Saturday, October 31, 2009

President of Cyprus Likens EU-Turkey Relations to Nazi Appeasement

In a Guardian article of Thursday Ian Traynor reports on the difficulties in the ongoing Cyprus talks. Cypriot President Christofias took a harder line by warning against EU concessions to Turkey.

“The president of Cyprus today urged Europe to get tough with Turkey, likening the EU's concessions to Ankara to the appeasement of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, and playing down expectations of any breakthrough in the quest for a settlement of 35 years of partition in Cyprus.”

The article further reports on a warning by Hans van den Broek, who sits on the independent Commission on Turkey, if talks fail: “the island will certainly head towards partition. Tensions will rise in the eastern Mediterranean and EU-Turkey tension will deepen.”

Christofias further said: "I don't compare Turkey with Nazi Germany ... But it is not reasonable to say don't challenge Turkey because it will get angry. There are rules and unfortunately Turkey does not respect those rules ... This reminds me of the situation before the second world war, appeasing Hitler so he doesn't become more aggressive. The substance of fascism was the substance of fascism. Hitler was Hitler."

Hellenic Defence News Note: Christofias is certainly no hardliner but it is refreshing to (finally) see him take a tougher stance. Cyprus is currently angering several EU member states due to its stance. One third of Cyprus is currently occupied by Turkey and Cyprus is actually considering Turkish accession to the European Union. Appeasement is a complete understatement even with Christofias statements above. Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it.

Net Centric Operations for the Hellenic Air Force

In an exclusive, DefenceNet reports on a leap in operational capabilities for the Greek Air Force. An exercise took place to test the cooperation between the newly delivered F-16 Block52M fighters of 335 Squadron and a EMB-145H Erieye AEW using their Link-16 capability. 5 single seat F-16 “C” and 1 two seat “D” models were used in the test which lasted about an hour.

The news is important as it concerns the operational use of two major systems in the Air Force’s inventory. The Link-16 is the most advanced western data transfer system currently in use in respect to data transfer capabilities as well as its resistance to Electronic Counter Measures (ECM).

Other HAF aircraft do not have this system, not even the recently upgraded Mirage 2000-5.

Other news from DefenceNet is the delivery of another 4 F-16 Block52M aircraft to 335 Squadron in Araxos yesterday. Two C models and two D models were delivered bringing the Squadron’s total inventory to 21 aircraft currently. Another 5 single seat C models and 4 two seat D models are still to be delivered to complete the order for 30 aircraft. The Air Force is currently considering activating a second squadron for the use of these 30 aircraft.

Hellenic Defence News note: The news of the integration of Link-16 capabilities is certainly important. However, it must not be forgotten that the Turkish Air Force has already started an MLU programme for its F-16 fleet which will include the Link-16 in all fighters undergoing the upgrade. This upgrade, combined with the future delivery of the Turkish AEW aircraft will severely erode any air superiority currently enjoyed by the Greek side over the Aegean. The Greek programme to upgrade older F-16 fighters is still stuck in a cumbersome decision making process.

Also, the Greek Air Force’s structure has always relied on a strength of 20 aircraft in a squadron. Many squadrons operate with fewer aircraft due to attrition. It is inconceivable for the Air Force to split the 30 aircraft into two squadrons thereby depleting a squadron’s strength from the start.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Two Fast Attack Craft Delivered to the Navy

Strategy-Geopolitics reports that the Eleusina Shipyards have delivered two Missile Fast Attack Craft to the Hellenic Navy. The FACs were at the shipyard undergoing a Mid Life Update programme (MLU). The craft that have been delivered are P21 Blessas and P22 Mykonios. Both craft belong to the Combattante IIIA class. One craft was already delivered previously and one more (P23 Troupakis) remains to be delivered.

The weapons systems on the FACs have not been changed. The previous counter measures system for flares and chaff (Mk34 RBOC) has been replaced by the newer ALEX system with two Mk137 units. Other equipment that is new is a 2 dimenional Variant search radar, a LIROD Mk2 tracking radar, a MIRADOR electro optical system, a SCOUT Mk2 surface search radar and a BridgeMaster E navigation radar. These systems along with the existing DR300SLW Electronic Support System (ESM) have been integrated into a TACTICOS Combat Management System (CMS) with 4 Mk3 workstations. A type MDM2002 Link 11 system has also been installed. Several other subsystems have also been replaced.

Air Space Violations of the Day

DefenceNet reports that today a formation of 6 Turkish Air Force fighter jets entered the Athens FIR without submitting flight plans. This formation breached Greek air space on 4 occassions. 2 of the 6 aircraft were armed and the event took place in the Northern Aegean.

All aircraft were intercepted and identified by Hellenic Air Force interceptors.

TUNUK Warrior 2009 Exercise

Strategy-Geopolitics reports that a Turkish Army Infantry Battalion is training together with British units on the Salisbury Exercise Range in Wiltshire. The joined British-Turkish Exercise named TUNUK Warrior started on the 26th of October and will end on the 9th of November. The exercise takes place every two years.

The previous exercise of this kind took place in the Çerkezköy region in Turkey in which the 3rd Armoured Brigade participated.

The Salisbury Exercise Range (40km x 16km) often hosts exercises by infantry, artillery and mechanised units.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jacques Barrot: Frontex Does Not Breach Turkish Air Space

Naftemporiki reports: European Commissioner Jacques Barrot stated that Frontex aircraft have never breached Turkish air space in response to a question by MEPs of the Greek New Democracy party.

The question by the MEPs was prompted due to an incident where a Frontex helicopter flying in the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) was harassed by a Turkish ground station.

During their question the MEPs also denounced the usual Turkish practice of violating Greek air space and called on the Commission to take a position on the incident mentioned.

Mr. Barrot stated that Frontex assets have never received threats from Turkish authorities. As for the specific incident in question he clarified that Turkish Air Traffic Control tried to communicate with the Frontex helicopter with the purpose of identifying it but the communication was impossible as a different frequency was used.

One of the Greek MEPs later stated that the answer of Mr. Barrot leaves no room for Turkey to make any disputes and that Greece’s borders are non-negotiable and internationally recognised.

Hellenic Defence News note: If, as Mr. Barrot states, Turkish Air Traffic Control did not manage to communicate with the Frontex helicopter how does he know that the purpose of the communication was to identify the helicopter and not threaten it with interception as reported in Greece? The communication was either picked up by the helicopter or it was not. Also, what gives Turkish Air Traffic Control the right to make aircraft identify themselves when out of the Turkish area of responsibility?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

OXI - Greece Enters World War II

Words cannot express our gratitude

Wiretap Scandal in Turkey

Strategy-Geopolitics reported yesterday on an article in the Turkish Milliyet newspaper regarding illegal wiretaps. The article revealed that telephone conversations of Prime Minister Erdogan and several top Turkish officials had been recorded.

More specifically police forces conducted a raid on the premises of Aydinlik magazine on the order of the judge advocates investigating the Ergenekon case. As a result of the raid discs were recovered that contained recordings covering a period from 1999 to 2004. The recordings contain conversations by Prime Minister Erdogan, minsters Cicek, Babacan, Bagis, Turkish Cypriot leaders Talat and Denktash as well as the mayors of Ankara and Istanbul. It is not yet clear who is responsible for the illegal taps.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tragic Accident Involving Illegal Immigrants

DefenceNet reports that a Turkish smuggling vessel hit some rocks in the Korakas region near Lesbos Island. As a result 8 people died. The victims were 4 women and 4 children. One child is still missing.

The vessel crashed on the rocks which caused the passengers to be flung into the sea. Ten people managed to make it to shore safely. The lucky ones include the Turkish smuggler, 7 men, 1 woman and 1 child.

Coast Guard vessels in the area have recovered 8 bodies. The search for the missing child is currently underway.

Temporary Mobilisation Along Evros River

Strategy-Geopolitics reports that some minor tension was created recently along the banks of the Evros river as a result of a Greek Army exercise. Tanks from the Greek Fourth Army Corps took positions in a pre-planned exercise. Strategy Geopolitics refers to an article published today by “Chronos” newspaper. A Turkish army guard on the opposite side of the river noticed the Greek manoeuvres and sounded the alarm (the Greek soldiers at that particular time seemed to have been on a break). The Turkish response was swift with Turkish units arriving near the river in record time. At that stage forces from both sides were facing each other.

The tension was diffused with the mutual withdrawal of forces after commanders from the two sides communicated on the issue. It seems that for some time there was considerable tension on the Turkish side.

Hellenic Defence News note: This incident is strange considering the fact that there is a protocol in place between the two sides regarding military exercises. Supposedly each side has to notify the other if more than a given number of troops and vehicles enter a given distance from the border during manoeuvres to avoid what just happened. Also, the fact that the Turkish side responded so swiftly shows a marked improvement in the emergency response times of the Turkish Army.

Provocation During Search and Rescue Mission

DefenceNet reports that last night a Greek Super Puma helicopter carrying out a Search and Rescue (SAR) mission over Farmakonisi started receiving warning calls from a Turkish ground station (DATCA) on the emergency channel. The Greek helicopter was warned that it was supposedly breaching Turkish air space, which was not the case. The calls continued for nearly an hour between 22:50 and 23:47. The helicopter had taken off from Chios Island at 21:30 to participate in the SAR mission.

The Greek helicopter crew ignored the Turkish calls and continued its mission participating in the rescue of illegal immigrants, a task that was carried out in cooperation with a Hellenic Navy gunboat. Turkish smugglers had left 32 illegal immigrants on the shores of Farmakonisi, one of whom was killed when trying to escape a patrol.

Ultimately the operation was successful and many immigrants were rescued. The Super Puma helicopter returned to its base at roughly 02:00 in the morning.

The entire operation was being monitored by a Turkish Coast Guard vessel from afar.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Armoured Fighting Vehicles for the Hellenic Army

En Kripto reports that at the end of September a number of Greek Army officers travelled to the United States to inspect a series of M2/M3 Bradley Armoured Fighting Vehicles which have been made available for sale to the Greek Army. The offer is for vehicles which are currently in storage and are being offered at a low price. It is unknown how much it will cost to restore these vehicles to active duty.

The German government followed a few days later with an offer for 160 second hand Leo 2A4 tanks (see details here). This move was seen as a gesture of good faith with regards to the submarine issue but it seems this move could be a way for the German side to promote the sale of second hand Marder 1A3 vehicles to the Greek Army.

This can be seen in the context of a statement made by Assistant Minister of Defence Beglitis who said that all defence procurements will be re-evaluated from scratch. This makes the purchase of the Russian built BMP-3 less likely.

Kiro Gligorov interviewed by “Proto Thema”

During an interview with Panagiotis Sabides of Proto Thema (ΠΡΩΤΟ ΘΕΜΑ) the former (and first) president of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) stated “we are Slavs and we came to the area after Alexander the Great”.

The former president was asked to comment on the recent win by the socialists in the Greek general elections and whether this creates new conditions for the solution of the name dispute. Gligorov said he was pleased about the win as he is part of the same ideological area but that he was not optimistic about a solution as the new Greek Government has also drawn lines in the sand.

The reporter referred to a 1993 statement of the former president in which he said that his people are of Slav decent, that they have no connection to Alexander the Great and that they settled in the area in the 6th century AD. Gligorov responded that he is still of the same opinion and continues to support this.

The reporter then asked why there was such an anti Greek sentiment in FYROM and why so many in FYROM are trying to prove that they are direct descendants of the ancient Macedonians. The former president responded that serious historians are laughing with what has been happening in his country these last few years. “Greeks think that we are trying to take away part of their historical and cultural inheritance. I am not saying that these fears are without reason as there are exaggerations also on our side. There are historians who claim we have been in these lands for 2,000 years before Alexander the Great. This is laughable. I was saying to a friend of mine that at the rate we are going we will say we are direct descendants of Adam and Eve and Paradise will be proven to be “Macedonian” and thus ours.”

Hellenic Defence News note: The first signs from the new PASOK government are that it intends to have continuity in several foreign affairs issues, including this one. We hope this will ultimately be the case and that there are indeed “lines in the sand”. Time is on our side and the only pressure that can be exercised on Greece regarding the Macedonian issue is a historical revisionism only seen during Europe’s darkest days. History has been written and it changes for no one.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Super Cobras for Turkey

Fox2 reports that Turkey may receive more AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters. Turkey has had a long standing request with the United States for more helicopters of this type. The American Ambassador to Turkey, James F. Jeffrey announced that the Turkish request will now be granted. It is unclear how many helicopters this will involve but it is assumed that the first batch will consist of 5 helicopters.

Turkey routinely uses these helicopters in the suppression of PKK forces in the south east of the country.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Greek Vipers in Air to Air Refuelling Exercise

Head over to DefenceNet for some new pictures of Greek F-16 fighters conducting air to air refuelling exercises with a USAFE KC-135 tanker. These pictures show some of the 32 Greek aircraft that participated in the exercise which was meant to practice air to air refuelling and deep interdiction/strike missions. Some of the recently delivered F-16 Block52M aircraft also took part.

Turkish Provocation in Cyprus

Several sources report that the Turkish Occupational Forces in Cyprus have unilaterally moved a series of marker buoys several hundred meters into Greek Cypriot waters. This move comes during a crucial period of intense negotiations on the Cyprus issue. The problem for the Greek side is that there is no official demarcation which can be referred to in the event the Cypriot Government makes a complaint to the UN Security Council.

By changing the angle of the buoys by several degrees the demarcation line is moved by several hundred metres and can potentially impact areas 11 and 12 of Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This move must also be seen in the context of the recent Cypriot effort to delineate its EEZ with other countries in the area and its intention to conduct oil exploration in its EEZ. Other than that most European governments, including the Greek one, believe that Turkey should become a full member of the European Union.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Greek Battalion in Afghanistan

DefenceNet reports that the Greek Battalion in Afghanistan may soon have to move from the relative safety of Kabul to the dangerous Herat province. The battalion has spent 7 years in Kabul where it has been involved in the rebuilding of infrastructure. Much pressure has been put on the Greek government to move the battalion to Herat and it looks like this will now finally happen.

Assistant Minister of Defence Beglitis met with the US Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro at the Greek Ministry of Defence today to discuss, amongst others, this issue.

Sources report that the matter of moving the battalion will be discussed at the next Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence. It is considered that not moving the battalion is no longer a real option.

Herat province is about 800 km from Kabul and areas in between are controlled by the Taliban. Hundreds of ISAF and NATO soldiers have been killed in those areas by improvised explosive devices or gunfire. A last ditch effort will be made to avoid having to move the men to Herat.

One crucial question is whether the Greek Battalion in Afghanistan has the necessary equipment to be moved from Kabul to an area where high intensity operations are being conducted.

There are no suitable vehicles available to and the composition of the battalion is also not adequate, it basically consists of a large engineering company. A programme to acquire 10 wheeled armoured fighting vehicles was cancelled due to lack of funds.

Another programme to acquire mine resistant vehicles is also facing difficulty due to cost. This programme foresaw the acquisition of 24 armoured vehicles, 30 armoured trucks and 2 armoured bulldozers. If the necessary funds are not made available a leasing option will likely be considered.

Other issues which were discussed between Beglitis and Shapiro included the ongoing Turkish air space violations, especially the ones over populated islands. The position expressed by Beglitis regarding provocations in the Aegean was that Turkey will reap what it sows with respect to Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

Note from HDN: The Greek government must finally decide whether the Greece is in Afghanistan or not. We either contribute or we do not. A case can be made for both scenarios but it is time to pick one and defend the decision. Also, the Greek Defence budget is several billion Euros each year. Surely money can be found to procure armoured vehicles. The men and women of the Greek Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan (and elsewhere for that matter) deserve to receive the appropriate equipment. Greek forces that have served abroad have a very good reputation. They should be given the tools to do the job and to keep them safe.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Air Space Violations of the Day

DefenceNet reports that a total of 10 Turkish Air Force fighter jets breached Greek airspace over the Aegean on 3 occasions today. The aircraft were split into 4 formations. No dogfights with Greek Air Force interceptors occurred.

Submarines – Is Someone Forgetting Something?

There a lot of movement on the ongoing submarine issue lately. This is encouraging as we may finally see an end to a situation that has been hampering the operational ability of the Hellenic Navy for some time. However, there is an issue that is possibly overlooked and has not been mentioned widely in the media lately. What is happening with actually arming the submarines with torpedoes?

Several years ago a tender was held to select a torpedo to arm the new Type 214 subs. Initially it was decided to go with an Italian made torpedo. This decision soon ran into trouble as the German shipbuilder would charge a large sum to integrate the Italian torpedo with the German built sub. The alternative would be to integrate a German built torpedo into the new subs.

It would be good to know whether this issue has been resolved or not.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mutually Acceptable Solution on Submarine Issue Being Discussed

Naftemporiki reports that the Greek Minister of Defence had a meeting with the Chief Executive of Thyssen Group Marine Systems Hans Cristof Atzpodien. Following this meeting the Minister is expecting some detailed proposals with regards to the ongoing submarine issue.

During the meeting all aspects of the building of the Type 214 subs were discussed as well as the modernisation of the older Type 209 subs at the Skaramanga Shipyards.

According to Minister Venizelos the meeting showed that a mutually acceptable solution can be found with regards to the submarines.

With regards to the future of the actual shipyards the Ministry of Defence announced that it is awaiting detailed proposals from the German side.

The Minster noted that the main interest of the government is that the ship building infrastructure of the country is preserved, as well as the jobs of workers in the sector.

Conscription System under Strain

DefenceNet and other media report that the Ministry of Defence will soon stop taking on conscripts into the Navy and Air Force. The move comes as a result of the previous government’s decision to cut mandatory military service from 12 to 9 months.

Manpower levels in Army units, which are already low, are expected to drop another 20% compared to last March.

As a result of these developments the new leadership of the Ministry of Defence is close to deciding to no longer allow conscripts to join the Navy and Air Force and instead to only allow conscripts to serve in the army.

The military leadership has already given its seal of approval to this scenario. The Chief of the Army, General Frangoulis, considers that this is the only way that a bare minimum manpower level can be maintained at crucial units.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Challenges Facing the Hellenic Armed Forces - Part II

Hellenic Army

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Challenges Facing the Hellenic Armed Forces - Part I

Consecutive Greek governments set up and try to implement so called five year plans aimed at modernizing the Armed Forces. These plans often contain unrealistic budgets for procurements, are delayed to an unacceptable degree or are simply rolled over into subsequent five year plans. In this article we’ll explore some of the issues facing the Hellenic Armed Forces, especially in relation to ongoing procurement issues, and their effect on the military’s operational abilities.

Hellenic Navy

The Hellenic Navy has a rich history behind it. Whether you look at ancient history or to more recent times you will find volumes of accomplishments. The debt to history is heavy and the men and women serving in the Navy today must carry on the tradition of their ancestors. In many ways, today’s Greek Navy is in a relatively good state compared to the other points in history. However, this should always be compared with the threat faced from Turkey. In the last few decades the Greek Navy has managed to keep an edge over its Turkish counterpart in terms of quality and operational ability. There was a strong reliance on quality over quantity and the Greek Navy led the way in the region with the introduction of new technologies and operational abilities. This edge was mostly down to proper planning by the Greek Navy’s leadership. Right now this edge is in danger of being lost due to politics.

Submarine Procurement

As mentioned in other posts in this blog, there is a long standing dispute between Greece and German shipbuilder HDW about the acceptance of four new Type 214 submarines. The first submarine, Papanikolis, was plagued with a list of technical issues. This was the first sub of the type to be launched and in many ways can be seen as a prototype. The remaining three subs were built in Greece and are practically ready.

There has been so much wrangling back and forth between Greece and HDW that currently there are four subs more or less ready and not operational. This is upsetting the Navy’s plans for modernisation of the submarine fleet and in general upsets the balance of power with Turkey. The Type 214 subs would have been, or should have been, one more example of new technology being introduced by the Greek Navy ahead of its rival.

Ta Nea reported yesterday that the government is close to a solution by accepting the three subs built in Greece and the construction of another two Type 209 subs. These last two subs will be newly constructed instead of modernizing two older subs currently in service. The first type 214 sub, the Papanikolis, will not be accepted into service. The entire plan obviously hinges on acceptance by HDW although for the most part the plan is based on an offer HDW has made in the past.

Maritime Patrol Aircraft

A few weeks ago the last remaining operational P-3B Orion of the Greek Navy made its last operational flight leaving the Navy without any active Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA). These aircraft have an important role to play in anti-submarine warfare, maritime surveillance and many more roles. Greece also has NATO obligations in which these aircraft were crucial. As part of procurement planning Greece initially sought to acquire 5 new Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The tender was unrealistic and eventually came to nothing. It also managed to harm the image the Greek Ministry of Defence has with various manufacturers.

In the meantime the US has offered Greece 6 surplus P-3C Orion aircraft, which are more modern versions of the ones the Greek Navy just retired. So far there has been no public decision made on this offer.

One option that has not been explored is the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to undertake some of the tasks previously carried out by the Orions. The German Navy ordered a batch of 5 RQ-4 Global Hawks outfitted with an EADS sensor suite. These drones have been dubbed Euro Hawks and will be delivered in 2010. The procurement cost was €430 million but the advantage is that the ongoing operational cost of using drones will be a fraction of using a four engine manned aircraft. The US Navy is moving in a similar direction with Northrop Grumman being awarded a contract of over a billion dollars for the RQ-4N.

New Frigate and Current Frigate MLU

The previous conservative government made a preliminary decision to purchase the French FREMM frigate. The FREMM is a multipurpose design that can be adopted to the end user’s needs. With the recent change in government it is very likely that this decision will be reviewed and that a new tender will be issued. Although the previous decision on the FREMMs was mainly a political one nobody can deny the many advantages of this particular design and the advantages it would bring to the Navy.

The decision on a new frigate will have to be made soon. The need is for 6 ships with an initial order of 4 and a option for a further 2. The ships would have to be built in Greece so as to aid the local ship building industry.

Greece currently has 14 frigates in its inventory of which 4 are of the German Meko 200 class and 10 are of the Dutch Standard (Kortenaer) class. Of the latter a batch of 6 ships is undergoing a modernization program. The ships that will not undergo the modernization programme are set to be replaced when the new frigate enters service. A Mid Life Update programme for the Meko 200 class is now becoming urgent as these ships are nearing 20 years in service on average.

Part II to come next - Army

Saturday, October 17, 2009

MICA-IR Lock-on

The above picture is from the new edition of the Greek magazine “Strategy”, published by DefenceNet Media. It shows a Turkish F-16D locked by a MICA-IR of a Greek Mirage 2000-5 during a dogfight somewhere in the Aegean.

Strategy magazine celebrates its 15 years with this issue and will have an exclusive on operations at the 135 Forward Operations Air Base on Skyros island. This FOB usually receives rotations of Mirage fighters from Tanagra Air Base (114 Combat Wing) which carry out alert duties against incursions made into the Aegean by the Turkish Air Force.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Frontex Aircraft Warned Again by Turkey

Naftemporiki newspaper reports that once more a Finnish Frontex aircraft received a warning message from a Turkish ground station. The message was received at 4:25 am while patrolling the Greek-Turkish seas border for illegal immigrants.

The Frontex aircraft ignored the warning and continued its mission as per normal.

More Airspace Violations

DefenceNet reports that the Turkish Air Force made 11 violations of Greek airspace today, a number which is the highest for several weeks.

A total of 24 fighter aircraft, 5 helicopters and one Naval Support Aircraft were responsible. Roughly half of the fighters were armed and there were a total of four formations of Turkish fighter jets.

The events mainly took place in the Central Aegean.

New Government Comments on Submarine Issue

Assistant Minister of Defence Beglitis gave his first interview to Pireus Channel 1 in which he covers the ongoing dispute (see here) with German submarine builder HDW.

See here for a transcript in Greek. When asked on his opinion and whether he believed the German stance amounted to blackmail the Assistant Minister responded that he indeed could use that word to describe the situation. He also said he believed the practices used by the German side are not in good faith.

Beglitis announced that next week HDW will be called on to carry on negotiations regarding the subs with the new government.

HDN note: We hope that the new government can finally find a solution with HDW. The time is now. The German side have made a gesture of good will (see here).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Minister of Defence Looking at Shipyards

Eleftherotypia newspaper reports that the new Minister of Defence Venizelos is preoccupied with the survival of the Skaramanga shipyards. For this reason he was briefed on the submarine issue (see here) by the General Director of Arms Procurement, Vasilakos and the Naval Chief Karamalikis. It appears that Vasilakos claimed that the submarines have not been accepted as there are operational issues with them. Karamalikis clarified to say that three of the four subs have no operational issues and could be accepted at this moment. He asked the minister to grant him some time to complete a report on the situation.

The newspaper points out that currently the shipyards only have the submarine program to work on and that the only other work it has to look forward to is the potential involvement in the building of FREMM frigates for the Navy. The decision to select the FREMM was taken by the previous government so its selection is no longer certain.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tension Brewing in the Aegean

DefenceNet reports that many Turkish Naval Units have been concentrated in the Aegean in order to participate in live fire exercises. Six Turkish frigates are taking part in the formation. Four or Five Turkish subs have also been deployed to the area.

Also today 16 Turkish Air Force fighters entered the Athens FIR and on two occasions breached Greek national airspace. Three dogfights occurred with Greek Air Force interceptors.

This morning another incident took place with a warning issued to a Finnish Frontex aircraft by a Turkish ground station. For more information on Frontex see here, here and here.

Turkey Refuses Collaboration with the EU on Illegal Immigration

Katimerini newspaper reported today on comments made by the Assistant Executive Director for Frontex, Gil Arias Fernandez. Frontex is the European force tasked with monitoring the EU’s borders.

Fernandez stated that unless Turkey starts cooperating there will be no easing of the influx of illegal immigrants via Greece. When asked by reporters as to the airspace within which Frontex aircraft operate Fernandez categorically stated that they only operate within Greek airspace. He was also asked about the various interventions by the Turkish military to Frontex aircraft, accusing them of breaching Turkish airspace. To this he responded that the pilots of the flights have submitted their relevant reports to the European Commission which will study them.

Furthermore, Fernandez stated that it will be difficult to work with Turkey as in any possible agreement Turkey is trying to obtain either funds or resources which Frontex cannot spare. The flow of immigrants to Greece cannot be tackled without Turkish cooperation (see some more interesting information here). Indicatively the example of Spain’s Canary Islands and Italy was used. Spain has made repatriation agreements with several countries in West Africa, amongst others, and Italy is aided by the agreement reached with Libya, which now patrols several Mediterranean routes.

Greece has the largest coastline in the European Union (over 13,000km) and over two thousand islands. It is difficult to monitor areas, especially if Turkey remains uncooperative.

New Chief for National Intelligence Service

The new Greek Government decided yesterday to replace the head of the National Intelligence Service with Ambassador Kostas Bikas. The previous head of the organisation, Dimitris Papagelopoulos, was appointed by the previous conservative government just 3 months ago.

The question now is what will happen to the recent changes made by the previous conservative government to the leadership of the armed forces. The changes were made some months ago under heavy criticism as to their timing. The new Commanders, although technically a non-political posts, are seen as belonging to the conservative field. Typically they will serve in their current positions for two years.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Turkish Commando Forces Going Pro

En Kripto reports that the Turkish Army is introducing more professional soldiers in its commando forces at a quick pace. The professionalization of several commando units was announced in 2007. In total 6 brigades are meant to be made up of only professional soldiers by 2010.

Currently these 6 brigades are made up of professional soldiers to a level of 70% which roughly equates to 2,750 men. Another 650 men are being trained at the moment and will be added to this force by December.

This move has to do with the ongoing need to counter the PKK insurgency in the country’s south west but some of the units affected have their prime area of responsibility in the Aegean theatre against Greece.

Military Exercises Cancelled in Cyprus

The annual Cypriot military exercise “Nikiforos” has been cancelled this year. The Turkish Cypriot side has reciprocated by cancelling the annual exercise “Toros” by the Turkish occupational forces. The Turkish Cypriot side announced that with this move it wishes to contribute to the improvement of the political atmosphere between the two sides while talks continue.

Several days ago Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Talat has announced that the Turkish side would cancel its military exercises if the Greek Cypriot Nikiforos exercise was cancelled.

The Greek Cypriot side stated that the cancellation of both exercises was proposed by Greek Cypriot President Christofias to the UN Secretary General.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Airspace Violations

DefenceNet reports that today 14 Turkish Air Force jets violated Greek airspace. This comes on the first working day after the visit of Greek PM Papandreou to Turkey.

Specifically in the morning 6 jets entered the Athens FIR in the Northern and Central Aegean and also entered Greek airspace once.

In the afternoon 8 more jets flew in the same general area and entered Greek airspace on four separate occasions.

On another note, it has been reported by Fileleutheros newspaper that Turkey is proposing a code of conduct in the Aegean for military air crews. The idea would be for Greek pilots not to dogfight with their Turkish counterparts during interceptions.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Germany Offers Surplus Tanks to Greece

In an exclusive Hellenic Defense reports that the German government informed the Greek Defence Attache in Berlin that 140 to 160 Leopard 2A4 tanks could be made available to Greece at a very good price. The tanks are in "excellent" condition and are available immediately.

The move is seen as a gesture of good will by Berlin to the new Greek government and an attempt to bring back on track a series of bilateral issues, most important of which is the U-214 submarine problem (see here). Also, it should be remembered that Germany would like Greece to select the Eurofighter Typhoon as its next generation combat aircraft. The previous socialist government of Kostas Simitis had made a commitment to buy the Eurofighter but this was put on hold pending the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. The next Greek (conservative) government bought 90 US made F-16s instead.

If the offer for the tanks goes ahead then the Greek Army could soon be in possession of over 500 Leopard 2 tanks. This would mean that the Greek Fourth Army Corps could outfit most of its armoured formations with Leopard 2 tanks.

Traditionally Greek socialist administrations have had better ties with Germany than the last conservative administration had so this offer could signal a thaw in a strained relationship.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Greek PM in Turkey

Greek PM George Papandreou arrived in Turkey today for the informal meeting of foreign ministers of the South-East European Cooperation Process. The Greek PM has also taken on the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The PM stated that Turkey must show willingness to carry out the reforms necessary to become part of the European family and that it must abide by all the conditions set for membership.

At the same time the PM sent a message to Brussels saying that the European Union must become more dynamic in its dealings with Turkey and reiterated that Greece supports Turkey’s bid to join the Union.

On a side note, DefenceNet reports that today there have been no violations of Greek Airspace by the Turkish Air Force even though the count stands at over 20 for the week.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More F-35 Jets for Turkey?

En Kripto reports that Turkey is potentially looking at acquiring an additional 20 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters on top of what is already planned. This was announced yesterday by the Turkish General Secretary for the Defence Industry Murad Bayar. This would cost Turkey an additional 2 billion dollars which would be made available earlier than was originally planned. Turkey has until next year to declare how many fighter it is planning to procure.

This move will raise the 11 billion dollar budget to 13 billion dollars during a difficult period economically. The General Secretary also stated that this move would also make it less likely for the Eurofighter Typhoon to be selected by Turkey before 2020, meaning that the Typhoon could be a contender then. Furthermore, Bayar also said that the Turkish Air Force would start receiving the first upgraded F-16s at the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011.

Taiwan to Purchase Greek Subs?

DefenceNet reports today that the Navy of Taiwan has expressed an interest to purchase the four Greek Type 214 subs which the Greek government has refused to accept due to technical faults. The news comes from an article in a magazine with a high circulation in Taiwan.

The same article mentions that Taiwanese Navy officers have had meetings in Kiel with top level officials from the HDW shipyard regarding the subs.

The Taiwanese Department of Defence refused to confirm or deny the story, most likely because it is currently in negotiations with both US and French companies for its future sub procurement.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Minister of Defence Announced

The new Minister of Defence in the PASOK government is Evangelos Venizelos. The Assistant Minister of Defence is Panos Beglitis. Minister Venizelos visited the Greek Ministry of Defence today where he was received by the previous Minister, Meimarakis.

The incoming and outgoing chiefs both made some short comments to the press about their duties and the mandate that was given to them by the electorate.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Frontex Aircraft Receives Warning by Turkey

Eleftherotypia newspaper reports that a Swedish Frontex aircraft patrolling the Aegean against illegal immigrants was harassed by a Turkish radar station.

On Tuesday morning on two occasions, at 03:20 and at 04:33, the crew of the aircraft received warnings from the Turkish ground station warning the crew that they are within Turkish airspace. The aircraft was at the time in Greek airspace in the area of Agathonisi.

The Turkish ground station warned the Frontex patrol that it would face interception if it did not leave the area. The aircraft completed its mission and landed safely back at Kos island.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Helicopter Engine Stolen!

DefenceNet reports that a helicopter engine worth €1,600,000 was stolen from the State Aircraft Factory (KEA) at Hellenikon. The commander of KEA has been relieved from duty pending an official investigation. The Makila 1A2 engine belonged to a Super Puma Search & Rescue helicopter operated by the Air Force.

The engine weighs nearly 250kg which raises serious questions about how it was taken past security.

To make matters worse it apparently is the second engine stolen in as many months. The first engine to be stolen was from the Air Force Museum at Tatoi. That engine belonged to an AB-206 helicopter and was worth €350,000. Although not airworthy the engine can be brought back to flight status with a cost of €15,000.