Monday, November 30, 2009

Stolen Helicopter Engine Found

In an exclusive “En Kripto” reports that the stolen Makila engine of a Super Puma helicopter has been recovered (for the original story on the theft see here). The engine was stolen some weeks ago from the 202nd State Aircraft Factory. In the beginning of November a report surfaced which claimed that a part or parts of the stolen engine were possibly found in Igoumenitsa Port (see here). En Kripto reports that according to its sources the engine was found whole inside a container in Igoumenitsa Port and was about to be installed in a cigarette smuggling vessel.

Installing such an engine in a racing boat makes their performance skyrocket and virtually impossible to be intercepted by the coastguard. Installing turboshaft engines in racing boats is relatively common outside of Greece and there are several companies that specialise in this.

En Kripto further makes a connection between the engine theft and the confiscation some months ago of a high power smuggling vessel by the Greek Coastguard and wonders whether the theft is a some sort of “answer” to the confiscation.

Μολὼν λαβέ - Then and Now

Molon Lave was a phrase that was once used to mean something along the line of “over my dead body”. Literally it means “come and get them”. It is a phrase first used by the Spartans when called upon to surrender their arms by the invading Persians. Since then it has continued to be a phrase of defiance. The reason I wrote “was once used” is due to a very disturbing piece of news found on Strategy-Geopolitics which quotes a small newspaper article from Realnews of the 29th of November. If this news is true then “Molon Lave” literally means come and get it, as in “come and get it because we’ll give it to you”.

The small article reports on frustration caused in the ranks of the Hellenic Air Force last week due to a verbal order. Supposedly according to this order all training flights over the Aegean between Friday and Tuesday were cancelled due to the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha. The only exception made was for aircraft on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) in forward bases which intercept Turkish Air Force aircraft violating Greek airspace.

Such news really does not come as any surprise anymore. Greece and Turkey have signed Confidence Building Measures agreements in the past which contained such provisions. Unfortunately the areas over which these provisions rule were either international areas of the Aegean or Greek areas, not Turkish. Also, it will be interesting to see what restraint the Turkish Air Force will show during Greek religious festivals. Mark the 6th of January in your calendar and we will see.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkish MESA to Be Delivered Before the End of 2010

DefenceNet reports that the initial acceptance of the B-737-700 AEW&C aircraft of the Wedgetail program by Australia signals the countdown for acceptance of the same system by the Turkish Air Force. Despite the serious problems encountered so far by Boeing engineers it seems that now project development is accelerating. This means that, barring any surprises, Turkey will have one of these systems in her possession by the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011 at the latest. This is a system which is capable of changing the balance of power in the Aegean. The MESA radar is unique worldwide in that it can simultaneously execute a radar scan and electronically jam the opponent’s systems.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Turkish Exercise between Rhodes and Kastellorizo

DefenceNet reports that Turkey issued a NOTAM announcing a live fire exercise in the area between Rhodes and Kastellorizo. The area being reserved is almost twice as large as the area reserved for a recent SAR exercise. With this new NOTAM Turkey once again refuses to recognise Greek jurisdiction in the area and are literally cutting the area in two, thereby isolating Kastellorizo.

The NOTAM states that the area falls under Turkish jurisdiction and this cannot be seen as an isolated fact. It is part of a larger plan to isolate Kastellorizo and not recognise the island’s right to a continental shelf.

Continental shelf, FIR and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are what Turkey is bringing into question through its policy of not recognising the existing FIR limits between Rhodes and Kastellorizo.

Yesterday another Turkish NOTAM was issued regarding a Turkish exercise in which it rejects Greek jurisdiction on parts of the Athens FIR:


Regarding FIR and Flight Safety

One of the ongoing disputes between Greece and Turkey is the fact that Turkey refuses to report its military flight activity in the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR). It’s excuse is the fact that the Chicago convention considers state aircraft exempt from filing flight plans for military flights. Maybe we’ll explore this debate in depth in another article at some point. For now here are some thoughts and some related news on the matter.

First of all, the Chicago Convention which came into force in 1947 paved the way for countries to divide up airspace in FIR sectors for the purpose of adequately controlling air traffic and keeping air travel safe. Since then air travel and air traffic have evolved considerably. It has now become customary for military aircraft to file flight plans with other FIRs when carrying out flights there. Turkey maintains that this is not necessary.

So here is a piece of news not directly related to Greece or Turkey. RTL News Netherlands reports on the interception of a pair of Russian bombers which were flying through the Amsterdam FIR 75 km north of Ameland Island, well outside of Dutch airspace but within the Dutch FIR sector of responsibility. The Russian bombers had not submitted flight plans and failed to identify themselves. They were first intercepted by Danish Air Force fighters which then handed over the procedure to 2 Dutch fighters. Denmark and The Netherlands are both NATO countries and as such follow standard NATO procedures. What did they do when 2 unidentified and unannounced aircraft entered their areas of responsibility? They carried out interceptions. It’s a shame Greece’s NATO partners think that civilian air traffic over the Aegean does not deserve to fly in the same safety environment. Here is a recording of the interception process that took place.

So now we move on to some news from “En Kripto” blog according to which military flight activity in the Aegean has caused problems for civilian air traffic in the last two days. According to the report there were so many interceptions and dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighters in the area between Ikaria, Samos and Chios that the Athens Flight Control Centre had to delay the flights of civil aircraft as there was no free space available under 6,000 feet.

Other than that, the European Union will decide next month on how to get Turkey into the Union.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkish Air Force Surprise Mobilisation Exercise

DefenceNet reports that the Turkish Air Force conducted a large scale mobilisation of its Air Force last week in a surprise move. This mobilisation, which happened Wednesday the 18th and Thursday the 19th of November involved 80% of Turkish air bases and two thirds of the inventory’s fighter aircraft. SEAD mission exercises were carried out from Merzifon airbase.

All the above happened completely without notice. On Wednesday between 09:30 and 10:00 the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority issued two NOTAMs with regards to air displays.

The “air displays” started just two hours after the NOTAMs were issued and all air bases between Eskisehir and Dalaman were involved. The NOTAMs had durations of just two hours and one of them was for an area that on its west side coincided with the Athens FIR.

The Wednesday activity took place in the area between Thrace, Imvros (Gokceada), Limnos, Mitilini and Eskisehir, which covers the northern axis of operations. The airbases of Bandirma, Balikeshir and Eskisehir were put on a sudden state of red alert. These bases include the 1st, 6th and 9th combat wings (AJU). This was a large exercise over a large area involving the backbone of the Turkish Air Force and was presented officially as an air display.

On Thursday more NOTAMs were issued between 08:30 and 09:00 in the morning covering large areas for the purpose of air exercises and air refuelling. The first NOTAM covered the entire Turkish territory and units from Merzifon, Akinci and Erhac participated.

One point of interest was the fact that aircraft from 151 Squadron (Filo) which operates out of Merzifon headed west and were refuelled in the air by tankers while loaded with AGM-88B HARM missiles. This was a sudden SEAD exercise.

At the same time a Combat Search And Rescue exercise took place in the west of Turkey.

The types of exercises that took place included SEAD, air superiority and CSAR. In other words, exercises in the type of operations that would be needed for the Turkish Air Force to mount a surprise attack.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Airspace Violations of the Day

DefenceNet reports that today a total of 16 Turkish Air Force fighters and one CN-235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft violated Aegean airspace on 7 occasions. This happened in the northern, central and southern sectors of the Aegean. Six of the Turkish fighters were armed. All Turkish aircraft were intercepted by Greek fighters.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Continuity in the New Frigate Purchase

DefenceNet reports that Minister of Defence Venizelos met with his French counterpart, Herve Morin, today who is on an official visit to Greece. The meeting mainly focussed on current Greek acquisition programmes.

Specifically the new frigate requirement was discussed about which Minister Venizelos stated: “we expressed our will to continue negotiations under the conditions that there will be the greatest possible Greek involvement, technology transfer and the biggest possible Greek added value”.

With regards to the total cost of the purchase the minister stated that this has not yet been determined and that it is subject to negotiations. With regards to the other two procurement programmes in which the French are involved, that of the NH-90 purchase and the anticipated Super Puma SAR helicopter order, the minister stated that initiatives will be undertaken to tackle the current problems and for finding commonly beneficial solutions.

Aids to Minister Venizelos connected the two helicopter programmes, implying that the sooner the French side finds solutions to the NH-90 problems, the sooner negotiations will progress on the purchase of 15 Super Pumas. Also, it is said that the French Minister of Defence admitted that the UAE also has made complaints about their NH-90s.

With regards to the new fighter programme Minister Venizelos made clear that this case has not yet been looked at. The French minister stated that France sees the Greek Frigate programme as one in the framework of industrial cooperation between the Greek shipyards and the French government which will include technology transfer. He also announced that within the next months an agreement will be signed between Greece and France which will record the entire range of defence and military cooperation on a bilateral and international level. The aim is the development of a common European defence architecture.

In relation to the issue of illegal immigration and the continuous flow of illegal immigrants from the Turkish coast the French Minister declared that he is in favour “of a common surveillance area from the Baltic to the Mediterranean and the Aegean through the creation of a network that will allow us to know what is happening at any time and to allocate resources accordingly”.

This last statement by the French Minister shows understanding for the problem faced by Greece and willingness to help countries that act as entry points for illegal immigrants to the EU.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Zubr: Joint Service Weapon Immobilised

Article by Brigadier General Koutsogiannopoulos, former Director of International Relations of the Ministry of Defence. Translated from post on Strategy-Geopolitics.

The immediate immobilisation of the 2 out of 4 Zubr hovercraft of the Hellenic Navy raises serious questions. According to press reports the “Zakynthos” (L-183) and “Ithaca” (L-181) have been immobilised with immediate effect and will possibly be immobilised permanently with the aim of acting as a source of spare parts for the other 2 hovercrafts, “Corfu” (L-182) and “Kefalonia” (L-180).

The hovercrafts, which are of Russian and Ukrainian technology, started being delivered in 2001 with the last one arriving in 2005. The Zubr is designed to quickly transport landing forces by sea to prepared or unprepared beaches by the theatre of operations as well as to transport and lay mines. The Zubr can transport 3 medium battle tanks or 10 armoured personnel carriers or 500 troops. With a full load the craft is capable of landing on a beach with a 5% upward slope and to overcome obstacles up to 1.6 metres in height. It can operate at a speed of 60 knots. Personnel are protected from WMDs through airtight seals and with individual suits. The craft is also protected from mines due to the horizontal air layer created inside the “skirt” which lowers its magnetic signature. It carries 2 six-barrel AK-630 30mm Gatling guns in the anti-air role and 2 MS-227 140mm multiple rocket launchers with 22 launch tubes each as well as a removable mine laying system for 20 to 80 mines.

Many Navy officers in the past were not too fond of the Zubr. However, during the course of their service on these ships many officers now feel that if the Zubrs were properly used in the rapid reaction role they could significantly change the operational picture in the Aegean.

Especially for the 6th Amphibious Commando Squadron, which was created after the Imia crisis as a rapid reaction force, the Zubrs can be a fast mode of transportation. The ability to lay mines to deny areas and passage routes in the Aegean should also not be overlooked. Finally, it should be noted that during his recent official visit, the head of the US Navy, Admiral Gary Roughead, was impressed by the Russian made hovercraft and their operational abilities.

Hellenic Defence News note: At one point only one of the four hovercrafts was operational. Supposedly steps were undertaken to procure spare parts to keep at least 3 of these operational. These ships have completely transformed the Navy’s ability to transport elements of the Marines to remote islands quickly and safely. If anything even the original 4 hovercrafts were not enough to cover needs. Now it looks like the Navy will be left with 2 operational craft from the moment the Turkish Navy is looking to acquire their own hovercraft for assault operations against Greek islands.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Turkey Attempts to Intercept Frontex Aircraft

DefenceNet reports that today Turkey for the first time attempted an actual interception of a Frontex aircraft which was patrolling at an altitude of 2,000 feet north of Farmakonisi Island and within Greek airspace. The Estonian Frontex aircraft was warned by the operations centre of the approaching Turkish aircraft and had time to move away from the area. When the Turkish aircraft approached the FIR border, while still in the Istanbul FIR, the Frontex aircraft had already left the area.

The incident started at 10:55 in the morning when the Turkish ground station DATCA started sending warning messages to the Estonian aircraft, as has happened in the past. The warnings claimed the Estonian aircraft was inside Turkish airspace and it would have to leave the area or else a tactical operation would be mounted against it. The Estonian Frontex aircraft continued its mission in other areas, which Turkey evidently does not consider to be in the Turkish FIR, and landed at Kos airport at 13:46.

This is the second day in a row where Turkey is creating tension in the Aegean, today by intercepting a Frontex aircraft in practice.

Further than this incident, a formation of 6 Turkish fighters violated Greek airspace. This was followed by a formation of two aircraft and then a single aircraft. The number of airspace breaches totalled 3. This follows yesterday’s incident with Turkish fighters flying directly into a Greek exercise area (see here).

Hellenic Defence News note: It is becoming clearer every day that many Greek areas of the Aegean are in practice becoming not just disputed areas, but areas that the Greek government does not consider worth defending. What would any other self respecting nation do in this situation? The current Greek policy cannot even be described as a policy of appeasement anymore, it has gone beyond that, far beyond.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Cat and Mouse Games in the Aegean

DefenceNet reports on the latest Turkish provocation in the Aegean. Turkey today completed its Search and Rescue exercise between Rhodes and Kastellorizo ignoring the fact that this area falls under Greek SAR jurisdiction but to make matters worse 10 Turkish fighters today interrupted a Greek SAR exercise between Chios and Samos.

The interesting part is that this action happened under the auspices of a NATO exercise.

The Turkish move raised tensions so high that the so called hotline between CAOC-7 in Larissa and CAOC-6 in Eskisehir had to be used.

Specifically a formation of 10 Turkish fighters (8 F-16s and 2 F-4s) that were supposedly in a joint exercise with a NATO E-3 AWACS aircraft harassed Greek assets which were conducting the Ionas 09 exercise in the area between Chios and Samos (for more on this exercise see here).

At 13:30 4 Turkish F-16s broke off from their formation and performed a low pass at an altitude of 2,200 feet over the area of the Greek exercise, thereby violating the 10,000 feet minimum height restriction as per the Greek NOTAM announcing the exercise.

The Greek side called off its exercise in order to avoid an accident which was becoming likely. At the same time Greek fighters arrived at the scene to intercept the Turkish ones.

The event lasted 5 minutes from 13.30 until 13:35 and exited the Greek FIR south of Chios Island.

Unannounced Missile Drill by the Greek Navy

DefenceNet reports that the Greek Navy conducted an unannounced missile drill yesterday by firing an MM-38 Exocet anti-ship missile from a deserted beach on the eastern side of Crete. It is the first time such a test is conducted with this system after the Navy took delivery of two batteries of these missiles in 1993. This particular weapon, which consists of mobile launchers for surface to surface missiles, is considered a crucial strategic weapon in the Greek inventory as its installation on three Aegean islands denies crucial areas to a potential adversary.

One specific detail about yesterday’s launch was the fact that the MM-38 missile and its square launcher came from old fast attack craft and were modified to fit mobile launch vehicles. The two original batteries which were acquired use the MM-40 Block II missile which has a range of 60km. and is fired from different type launchers. The MM-38 missile fired yesterday has a range of 38km.

The fact that the launch happened unannounced from an abandoned beach and not from the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) and the fact that the missile was directed towards the general area where Turkey and Egypt will conduct joint exercises seems to convey a message. After all, it is the first time such a test takes place with a weapon veiled in secrecy. The missile hit its target, the old minesweeper “Aigli”, at a distance of 31km.

The missile system is fully mobile. The missiles are carried in pairs or fours by truck and can hit surface vessels with pin point accuracy. The largest part of the missile’s flight path is flown at a height of two metres above the sea’s surface (sea skimming).

The MM-38 missiles are due to be upgraded to the MM-40 Block II standard (as revealed by a Navy spokesman to DefenceNet) and will thus be brought to the same standard as other missiles already operated by Greece and Cyprus. The MM-40 Block II has a range of 60km. Cyprus possesses 3 quadruple launchers with 24 missiles.

Exocet missiles were responsible for the damage inflicted upon the British Armada during the Falklands War. The Argentineans had less than 8 missiles at their disposal yet managed to sink four merchant and naval vessels.

Joint Greek-Israeli Exercise Postponed

Greece-Salonika reports that the joint Greek-Israeli exercise due to take place between the 6th and the 13th of December (reported here)has been postponed. There is no information as to why Israel has decided to postpone the exercise which would involve sending Israeli aircraft and helicopters to Andravida Airbase in Greece.

The exercise, which is effectively cancelled until further notice, would have been the second one between the two countries within the space of one year. Last year's air exercise between Greece and Israel was interpreted by Washington as a trial run for a potential attack by Israel against Iranian nuclear installations.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Widespread Psychological Operations from the Turkish General Staff

Strategy-Geopolitics reports on an article by the Turkish “Zaman” newspaper which is leading the way in revelations regarding the so called “Action Plan to Combat Regression”. It revelas that the Turkish General Staff is responsible for the operation of 24 radio stations inside and outside of Turkey with the aim of spreading propaganda. Of these, 5 belong to the General Staff, 12 belong to the Army, 3 belong to the Navy, 3 belong to the Gendarmerie and 1 belongs to the Coast Guard. This information is included on the CD titled “Psychological Warfare Foundations” which was sent last Sunday by an anonymous officer.

Of particular interest is the revelation that the Turkish General Staff has approved a budget for the creation of a computer strategy game aimed at the Turkish youth based on Turkish history and Kemal Ataturk. The game will feature the Asia Minor War, Battle of Gallipoli and invasion of Cyprus.

"Pashtun Sabre" Exercise

Fox2 Magazine reports on a joint Greek-British cooperative exercise names “Pashtun Sabre”. The exercise started on the 9th of November and will finish on the 20th of November and is taking place on the Otterburn firing range in Britain. The Greek participation lasted two days, from the 12th to the 13th of November. Based on information from the British MoD this is a live fire exercise in preparation for missions in a real theatre of operations. Armoured units, helicopters and fighter aircraft are participating in the exercise.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tension Rising in the Aegean

Strategy-Geopolitics reports that tension in the Aegean is rising to a dangerous level with Turkey trying to drag Athens to the negotiating table with any means possible.

Yesterday Turkey issued a NOTAM (Notice To Air Men) with which it refuses to recognise Greek jurisdiction for Search and Rescue in the area between Rhodes and Kastellorizo. This is the wider area in which on the 19th of November the final phase of the “Dosttluk Denizi 2009” exercise will take place with Egypt. The Turkish Navy will participate in this exercise with two frigates, one corvette, one submarine, two fast attack craft, two patrol boats and one special operations team (SAT), as well as aerial assets.

On the same day the Greek Armed Forces will execute the joint medium scale exercise “Ionas 2009” for the second consecutive year. This will take place in the Central Aegean (between Chios and Samos) and its airspace. The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate the readiness of the Search and Rescue system and the level of training of the forces involved. This exercise will see the participation of one frigate with its S-70 ASW helicopter, two gunboats, one C-130 aircraft, two Super Puma helicopters, 4 fighter aircraft, members of the Underwater Demolition Command as well as the Air Force’s 31st Special Operations Squadron. The exercise will be monitored by the leadership of the Armed Forces from a frigate.

Turkish Coast Guard Vessels in Greek Waters

Further to yesterday’s report about airspace violations and over flights of Agathonisi Island by Turkish fighter aircraft (see here), Strategy-Geopolitics now reports that Turkish Coast Guard vessels also entered Greek territorial waters in the Aegean. The Turkish vessels were shadowing a merchant vessel flying the Russian flag. It is expected that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will lodge a protest with the Turkish government.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Two Turkish Attack Aircraft Overfly Agathonisi Island at 3,000 Feet

DefenceNet reports that today Turkish Aircraft overflew Greek territory. It is the second time within 40 days that something like this happens and after the new government came to power in Greece. The double over flight in fact occurred a few minutes after Assistant Minister of Defence Beglitis stated that there will be no more tolerance for Turkey’s attitude in the Aegean.

Specifically two Turkish F-4 2020 Terminators broke off from their formation of 8 aircraft (4 F-16s and 4 F-4s) which entered the Athens FIR South of Lesbos Island at 15:06 and flew over Agathonisi Islands at an altitude of just 3,000 feet. The Greek Air Force sent interceptors which identified the Turkish aircraft , as per standing instructions, after which the Turkish aircraft exited Greek airspace at 15:38.

The details of this new provocation by Turkish pilots were given by the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that the Greek Ambassador in Ankara can lodge an official demarche.

At the same time the representatives of NATO allies in Brussels were also informed of the provocation.

Assistant Minister of Defence Beglitis made the following statement after his meeting with US Undersecretary of Defence Alexander Vershbow: “We are ready to discuss, within a NATO framework, issues which are related to Turkey’s behaviour, under one basic condition: The complete acceptance by Turkey of the rule of International Law and International Treaties which exist and are respected by all regarding the Aegean. We cannot accept and we will not accept any behaviour of Turkey which violates basic principles of International Law and International Treaties.”

Athens Trying to Avoid the Placement of a Turkish Commander at CAOC-4

Strategy-Geopolitics reports that the government is trying to overturn two decisions made by the previous administration which are harmful to the country’s national interests and national sovereignty.

The first decision was to allow a Turkish General to be in command of the Combined Air Operations Centre in Larissa (CAOC-4) on a rotational basis. The second decision has to do with the exclusion of most Aegean islands from NATO planning and defence related funding due to the fact that their sovereignty is questioned by Turkey, as well as the right to place military forces on these. According to Ta Nea newspaper the new Greek government will suggest at the next NATO summit of Defence Ministers that the leadership of CAOC-4 should be held exclusively by a Greek General and that the position of sub commander can rotate between Turkish, Bulgarian and Romanian officers. This would be due to the fact that the area of responsibility of CAOC-4 is the airspace of Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania and parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. An alternative suggestion will be for the sub commander to be a US officer on a permanent basis.

Also, the situation that has been created with NATO excluding Greek islands from exercise planning has been conveyed to Washington and the message is starting to get through. During contacts with the allies Greece has set out the problem of Turkish aggression and is consistently asking the United States to take a clear stance on issues such as the exclusion of islands from NATO exercises, according to an official source.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Turkish MESA Programme

Fox2 Magazine reports on a Turkish newspaper article by Hurriyet which claims the Turkish MESA Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft could be delivered to the Turkish Air Force as soon as 2010. This would be the result of successful tests carried out in the Australian Wedgetail programme.

During the Australian tests around 500 experiments were carried out during 19 flights. The Turkish delivery schedule has been delayed by three years so far.

What the article fails to mention is whether the companies producing the system have managed to solve the problems faced by the radar system. Therefore, it remains possible that if the system is delivered in 2010 it will do so with reduced capabilities.

Challenges Facing the Hellenic Armed Forces

Part IIIB – Air Force

This is the final part on the challenges facing the different branches of the Hellenic Armed Forces. In the previous part the New Fighter Programme was covered. There are several more programmes that have been stuck for some time and need to be resolved one way or another.

Search And Rescue Helicopters

The Greek Air Force already operates a number of AS332C1 Super Puma (Combat) Search and Rescue helicopters. These are used alongside the same type of helicopter which the Air Force operates on behalf of the Greek Coast Guard. The Coast Guard helicopters were acquired from a different budget which included European Union funds. By having both batches operated by the Air Force savings can be made in both training as well as logistical support. Unfortunately the Coast Guard has a bad track record in servicing other aerial assets which it operates (or not as is the case with some). In that sense it is a blessing that the Air Force operates all Search and Rescue helicopters of this type. These helicopters are part of 384 Search and Rescue Squadron. This squadron came to supplement the legendary 358 Search and Rescue Squadron which until the arrival of the Super Pumas was the only SAR squadron in the Greek Air Force.

It would seem that expanding from one SAR squadron to two is a sufficient expansion for a country’s SAR capability. However, as with many other cases, politics plays a big role here. For decades Turkey has been claiming responsibility for Search and Rescue duties in areas which fall under the Athens FIR and which are assigned to Greece. Turkey has been backing up these claims by acquiring a great number of SAR helicopters and actively assigning them to that role. At the same time, Turkey has been making the case internationally that Greek SAR assets on certain islands should not be considered as valid assets as those islands should be demilitarised. This issue will be discussed in another article; however, Greek diplomacy has been very weak in defending Greek rights which has had an impact on maritime safety. Things have come to the point that in a potential accident situation a Greek SAR helicopter on Limnos Island is not recognised while a Turkish SAR helicopter which is stationed much further away is recognised. This is a typical example of (international) politics playing with people’s lives. Thankfully the Greek Air Force is not backing down, regardless of politics, and maintains its SAR assets on alert wherever they are really needed and for the safety of whoever may need them.

The current need for additional (Combat) Search and Rescue helicopters comes as a result of several factors. The first is the reason discussed in the previous paragraph. Greece needs to have enough SAR assets available to cover an entire archipelago and the Greek mainland. The second reason is that the original SAR squadron (358 Phaethon) operates with antiquated AB205A helicopters. These are essentially Vietnam era UH-1 helicopters built under licence by Agusta in Italy. They are single engine helicopters which is not ideal when operating over water and need to be replaced. The third reason is that with the introduction of the original Super Puma helicopters the Air Force created the 31st MEE which started out as a Combat Search and Rescue squadron. This squadron is a collection of specially trained men whose task has evolved from CSAR to all sorts of special operations, including target designation and other sorts of special operations. There are not enough helicopters available currently to cover all tasks. Lastly, the availability of CSAR helicopters and crews offer psychological support to combat pilots who will need to fly over enemy territory. They will know that in the event they are shot down there will be a good chance they will be rescued.

Modernisation of Existing Fighter Aircraft

The topic of modernising existing fighter aircraft in the inventory has been covered before in this blog. The Greek Air Force has in the past not been very active in keeping its inventory on the cutting edge through Mid Life Update (MLU) type programmes. The first exception to this was the MLU programme carried out on part of the F-4 Phantom fleet. The programme was delayed by several years and encountered many hurdles but in the end it paid off. The aircraft that underwent the modernisation have gone from being 2nd generation fighters to 3rd generation fighters with true BVR capability as well as night attack using Litening targeting pods. The difference in operational capabilities is staggering.

The second exception was when Greece ordered 15 new Mirage 2000-5 fighters and decided to upgrade 10 of its older EGM models to the dash 5 configuration. These fighters, alongside the newly delivered F-16 Block52M aircraft, are the cutting edge of what can be found in the Greek inventory. As already covered in the previous instalment, Greece needs to take delivery of roughly 10 fighter aircraft per year to stick to the foreseen force structure of 300 front line combat aircraft. This also means that fighters will have to stay in the front line for at least 30 years.

Currently the following fighter aircraft are in need of an MLU:
- Around 35 F-16C/D Block 30 aircraft
- 39 F-16C/D Block 50 aircraft
- 25 Mirage 2000 EGM/BGM
- Possibly 59 F-16C/D Block 52+ to be brought to the 52M standard

As shown here, there are many advantages to aircraft being equipped with the Link 16 system. This allows for unprecedented coordination between forces and also allows for cooperative target engagement. The Turkish Air Force is including the Link 16 system in the MLU programme it is conducting for its F-16s.

Several Greek sources have commented on a recent article by Flight International which revealed that Raytheon has received licences to demonstrate its RACR radar to two potential customers, these potentially being South Korea and Greece. The RACR incorporates AESA technology which is currently the cutting edge in radar design. A possible Greek order for new aircraft could incorporate this type of radar but it would be interesting to see whether such a radar would be selected for the F-16 MLU programmes. If this is the case then the MLU could be delayed as testing is due to commence in 2010.

Whatever happens, the Greek Air Force must keep a technological edge over its rival, the Turkish Air Force. This means that the Air Force cannot rely on new purchases alone but that some of the older types will have to be brought up to cutting edge standards.

Advanced Jet Trainer Aircraft

For several decades Greece has relied on the T-2 Buckeye for its advanced jet training needs. However, there is a huge technological gap between the T-2 and the actual combat aircraft it is meant to prepare pilots for. This means more time has to be spent training on actual fighter aircraft. These are much more costly to operate and detract from their primary missions. Many consider advanced trainer aircraft to be somewhat of a luxury. However, selecting the right aircraft means that great savings can be made in ongoing operational expenses.

Unfortunately, since the programme is not one directly related to front line combat equipment, it is the quickest programme to be delayed when budgetary constraints kick in. There are currently several mature designs from which the Air Force can make a selection or even ongoing programmes in which the Air Force can participate. Also, this is the type of programme in which the Greek defence industry can also contribute by means of a workload share and offset programmes.

Air Refuelling Aircraft

There has been much debate over whether the Greek Air Force really requires Air Refuelling Aircraft, commonly referred to as Tankers. Some believe that there is no substitute for actual airfields and anyway Tankers must operate in the relative safe areas where the Air Force has superiority. However, Turkey is a country with great strategic depth and has the advantage of having remote areas which are currently hard to reach by the Greek Air Force, even with the use of stand-off weapons. Also, Greece has a military obligation towards Cyprus which cannot be effectively fulfilled without the use of Tankers.

Tankers are expensive to acquire and operate but they are considered a force multiplier. Aircraft can stay on Combat stations longer or carry heavier payloads to their targets if they are refuelled shortly after taking off or on the way to their target. In the past the Air Force has had the chance to acquire second hand air frames which could be converted into Tankers but nothing ever came of it. Today a similar chance exists as the government owns a number of A-340 airframes which were in the past operated by Olympic Airways. These could be converted or exchanged for other, more suitable types.

The Air Force has shown that it could use Tankers in a variety of roles. Also, it often participates in aerial refuelling exercises with the help of other air forces (for example see here). The time has come to make a decision on this matter once and for all. There is no use of continually allocating small unrealistic budgets to this programme. The use of Tankers is the one area where the Turkish Air Force has a strategic advantage over its Greek counterpart.

As the Greek Air Force is the front line military branch in what is considered to be Turkish expansionism against Greece it is only natural that it receives the most attention from many. There are several other items which can be discussed but the purpose here was to highlight some programmes that have been “stuck” or pending for some time. For a more comprehensive list of programmes that are needed see here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

For a New Greek Strategy of Deterrence: Arms Procurement

Translated from Strategy-Geopolitics. This is Part IV. Part I can be found here, Part II here and Part III here.

Defence spending is generally divided in the following categories:
1. Personnel expenses (wages, healthcare etc.). In Greece these expenses are nearly 3 billion Euros annually.
2. Operational expenses (operation and maintenance of equipment, procurement, consumables and maintenance of installations). In Greece these expenses are about 1.8 billion Euros annually.
3. Arms procurement programmes (purchases, investments, research & development).

Whatever weapon system is procured, no matter how advanced, its effectiveness on the battlefield will depend on the members of the Greek Armed Forces, whose performance depends on two factors: training and morale.

The cutbacks which the political leadership of the Ministry of Defence announced with regards to the future 5 year procurement plans should not be allowed to negatively impact the strength of the country’s military force in the face of ever-growing threats. Below is a list of the potential procurement programmes of the Armed Forces until 2020. The list will not cover numbers and types of systems; this is left to the general staff to decide. However, the author suggests that in selecting weapon systems factors to be considered should be homogeneity of equipment, low manning needs and the highest possible participation of the Greek defence industry.

National Defence National Staff

- Joint Service Command, Communications, Computers and Intelligence System (C4I).
- Satellite communications system.
- Satellite surveillance system.
- Specialised surveillance equipment for the Joint Directorate of Military Intelligence.
- Specialised equipment for special operations.

Army General Staff

- Utility/transport helicopters and helicopters for special operations.
- Modern tracked armoured fighting vehicles.
- Amphibious armoured fighting vehicles.
- Wheeled armoured fighting vehicles.
- Wheeled reconnaissance vehicles.
- Modern soldier equipment (assault rifle, sensors, equipment).
- Self propelled 155mm howitzers.
- 120mm mortars.
- Small and medium range anti-tank missile systems.
- Medium range air defence systems.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
- Anti-helicopter mines.
- Modern communications and cryptography gear.
- General purpose vehicles.
- Modernisation of existing AH-64A+ Apache attack helicopters.
- Modernisation of existing M-113 personnel carriers.
- Modernisations of RM-70 multiple rocket launchers.

Navy General Staff

- New maritime surveillance aircraft.
- Frigates with Anti Air Warfare capabilities.
- Air Independent Propulsion submarines.
- Stealth fast attack craft.
- Gunboats.
- Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopters and special operations helicopters instead of the modernisation of the existing AB-212 ASW helicopters.
- General support ship.
- Submarine rescue ship.
- Surface to surface missiles, air launched torpedoes and submarine torpedoes.
- Fast craft and special operations underwater vehicles.
- Modernisation of the existing MEKO-200HN frigates.

Air Force General Staff

- New fighter aircraft
- Modernisation of existing F-16C/D Block 30 & 50 fighters as well as Mirage 2000EGM/BGM fighters.
- Combat Search And Rescue helicopters.
- Aerial refuelling aircraft.
- Advanced jet trainer aircraft.
- Transportation aircraft.
- Self protection suites for all aircraft and helicopters.
- Navigation and targeting pods.
- Signals Intelligence, Electronic Intelligence and Electronic Warfare equipment.
- Long range stand-off munitions.
- Air-to-Air missiles.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
- Air defence suppression UAV drones.
- Modernisation of existing S-300PMU1 batteries to S-400 level.
- Creation of a modern target range and procurement of an Autonomous Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation system (AACMI).
- Modernisation of the ground radar network, communications and Area Command Centres.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Imia Conspirator Uncovered

Zougla online reports that the identity of one of the architects of the Imia Crisis of 1996 has been uncovered.

The article explains how Onur Oymen, the vice-president of the Republican Party, lied and omitted information which led to the Imia Crisis.

Oymen staunchly opposes any rapprochement with the Kurds in Turkey and his party has accused Prime Minister Erdogan with treason due to his efforts to improve relations with the Kurds.

During the political debates regarding the Kurdish issue information on the Imia Crisis was uncovered.

Oymen was the assistant minister for foreign affairs in Turkey during the crisis. His political opponents have now uncovered that during the crisis Oymen planned this crisis by keeping secret a coded message from the Turkish embassy in Italy regarding the ownership of the Imia islands. The message contained proof from the Italian side that Turkey did not have a claim to the ownership of the Imia islands.

The Zougla article goes into more detail about Oymen and his involvement in the Kurdish issue.

Hellenic Defence News note: The fact that there was a coded message from the Turkish Embassy in Italy to the Turkish government making it clear that Turkey had no claim to Imia is already widely known. The question is whether the crisis would have reached such a dangerous and deadly stage if the message had been actually been delivered to Turkish Prime Minister Ciller. Would this have made a difference? After all, it is known today yet Turkey still claims ownership of Imia.

Greek Battalion in Afghanistan Staying in Kabul?

To Vima reports today that the Council on Foreign Affairs and Defence is convening today to decide on whether to allow the move of the Greek Battalion to Herat, as reported here.

The article reports that the decision to move the battalion was taken by the previous government and that the current government is looking to change this. The initiative to keep the force in Kabul comes just a few days after the plans for the move was uncovered. The size of the mission will likely also not change.

Athens will try to offset the new decision to keep the force in Kabul and with its present strength in other ways. One of the options being considered, according to military sources, is the possibility of donating money to various Provincial Reconstruction Teams which have been set up by ISAF.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Large Scale Airspace Violations Today

DefenceNet reports that many formations of Turkish Air Force fighters entered the Aegean today while participating in an exercise. This was the highest number of formations seen since the recent elections of 4 October. The scenario of the exercises was the engagement of naval targets and providing cover to smaller naval units.

Altogether 28 aircraft were divided into 8 formations while 2 more aircraft flew independently. Until recently the Turkish Air Force would not send more than 14 aircraft into the Aegean and in 2 formations.

In total there were 13 airspace violations while 6 Turkish aircraft were armed. There were no dogfights when intercepted by Greek fighters. One of the advantages of such large scale violations by the Turkish Air Force is that it tests the responses of the Greek side.

Large Aegean Exercise Planned

Strategy-Geopolitics, amongst others, reported on an article of Eleftheros Typos newspaper today. The new website of the newspaper is still under construction so the article was available in print only.

The military leadership of the Ministry of Defence is planning a “Parmenion” style exercise involving the entire Aegean. The aim is to underline the strategic importance of Greece and the role the country can play in the wider area. The idea is to conduct this exercise with participating forces from as many NATO partners as possible.

The scenario of the exercise will resemble the yearly “Parmenion” exercise which is conducted by all three branches of the military. The initiative was discussed and approved at the highest level but planning is still at the initial stage. The exercise will probably take place in 2010 or 2011. It can be seen as an answer to Turkey’s continuing questioning of Greek sovereignty and Turkey’s efforts to become a regional power, with the aid of the US.

Analysts see Turkey’s recent change in foreign policy towards Muslim countries as a way to create a bridge between the US and Iran. This would be somewhat in line with US President Obama’s policy on improving relations all around. The Turkish policy has stirred objections in Israel, however, which is in need of allies. Athens is trying to take advantage of the rift between Turkey and Israel, albeit gently so as not to see a backlash, mainly from Iran.

From 6 to 13 December a joint exercise will be held between Greece and Israel (more here). This exercise will focus on Combat Search and Rescue. Israel has also asked for the “Glorious Spartan” exercise to be repeated next year.

Hellenic Defence News note: It will be interesting to see what the reaction of NATO partners will be to the inclusion of the entire Aegean in the exercise plan. NATO for example refuses to include Limnos Island in NATO defence planning due to objections from Turkey. Also, when Turkey conducted its “Hegemon” exercise in the Aegean recently NATO allies were careful to take Greek objections with regards to Aegean airspace into account. The question is whether the allies will also take Turkish “sensitivities” into account in the case of the Greek exercise, thereby undermining the exercise altogether.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NURSET 2009 Exercise

En Kripto reports that the Hellenic Navy is participating in the Turkish Allied exercise NURSET 2009 with one minesweeper (M-248 Pleias). The Greek ship is participating in the exercise between the 6th of November and the 16th of November in the Dardanelles area. Besides the Greek minesweeper Turkish and Bulgarian units are participating as well as NATO’s Second Standing Maritime Mine Countermeasure Groups (SNMCMG-2) of which the Greek minelayer Calisto is also a part.

More specifically, Turkey is participating with 9 mine warfare ships, 2 rescue ships, 1 helicopter and with air force fighters.

According to the Navy General Staff the purpose of the exercise is the training of units in tactics and mine warfare in an asymmetric threat environment. Another purpose is the promotion of communication and understanding in the framework of Confidence Building Measures in line with instructions from the Greek Prime Minister.

Greek Battalion in Afghanistan is Moving

DefenceNet reports that the Greek Forces in Afghanistan will move away from Kabul to Farach, in the Herat region (Also see here). Farach is in the south west part of Afghanistan and is about 240 km away from the area’s largest city, Herat, which in turn lies 640 km from Kabul.

The most noteworthy part of the news is that spokespeople for the Greek Ministry of Defence said that human losses cannot be ruled out, with the biggest threat coming from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) which are used by the Taliban.

The Battalion is expected to be garrisoned at a base at 1,200 metres altitude with temperatures ranging from +40 degrees Celsius in the daytime to -40 degrees at night. The strength of the battalion is expected to go up from 125 personnel which it is today to 300. The transportation of the force will be by air for the first part and by road for the final stage.

The mission of the battalion is also changing. Previously the mission was to improve city infrastructure, now construction of various projects will have to take place in remote areas. To fulfil its task the force is expected to be equipped with more armoured vehicles.

Spokesperson Dimitrios Bonoras states that the need to purchase Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles shows the level of danger the mission faces. In the area where the Greek forces will operate allies have already lost over 500 men since the beginning of the Afghan campaign. The additional vehicles are expected to cost 20 million Euros and the move of the force another 63 million Euros.

Finally, according to information of DefenceNet, an older study showed that should the Greek Battalion be moved to this area there would be at least 6 Greek casualties, on top of the wounded.

Fewer Aegean Provocations after the Elections

In the above picture the line chart at the top shows the number of airspace violations. The bar chart below shows the over flights of Greek islands.

Ta Nea newspaper reports that the Greek Ministry of Defence is studying the numbers of incursions into the Aegean by the Turkish Air Force. The data shows that the number of incursions is decreasing but that the “quality” of the incursions is changing. On the one hand this year, compared to 2008, there is a reduction of roughly 30% in the number of Turkish fighters entering the Athens FIR. The same is true for the number of aircraft carrying weapons and the number of dogfights that have taken place. On the other hand, the actual breached of national airspace and especially the over flights of Greek islands are on the rise. These two factors are the ones that show that the quality of the incursions is changing as they are related to Greek sovereignty.

Until the start of the electoral period in Greece 44 over flights of Greek islands had been recorded. After the change of government, with the Socialist Party coming to power, there has been only one over flight of a Greek island. The post electoral activity of the Turkish Air Force is obviously related to the trip Prime Minister Papandreou made to Turkey as well as the letter sent by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to his Greek counterpart. The fact that Turkey’s bid to join the EU will be evaluated in December also plays a role. The new leadership of the Ministry of Defence, as expressed by Minister Venizelos, believes that the issues between Greece and Turkey must be placed firmly under political control for the avoidance of tension and misunderstandings.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Minister of Defence Meets German Ambassador

DefenceNet reports that Minister of Defence Venizelos met the German Ambassador to Greece today at the Ministry of Defence. The Minister and Ambassador Wolfgang Schultheiss discussed a variety of issues, including the Skaramanga Shipyards.

The Eurofighter Typhoon produced by EADS was also discussed. This aircraft is one of the contenders in the selection for Greece’s new fighter aircraft programme (for more information on this see here).

DefenceNet sources commented on the meeting by saying that “all options are still open”.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Frontex Aircraft Warned Again by Turkey

Naftemporiki reports that despite protests from Athens, Turkey continues to harass Frontex aircraft operating in the Aegean.

Last night at 23:15 an Estonian Frontex aircraft operating near the border between Greece and Turkey received a warning from a Turkish ground station. The aircraft was patrolling against illegal immigrants at the time and was flying north of Farmakonisi at an altitude of 4,000 feet.

The Turkish operator ordered the Frontex aircraft to leave the area because it was supposedly in Turkish airspace.

The aircraft continued its mission as per normal and landed back in Kos at 02:03 without further incident.