 40 Block 30s under the Arms Programme Peace Xenia I. In 1997, an additional 40 Block 50s were delivered as part of Peace Xenia II.

The Hellenic F-16s Block 30 and Block 50 are based at Larissa Air Force Base (110 Combat Wing – 346 Squadron Iason) and New Anchialos Air Force Base (111 Combat Wing – 330 Thunder, 341 Arrow, and 347 Perseas Squadrons).

All the Hellenic F-16s wear the Aegean Ghost camouflage.

F-16C/D Block 52+ Fighting Falcon

The Hellenic Air Force is the first Air Force in the world to operate this advanced F-16 type. The aircraft is the improved version of the Block 50 with advanced electronics and upgraded engine. The Hellenic Air Force’s Block 52+ are based at Souda Air Force Base (115 Combat Wing – 340 Fox and 343 Star Squadrons).

F-16C/D Block 52+adv Fighting Falcon

Improved version of the Block 52 with advanced electronics. The Hellenic Air Force’s Block 52+ Adv are based at Araxos Air Force Base (116 Combat Wing – 335 Squadron Tiger).

 

Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA

THE GREEK DEFENCE BUDGET – EXCESSIVE OR NECESSARY

The economic situation in Greece is dire. Walk the streets of Athens and you will see Greeks digging in trash cans for food. With no jobs and withdrawal limits imposed on locals, hard cash is elusive and hard to come by. Those situated outside defence circles will therefore be surprised (and perhaps a little shocked) to discover that according to NATO Greece is a large defence spender with 2.38% of its GDP for 2015, second to the United States who spends 3.59 % of its GDP on defence.

Despite the austerity measures, defence launches and acquisitions continue and include the Hellenic Navy P-3B maritime patrol aircraft modernization and upgrade programme, the commissioning of the HS Katsonis – a Type 214 submarine (Greece now operates 11 submarines), and funding for 10 ex-U.S. Army Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopters. Military personnel salaries, for the most part, have been exempt from cuts however in July 2016, a proposal surfaced aiming to cut salaries by 200 to 400 Euros per month depending on rank. Greek military leaders are concerned that salary cuts could affect morale, and coupled with the current economic climate, may fan the fire of a number of grievances.

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Greece is positioned strategically in the Balkan Peninsula with ease of access to three continents. It borders Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the North, Turkey to the Northeast, Albania to the Northwest, and three seas – the Ionian Sea to the West, the Mediterranean Sea to the South, and the Aegean Sea to the East. There is no doubt that with the current refugee crisis gripping Europe security concerns have escalated. According to John Nomikos, Director of the Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS), Greece is in the middle of what he calls a “security thunderstorm”. According to the UN Refugee Agency, in 2016 Greece recorded 164,730 refugee sea arrivals with 856,723 in 2015. Mr Nomikos added that the increase in transnational organized crime, human trafficking, and the Islamic terrorist threat as well as the disintegration of Greek social cohesion requires drastic reform and restructuring of the Greek defence and intelligence community with increased cooperation amongst agencies.

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Refugee crisis aside, one has to wonder if the base of Greece’s defence spending may still be rooted in the decades-long conflict with Turkey compounded by the Turkish occupation of Cyprus in the 70s. You can ask any Greek why their defence spending is high and they will tell you that Greece will not let the events of the past recur in future. Turkey has a habit of unnerving the Greeks by violating their airspace without submitting flight plans and at times with armed fighter jets, keeping them on constant alert. For instance, on 15 February 2016, Turkish fighter jets violated Greek airspace 22 times within a 24-hour period.

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Greece is often overlooked because of its current economic crisis however the significance of its geostrategic location instantly establishes it as a key defence player. Evidence of this lies in Crete, which has assumed great strategic significance for NATO and the U.S.

Crete hosts the following NATO operational and training infrastructure:

  • NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center (NMIOTC).
  • NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) – with a range of more than 14.440 Km2 of ground, sea, and air space.
  • NATO FORACS Greece (NFG) near Souda Bay where all multinational operational units joining NATO formations have to use FORACS to ensure interoperability for joint-service and multi-national operations. The site performs precision dynamic calibration measurements of the accuracy of target and navigation sensors (sonar, fire control, navigation radar, electronic surveillance, electro-optic sensors, inertial navigation systems, etc.) against common geographical references to satisfy national requirements and meet NATO material readiness standards.

Crete hosts the following U.S. operational infrastructure:

  • The U.S. Naval Support Activity (NSA), providing operational support to U.S, allied, and coalition forces.
  • The U.S. Naval European Meteorology and Oceanography Detachment

As a gateway to Europe, the Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southwest Asia, Greece’s defence budget (if spent wisely), is essential in protecting not only its territory, but that of its allies.

 

Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA

 

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