The Hellenic Army will have to undergo many changes if it is to successfully face the challenges of the 21st century. One of the biggest issues facing the Army is a demographic one. The Army has seen its number of troops steadily decline as it is an army traditionally reliant on conscripts. With the recent pre-electoral move to slash the term of conscript duty even more the service faced acute problems in covering the positions needed. Not enough professional soldiers have been taken on to make up for the gap and the new government has over the last few days upset the process by which more professional staff would be hired. Apart from the manpower issue there are several procurement issues which seriously affect operational abilities.
The Leopard 2 Ammunition Issue
Several years ago the Greek Army started taking delivery of its brand new Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks. These tanks are state of the art and in general considered amongst the best in the world. Several attempts were made to procure the necessary supply of 120mm rounds for these tanks. In order to please both Germany and the US two types of ammunition were to be procured. So far all attempts to finalise the purchase have failed and the force operates with an “emergency” batch of 15,000 rounds which were mainly meant to cover training purposes. The shortfall also affects the second hand Leopard 2A4 tanks that have been acquired.
It is unthinkable that any government can leave such an important deterrent force without ammunition, thereby risking making the entire force ineffective. In the event of a conflict only few rounds would be available to the battalions operating this tank. Also, it is hard to believe that the previous government could not strike a good deal on this programme, considering the current economic crisis. It’s time to get this resolved and stop this huge investment being relegated to parade duties. As in the case of the Navy’s Type 214 subs the Greek Army has lost the opportunity to have a decade of clear superiority in the field.
NH-90 Utility Helicopters
The NH-90 programme itself is one that has seen several delays and setbacks. Nonetheless, several clients have decided to take the helicopter into operation, albeit with reduced capabilities. There are no safety obstacles that would prevent the helicopters to be taken into operation in the Greek Army. Even without being a fully mature product they would do a better job than the Army’s aging UH-1 Vietnam era helicopters.
Another point to note is that the number of helicopters on order is far too small to cover the Army’s needs. So far only 20 units have been ordered. Although each NH-90 is far more capable than the helicopters it will be replacing a number of 20 cannot even begin to cover the existing needs, let alone help in making some select units of the Army air mobile.
General Issue Equipment
This subject does not refer to any procurement programme in particular. Everyone who has served in the Greek Army will have memories of the general bad state of equipment issued. The quality of battle dress uniforms issued is poor, helmets date back to the Korean War and we will not go into cold or wet weather gear. The general state of this equipment shows a lack of understanding and respect to the conscripts who serve their country. Professional soldiers usually have better gear but not because the service provides it, they purchase it themselves instead. The Army needs to establish a new baseline standard of general issue equipment
The current standard rifle in the Greek Army is the 7.62mm G-3 in two editions. Several units use 5.56mm M-16 and derivatives. The G-3 is outdated and in need or replacement. First of all the Army needs to decide what size ammunition it will use in the future, 7.62mm or 5.56mm. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Several new designs were tested in the past as a replacement rifle but none was selected. The procurement of a new rifle can also greatly benefit the local arms industry.
Part III to come next – Air Force