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Politics

Anchors Aweigh: Greece Needs Naval Buildup Against Turkey’s Warships

ΑΤΗΕΝS – Ready to buy six new and 12 used French-made Rafale fighter jets as Turkey keeps violating its airspace, Greece will also need to upgrade its Navy as a defense against a potential conflict to match its rival on the seas.

That was the assessment in a piece in Forbes magazine by writer Paul Iddon, an aerospace and defense specialist who said Greece needs new warships as the New Democracy government was mulling buying French frigates too.

That would be to counter Turkey’s building up its navy after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan purged the military of leaders and pilots – as he did with civil society, the judiciary, and education system – after a failed 2016 coup attempt against him.

Greece and France signed the $2.8 billion Rafale deal that will bring Greece 18 4.5-generation multirole jet fighters, 12 of which were used by the French Air Force, delivery expected in July.

Greece also wants to buy 18-24 stealthy fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II jet fighters from the United States that had been set for Turkey before Erdogan authorized purchase of a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

That undermines the defenses of NATO, to which Greece and Turkey belong – the alliance doing nothing about it – and could be used against Greece if there’s a conflict, tension remaining over Turkey’s plans to hunt for energy off Greek islands.In a joint press conference in Athens this January, following the finalization of the Rafale deal, French Defense Minister Florence Parly announced that “France will soon offer to Greece proposals to renew its fleet of frigates.”

In October 2020, the United States – which wants a bigger military presence in Greece – insisted that Greece buy four U.S. frigates, three of which it said could be co-produced at the Onex Shipyards on the Greek island of Syros.

In November 2020, Greek media said the Navy was interested in acquiring U.S.-built Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) vessels. 

The proposal was for “a package solution that includes the supply of four MMSC frigates, the upgrade of four MEKO-type frigates, intermediate solution ships and the participation of Greek shipyards in the development of the new American FFG(X) type frigate,” local media said then.

Lockheed Martin LMT -1.9% has begun upgrading most of Greece’s F-16 fleet to the F-16V (Block 70/72) standard in a project that will make them the most advanced in Europe, the report said.

The first of a total of 84 Hellenic Air Force (HAF) F-16s being upgraded was finished on January 17, a program set for completion in 6 ½ years, while the Greek Air Force’s  French-built Mirage 2000-5 Mk2s are also being upgraded to extend their lifespan.

Greek pilots, in frequent mock combat with Turkish jets violating Greek airspace, among the world’s best and aces in NATO’s lineup.

While the Greek Air Force has a good chance of gaining a highly advantageous technological edge over Turkey by the end of the decade, the Greek Navy could find itself outnumbered and outgunned without a buildup, the report added.

Greece’s German-made submarines that proved almost undetectable had provided a key advantage but Germany – which blocked European Union sanctions against Turkey – is selling them to Turkey too.

Turkey also has some German-built diesel-electric attack submarines, many of them built locally under license and is buildingsix new Type-214 air-independent propulsion submarines and aims to add one each year to its Navy between 2022 and 2027.

Turkey has eight ex-U.S. Navy Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, known in the Turkish Navy as the Gabya-class guided-missile frigates, and four Barbaros-class frigates, another MEKO 200 design.

In 2019, more than 100 Turkish Navy ships participated in simultaneous exercises in the three seas around Turkey, the largest and most extensive exercise in that fleet’s modern history.

“Whatever Athens ultimately opts to do, it has become abundantly clear that its navy requires substantial procurements and upgrades to keep up the pace with its larger and increasingly more sophisticated rival to prevent the balance of naval power from shifting decisively in Ankara’s favor,” the  report said.

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