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Politics

Greece Gets Old Gear, But US Green Berets Training with Troops

ATHENS – Renewal of a military partnership agreement aimed at expanding an American military presence is seeing the United States providing some used gear but also Green Berets training.

In a report, the site Insider noted that the US is transferring 1,200 surplus M1117 Guardian armored vehicles and four Mark V Special Operations Craft to the Greek military.

The combined value of the equipment is close to $1 billion, but it is being provided to Greece at up to 90 percent cheaper under the US’s Excess Defense Articles program, the report said.

Congressional approval is required for a country to receive EDA equipment. Therefore, the transfers reflect a “commitment to continuing to build on the strength of a relationship that has reached a high point but is not yet at its summit,” US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt said.

But the Guardians won’t have any armament and Greece will have to procure and install machine guns and grenade launchers, with 44 of the vehicles already delivered as Greece builds an arsenal against Turkish provocations and fears of a conflict developing in a dispute over seas sovereignty.

The M117 Guardian was used in Afghanistan and Iraq, where its mine-resistant hull and ability to withstand small-arms fire made it popular among troops, but the Guardians’ operational roles with Greece are likely to be limited, said Savvas Vlassis, a Greek defense journalist and publisher.

The vehicles are expected to be used mainly on patrol missions, deploying primarily with Greek units in the Evros border region and on the Greek islands where Greece is trying to keep out refugees and migrants.

The Mark V Special Operations Craft are primarily used for insertion and patrol and were in service with the US Navy SEALs from 1995 to 2013.

Greece has the largest coastline in the Mediterranean and over 2,000 islands and islets, meaning the boats — Greece’s first Mark Vs — will be especially useful, the site added.

To show off the Mark V’s capabilities, US Navy SEALs and Green Berets from US Special Operations Command Europe conducted joint drills with Hellenic Underwater Demolition Command (DYK) operators in Attica.

DYK operators are roughly equivalent to US Navy SEALs. The Greek selection process is based on the US Navy’s BUD/S course, and the two units have similar attrition rates.

“I have been so impressed to see not only the growth in the US-Greece Special Forces partnership but also the way the Hellenic Special Forces are working across a wide region,” Pyatt said during the drills.

Greece also hopes to get warships from the US contractor Lockheed and has signed deals with France for 18 Rafale fighter jets – 12 used and three Belarra warships, as well as a mutual defense deal with that country.

Greece is in the process of upgrading 83 of its F-16 fighter jets to Block 72 Viper, the latest configuration, but has also expressed strong interest in purchasing F-35s denied Turkey after that country bought Russian-made S-400 missile systems.

That undermined the security of NATO, the defense alliance to which France, Greece, the US and Turkey belong and could be used against Greece but Turkey still wants to get the new fighter jets.

Greece has also agreed to buy seven MH-60R multirole helicopters from Lockheed Martin, to be outfitted for anti-submarine warfare and cost about $600 million, said the report.

The Hellenic Army is an key part of NATO’s southern flank, structured to focus on the defense of eastern Aegean islands, north, and northeastern Greece, the country having one of Europe’s largest tank forces, with near 1300, mostly older German Leopards along with 390 upgraded but old US-made M48 Patton tanks.

The Hellenic Air Force has 231 fighters with a  mix of F-16s and French-made Mirage 2000s and Greek pilots are seen as among the best in NATO as they engage in mock dogfights with Turkish jets violating Greek air space.

“A Greece which is stronger and more secure makes our alliance stronger and more secure, and therefore makes the United States stronger and more secure,” Pyatt told the site.

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