ATHENS – Watching Turkey’s drone industry thriving, including those armed and able to take out tanks from the air, an anxious Greece is trying to develop its own as protection but also to patrol Aegean islands to look for refugees.
While Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has concentrated on building an arsenal with traditional weapons – fighter jets and warships – Turkey’s drones provide a key edge in case of a conflict.
Besides trying to find electronic counter measures to stop Turkey’s drones, Greece is proceeding to build its own, naming them Archytas, said Defense News, reporting they were shown at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF.)
The so-called Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) fixed-wing device is a joint production of the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) and the Aristotle, Thessaly and Democritus universities, the report said.
As a multipurpose drone, Archytas is capable of operating in both rescue and military operations and EAB said it can also provide intelligence on ground and sea movements, such as refugees trying to reach Greek islands.
It can also accompany warships because it has the ability to detect unmanned marine vehicles moving at high speeds as an early warning detection method or find them fast.
Turkey is allowing human traffickers to keep sending refugees and migrants to Greece, mostly to islands near Turkey’s coast, on rubber dinghies and rickety craft which could be spotted by the drones.
Nikos Koklas, Director of research and Design at EAB, told Defense News the drone was designed to “perform these missions with minimal modifications, which can occur on-the-spot in the field.”
The aircraft’s “excellent surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities manifest a perfect fit for the protection of Greek territory and islands alike,” he added, where the government is trying to keep out refugees.
Then there are the military implications with Greece and Turkey more often almost coming to blows over Turkish violations of Greek airspace and planning to hunt for energy off Greek islands, where it’s also demanding Greece remove troops and not extend its maritime boundaries.
Depending on the selected payload, Koklas says that the Archytas is able to cover up to 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) at a cruise speed of 120 kilometers (75 miles) an hour and can be modified to carry light weapons.
It can also fly for four consecutive hours and has a design that would allow it to reach remote locations and land on the decks of large vessels without needing a runway, the manufacturer told the site about it.
After unveiling the demonstrator prototype, an Archytas drone’s first flight will be in October and the first pre-production system is expected to be integrated and manufactured by December 2023, with a first flight by March 2024.
The Hellenic Armed Forces and Greece’s Civil Protection Ministry will get the first off the line and when asked about international interest, Koklas stated that, “It had already sparked the attention of several other countries besides Greece, formulating an outstanding commercial prospect.”