Monday, February 1, 2010

335 Squadron and Proper Planning

Proper planning prevents poor performance. This is true of almost everything, especially in matters concerning defence. Last Friday the last batch of 4 F-16 Block52+ Advanced was delivered to Araxos Airbase as part of the Peace Xenia IV programme (see here for DefenceNet’s exclusive pictures of the arrivals). A total number of 30 aircraft have been delivered.

If all goes well it is expected that the squadron will pass its Operational Evaluation in February. The problem, as mentioned before in this blog, is that the leadership of the Ministry of Defence (past and present) have not catered for any sort of continuity in defence planning. 335 Squadron currently has 30 aircraft. The Greek Air Force foresees a unit structure of 20 aircraft. If the squadron is split in two, as was the intention when there was an option to order 10 more aircraft of the type, each squadron will operate with 15 aircraft. Any attrition, scheduled maintenance and other issues that can take aircraft off active duty would then erode each squadron’s capability to unacceptable levels. Ordering another 10 aircraft now will mean that years will go by before they are delivered.

There is also the outstanding issue of upgrading the previous F-16 models in the inventory. This idea also seems to have died a slow death. Currently 58 F-16 Block 52+ aircraft are flying without electronic warfare suites. One thought would be to upgrade these aircraft to the Advanced (or Block 52M) standard, thereby creating a core of 88 Block 52M aircraft that can equip 4 squadrons with spare aircraft for future attrition.

335 Squadron is currently the only squadron in the Hellenic Air Force with Link-16 capable fighters. This is another reason to bring the previous batch up to the same standard. One mistake was already made by ordering 30 aircraft instead of the standard 40 required for two full squadrons. There is still time to undo this mistake by bringing the Greek Falcon fleet to as common a standard as possible. Part of the expense will be earned back through savings on future maintenance, logistics and training costs.

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