Thursday, November 5, 2009

For a New Greek Strategy of Deterrence: Force Structure Until 2020

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

The Turkish Armed Forces have 421,000 personnel which during full mobilisation can reach 800,000. These figures are purely hypothetical as Greece and Turkey will never be involved in a war that lasts more than 48 hours. As I have written in the past: “the winner in a future Greek-Turkish war will be the side which manages to mobilise more forces in the area of conflict and not the side with overall superiority in any of the military branches or areas, obviously combined with the successful execution of plans. In any event, the next day must find in Turkey in a disadvantageous negotiating position regarding Andrianoupolis (Edirne), Imvros (Gokceada) and Tenedos (Bozcaada).”

The renowned Professor in International Relations John Mearsheimer suggests that land based power is the dominant type of power in the modern world which, in simple terms, means that the strongest countries have the strongest land armies. The army is of overriding importance in war as it is the basic tool for the control of land which is the basic objective in a conflict. In the case of Greece, due to the geographical situation and potential theatres of operation, this cannot be taken as a given. In fact the opposite is true in the case of the Greek Armed Forces, they will be called upon to gain naval and air superiority at the same time and in conjunction with the successful execution of land based operations. For this reason the proposed force structure must take into account that “the first strike, which signals the opening phase of the war, must be as massive and crucial as possible”.

Hellenic Army

The vision for the Greek Army of the future is one of a modern army, strong, flexible and fast. The priority, after achieving full mechanisation in the 90s, is the creation of rapid response units with great firepower. In most ways the force structure which is being promoted to shape the Army until 2020 is moving in the right direction except for the following moves:
1. The move of the Second Army Corps from Veria to Didimotichos and into the current area of responsibility of the Fourth Army Corps. This has only caused problems.
2. The attempt to abolish the 1st Army structure.

The problems facing the Greek Army are well known. They have been covered various times but it is useful to list some of the changes that must be made here:
1. The overall reduction of the positions of higher level officers and the immediate reduction of the bureaucracy, with the lowering of the number of personnel that serves in desk jobs.
2. Completing the square structure of all Brigades.
3. Closing the majority of new recruit training centres and inactive units. The ownership of land that used to form military installations to be changed to serve other public purposes and at the same time for multi force bases to be created or existing bases to be expanded. The aim is to concentrate the scattered units in Northern Greece, achieve higher staffing percentages and lower the manpower needs in guard duties, thereby freeing up personnel for training.
4. The acquisition of appropriate weapons and equipment which are highly automated, thereby lowering the number of personnel required to operate them. The creation of a second Air Mobile Brigade is a positive development but a moot point when there are not enough transport helicopters available.
5. The creation of a joint multi service C4I system.

Hellenic Navy

The Navy has participated in many operations and NATO exercises which have shown its high level of training and ability to conduct successful operations in open seas with a high threat level. The highest priorities for the Navy are considered to be:
1. The reintroduction of a long range air defence ability through the new frigate programme.
2. The maintaining of the foreseen force levels which dictates there should be 12 submarines.
3. The acquiring of modern Maritime Patrol Aircraft for the improvement of the surveillance role and the conduct of anti-submarine operations.
In any event the Navy is facing a numerically superior opponent and will therefore have to invest in technological superiority.

Air Force

The official force structure for the Air Force until 2020 foresees a strength of 300 fighter aircraft. This target is possible if the appropriate modernisations and acquisitions are performed. There is an urgent need to increase flight hours and to acquire an air refuelling capability which is considered a force multiplier for any air force. We will cover acquisition programmes in the fourth and final part.

Brigadier Koutsogiannopoulos writes: "It is accepted by military analysts that an air force is one of the principal deterrent weapons but must also have the ability to offer air superiority. He who possesses air superiority has a strong deterrent as an adversary that will likely be defeated in an aerial confrontation will never take the risk. The unchallenged control of the air above the territory of an adversary are today necessary for the successful conduct of ground or naval operations. Loss of air superiority essentially also means losing the ground and naval battles, regardless of the sizes of land or naval forces.

This means that after achieving air superiority in the theatre of operations it becomes easier to pound the ground and naval forces of the side without air superiority from the air. There will be no defence against such air attacks.

Achieving air superiority significantly increases the possibility of limiting the time span of the conflict as well as limiting the number of casualties, destroyed equipment and infrastructure for the side that achieves superiority. The day after the war there is no award for being second best in the air war. This was proven in conflicts such as the Korean War, the Arab-Israeli wars from 1948 to 1982, the Falklands war and obviously the more recent Gulf War. Having established that achieving air superiority is crucial and a necessary ingredient is wining a conflict it is clear that the quest for air superiority is a strategic choice for Greece. This will have to be reflected in both the armament acquisition programmes as well as the other activities of the nation’s military and political decision makers."


  1. Since a protracted war with Turkey is unlikely, the Greek army should be streamlined into a leaner force in which their finest weapons and personnel are merged to hit an attacker with as much punch as possible.

    In Thrace, a few brigades should be entirely manned with professionals and equipped with the Leopard 2A6s, Pzh 2000s, M270 MLRS and Apaches.

    For operations in the Aegean, a joint operations command should be created in which the army component would be the marines, airmobile infantry and raider forces. In the Aegean, the punch of these three forces is their rapid and stealth movement, with the firepower being provided by the air force and the navy providing sea control.

  2. Smaller, leaner professional forces would benefit Greece far better than the current force composed largely of conscripts. In this modern age, "quantity has a quality all its own" doesn't hold true anymore, because technology trumps numbers. Greece has significant amounts of modern military hardware in all three services to adequately defend itself with an all-volunteer force.