Sunday, June 6, 2010

Defence Procurement Review: Improving Operational Availability instead of New Weapons Purchases

The improvement of the operational availability of existing weapons systems has become the primary goal for the Armed Forces, according to head of the General Defence Staff General Giagos. The poor economic outlook of the country means decisions on the procurement of new weapons have to be delayed or scrapped altogether. This can affect the purchase of new fighter aircraft, frigates and armoured fighting vehicles. The newly revised 5 year defence procurement plan worth €8.5 billion is expected to contain programmes which on the one hand will focus on the improvement of logistical support for the better utilisation and increased readiness of existing equipment. An example of the dire situation facing the Armed Forces is an article by the newspaper Revelations (Aποκαλύψεις) which reported on the danger that the Greek fleet of Leopard 2 tanks could become immobilised due to the lack of lubricants. The revelation came a few days after the signing of an agreement to procure the necessary ammunition for these tanks.

One the other hand the procurement plan must focus on the modernisation and upgrading of existing systems. The following are examples of the most urgent programmes for the various branches of the military:

1. The upgrading of the 19 older AH-64A+ attack helicopters of the Army to the same level as the newer 12 AH-64D models which were recently accepted into service.

2. The Mid-Life Upgrade of the 4 MEKO-200HN frigates of the Hydra class. Weapons improvements are to include the replacement of the Phalanx CIWS with RAM (Rolling Airframe Missiles) and the upgrading of the main 5” gun to the Mod4 standard. This upgrade is deemed important as a result of Turkish efforts to change the power balance in the Aegean.

3. The upgrade of the existing fleet of third generation fighter aircraft of the Air Force. The existing 20 Mirage 2000 EGM/BGM are to be brought to the -5Mk2 standard and the F-16C/D Block 30 and Block 50 aircraft are to be brought to the Block 52+/Advanced standard. The Air Force has 4 subtypes of F-16 aircraft in service with two different types of engines which places a heavy burden on support and training.

Special emphasis must be given to the quick acceptance of the new Type 214 submarines, the completion of the NH-90 tactical helicopter deliveries and the issuing of a new tender for Maritime Patrol Aircraft. This last programme has a bearing on the problematic issue of Search & Rescue areas and also of the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

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