Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More Airspace Violations

A total of 16 Turkish Air Force fighter aircraft violated Greek airspace today. Of these 16 aircraft 8 were armed. The aircraft entered the Athens FIR in two formations and breached Greek airspace 11 times. All Turkish aircraft were intercepted by the Greek Air Force.

On a related note, Turkish EU Chief negotiator Egemen Bagis, criticised Germany and France for selling military equipment to Greece at a time when Greece is facing such dire economic problems. Turkish politicians were quick to pick up on Greek politicians saying there should be mutual arms purchase reductions by Greece and Turkey.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Red Arrows Accident Update

DefenceNet just posted that the number of aircraft that were involved in the accident were 2. Initially it posted the number of aircraft involved was 3. According to this site there was only one ejection. The other pilot managed to land his aircraft. The Red Arrows team has been at the Kastelli Air Base since yesterday and was scheduled to be there until 31/03.

Reportedly the pilot who ejected has been seriously injured. No fatalities have been reported.

Edit: According to another report the injuries of the pilot who ejected are not threatening.

The pilot ejected at low altitude while over the runway. There were no injuries on the ground as a result of the crash.

The images below show the Kastelli Air Base in Crete as seen from Google Earth.

Red Arrows Aircraft Reported Crashed

Troktiko Blog just reported that a Red Arrows aircraft has crashed in the Kastelli area of Crete during a display exercise. Another report on the same blog says two aircraft of the team collded in mid air. Two pilots escaped using their ejection seats. This report is as yet unconfirmed.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cost Cutting in Vital Military Exercises

Strategy-Geopolitics reports that last week the Military General Staff Council adopted recommendations to cancel all major military exercises for 2010. The cancellations affect major national military exercises such as “Sarisa”. Reportedly the Hellenic Air Force’s participation in another edition of Red Flag will also be affected. A host of other exercises will also be cancelled.

Hellenic Defence News note: Having served in the military in Greece for a year and a half there’s a lot I have learned. I saw the Army’s strong points and the Army’s weak points. Personally I felt that I could have received a much better training than I did. Not that the training was bad or insufficient, but it could have been much better when taking the threat Greece faces into account. However, I did learn many things during my service. I learned the basics at the start, in boot camp. Then I learned the important things during exercises. That’s when you get to see the important stuff. That’s when you learn to cooperate with other units, use your equipment properly, learn to operate at night, bad weather etc. Cutting these exercises can have dire consequences for the readiness of the Armed Forces. Hopefully this news is not entirely accurate, but judging by other reports in the media it probably is.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Provocations Continued

DefenceNet reports that early this morning there was a repeat of Friday’s provocation as described in the previous post. Today, a little past 08:00 two Turkish F-16 took off from Dalaman airbase in order to intercept a Hellenic Coast Guard AS365 Dauphin 2 helicopter. The Greek helicopter was in the area of Farmakonisi Island on a FRONTEX mission and was approached by the Turkish fighters to a distance of about 700 metres. The Turkish fighters then proceeded to fly over Farmakonisi Island.

Two Greek Mirage 2000-5 interceptors had already been scrambled and at that time had locked on to the Turkish intruders. The two Turkish fighters made a sudden climb to 9,000 feet, presumably attempting to break the lock. The two Greek fighters then escorted then out of Greek airspace.

The Greek helicopter had been receiving threatening messages from the Turkish radar station Datca previous to being intercepted.

The Greek Air Force has been put on a higher state of alert following today’s incident. It is the first time that such an incident happens on a Sunday, a day when normally only emergency flights take place.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Escalation of Turkish Provocations

As reported in the previous post the Greek Coast Guard helicopter fleet recently became operational and started patrolling for illegal immigrants in the framework of the FRONTEX Poseidon operation. Several media outlets in Greece today report that this morning a Greek Coast Guard helicopter found itself on the receiving end of an interception by F-16s of the Turkish Air Force. The Greek helicopter had taken off from Kos Island at 06:13 and discovered a group of 59 illegal immigrants at sea east of Fournoi Island. The helicopter had been receiving the usual threatening messages from a Turkish radar station on the opposite coast, claiming that the helicopter was flying in Turkish airspace.

At 06:57 Turkish fighters took off from Dalaman Airbase and reached Samos Island at 07:08. Greek fighters were scrambled from Limnos and reached the scene as the Turkish fighters were approaching the Greek Coast Guard helicopter. The Turkish F-16s approached the helicopter to one nautical mile and with a vertical separation of 1,000 feet. As the Turkish fighters were taking position against the helicopter the Greek interceptors locked on to them after which the Turkish fighters disengaged.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Coast Guard Helicopters Operational

Strategy-Geopolitics reports that the Hellenic Coast Guard will today execute its first operational mission with its AS-365 N3 Dauphin helicopters. The helicopters were acquired for the 2004 Olympic Games but have since been left unused. The 6 helicopters were moved to the Navy base at Kotroni of Marathon 2 years ago where Navy personnel took on the task of training the Coast Guard flight crews and maintenance personnel. The first Dauphin helicopter was sent to Kos Island today where it will start patrolling for illegal immigrants as part of the Poseidon operation conducted by FRONTEX.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Type 214 Subs – Revised Solution?

In an exclusive DefenceNet reports that the Greek Ministry of Defence and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems have come to an agreement on the Type 214 submarine issue. According to the solution the Hellenic Navy will accept all four submarines, including the S-120 Papanikolis which has been a major stumbling block for years. The submarine issue was also one of the obstacles that needed to be solved in order for Abu Dhabi Mar to take over the Hellenic Shipyards.

According to the article a further 2 Type 214 submarines are expected to be built. The submarines will be built as a replacement to the Neptune II programme which was meant to upgrade two older Type 209 submarines of the Navy. The Neptune II upgrade is being seen as a filure economically and technically. The first submarine that has undergone the upgrade, S-118 Okeanos, will at some stage enter service with the Navy again.

The cost of this decision is expected to reach 1.35 billion Euros. This is in addition to the amounts already paid so far for the Type 214 acquisition and the Neptune II upgrade.

We sincerely hope that the Papanikolis has indeed had all its issues solved and that there will be no problems in its operational life.

Monday, March 8, 2010

And Some Good News

In an article that was placed on several Greek sites, Savvas Vlassis reports on some recent “news” regarding the Greek Air Force. There has been talk of some Forward Operating Bases of the Greek Air Force closing down. Specifically, operation from the bases at Skyros and Kastelli were supposedly to be suspended due to financial reasons. According to the article this is not and never was the case. The two FOBs are the results of decades of planning on how to best defend the Aegean and cannot just be scrapped due to a downturn in the economy.

Also, the author/publisher notes that the Hellenic Air Force does not have orders to not intercept Turkish fighter aircraft that breach Greek airspace (see here). According to Vlassis the Air Force responds according to operational plans drawn up by its hierarchy and there is no such order.

Truth Be Told

Greece-Salonika blog reports today that the Greek side is pleasantly surprised at the results of the recent visit of Turkey’s Coast Guard Chief. It seems that the communication channels opened during this visit have had some positive results. In at least two instances, to the surprise of the Greek authorities, the Coast Guard of neighbouring Turkey responded positively to a request to take into custody groups of illegal immigrants that entered Greek waters, having set out from the Turkish coast.

There are agreements in place for exactly this but so far Turkey has not put them into practice. These two cases by themselves will not solve the huge problem from illegal immigration from Turkish shores but at least it is a step in the right direction.

Friday, March 5, 2010

FRONTEX Aircraft Threatened by Turkey

DefenceNet reports that Turkey today tried to claim Greek airspace between Chios and Samos Islands as Turkish. At sunrise the same Polish FRONTEX aircraft from our previous post was patrolling the area and received 15 warnings from 2 Turkish ground radar stations. The warnings were to leave the area as supposedly the aircraft was flying within Turkish airspace. The aircraft was threatened with having a tactical operation mounted against it.

The Polish FRONTEX aircraft was at the time patrolling in the vicinity of Samos and Chios at an altitude of 3,000 feet in search for illegal immigrants. The patrol was according to an established patrol route.

The warnings by the Turkish side started at 04:31 and lasted nearly 3 hours until 07:18. The aircraft had taken off at 04:06 and landed again at 07:57. Despite the threats the Turkish side did not send fighters to carry out the “tactical operation”.

DefenceNet further reports that the Greek Air Force is monitoring the situation very closely. The moment Turkish fighters spin up their engines the Greek side is informed and there is at least a 30 minute warning before Turkish fighters can reach the area, according to one of their sources.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Turkey Warns FRONTEX Aircraft Once Again

Proto Thema reports that a Turkish radar station issued repeated warnings to a Polish FRONTEX aircraft operating in the Aegean. According to the Turkish warnings the Polish aircraft was flying within Turkish airspace.

The FRONTEX aircraft was in fact in Greek airspace operating within a few miles off the Coast of Farmakonisi Island. The Turkish warnings started at 12:40, were continuous and lasted for about one hour. According to the warnings the airspace above the Greek Island of Farmakonisi was considered Turkish. The Polish aircraft took off from the Airport of Kos Island at 00:05 and landed back again at 02:30 after completing its mission.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

335 Squadron Passes OpEval

Several sources, first of which Diplomacy GR (www.diplomatia.gr) reported that last Thursday 335 Squadron passed its Operational Evaluation test. According to the reports the last phase of the valuation included 4 F-16 aircraft and one Erieye AEW aircraft which cooperated using the Link-16 network. Ground attack scenarios using JSOW weapons were also conducted.

Several weeks ago the last of the 30 F-16 Block 52M aircraft was delivered to 335 Squadron in Araxos. These aircraft are almost identical to the 58 F-16 Block 52+ aircraft delivered as part of the Peace Xenia III program and which operate out of Souda and Larisa Airbases. The main difference is the ability to cooperate with other aircraft with the Link-16 infrastructure, allowing these F-16s to target hostile targets with information fed directly from Airborne Early Warning aircraft or other sources. This can give significant tactical advantages in various combat scenarios. At this moment in time the F-16s from 335 Squadron are the only Greek fighter aircraft equipped with Link-16 capability.

One other important difference with these latest aircraft is that they have been delivered with the ASPIS II self protection suite fully installed. The Greek Air Force so far is refusing to take official delivery of the system due to technical reasons. As a result the 58 remaining aircraft from the Peace Xenia III programme are still flying with a self protection system.

It should be noted that the CCIP programme the Turkish Air Force will perform on its F-16 fleet includes the Link-16 system. This makes it imperative that the Greek Air Force performs an upgrade of its existing F-16 fleet to include this capability.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Shipyards & Submarines – Solution Reached?

The government announced that the Skaramanga Shipyards have been sold to the Abu Dhabi Mar Group (ADM). The new structure will see ADM hold 75.1% of shares with Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) retaining a 24.9% stake. It is hoped this development will safeguard the future of the shipyards and (most of) its employees.

There has been much speculation about what guarantees the Greek Government has given ADM with regards to future orders for the Hellenic Navy.

Hopefully this decision will lead the way to have the Type 214 submarine issue solved as well. DefenceNet reports that the most likely outcome will be for only 3 of the 4 existing subs to be accepted, with the first built (Papanikolis) being put up for sale by TKMS. One additional sub could be built to make up for this. Also, a further two subs are likely to be built to offset for the upgrading of two older subs which has been judged to be technically and economically not justifiable. These two subs were originally to be Type 209 subs with Air Independent Propulsion but, according to DefenceNet, it is looking more likely these will be Type 214 subs instead.

DefenceNet also reports that 4 to 5 Corvettes are likely to be ordered. This requirement by the Navy seems to have been pushed to the top of the list as an incentive to ADM. Also, it seems that 400 employees are likely to be let go in the future but in a staggered fashion so as to avoid unrest.