Apart from air exercises in the Greek skies, it is probable that the Israeli/Greek cooperation will advance to the field of special operations. The former Lieutenant General Frangoulis Frangos, had received Israeli proposals for a joint training for teams of special forces from both countries. Specifically, during the annual meeting of the COS (Chiefs of staff), which took place in May 2010 in Croatia, Lieutenant General Frangos sent through his aid- de- camp, two books with historical and photographical material concerning islands of the Aegean. His Israeli counterpart, reciprocated this gesture with a sealed envelope containing a letter of invitation for bilateral special forces exercise in Tel Aviv, next October.
- From June 11 to 14 October centered on the airport of Andravida airforce base, the second phase of the exercise "MINOAS", took place. The scene of action was the Aegean, with fighter planes. It was interrupted however because of the attack of Israeli special forces on the freedom ships sailing towards Gaza. The exercise was deemed highly efficient coordinating role played the Air tactical Center in Anravida Israelis had 6 helicopters (3 Black Hawk UH -60and 3 Apachi AH-64D and 2 reserves.
On the Greek side, 1 Super Puma, 2 army Apache and six fighters of various types, were involved. The scenario of the exercise foresaw SAR (Search and Rescue) of pilots by commando forces, in the mainland of Central, north, and west Peloponnesos which have been characterized by noteworthy military sources, as being actual battlefields.
Besides increasing the number of exercises and training of Israeli aviation in Greece, Tel Aviv is seeking greater cooperation in the sector of armaments with the Greek side and gives emphasis to the exchange of expertise, etc. Discussions are already taking place for the supply to the Air Forces special kits for the upgrading of the older missiles Spice, whilst Israel is staking a claim to participate in a bid alongside with companies from Germany, USA and France for the supply of the second batch of about 80,000 missiles for the tanks "Leopard 2 Hell which will be produced jointly with the EAS.
In this context, they informed the Greek ministry of Defense, that they possess ammunition types similar to those 12000 which the ministry has recently decided to purchase from the German government .The Israeli company concerned, is expected to express an interest in entering the EAS as a strategic investor, especially if it has to provide bulk orders from abroad, such as are pursued by Athens.
- On December 3,2010, 4 firefighting aircraft Canadair CL-415 arrived in Israel and helped to extinguish the large fire that raged uncontrolled in Haifa. The aircraft belonged to the 383 MEEA (suadron of specific operations and airborne firefighting) of the 113 fighter wing. They departed at night of December 2 from Thessaloniki, accompanied by one C-130, which transported technical and reserve crews. They refueled in Larnaka and reached their destination in Israel before first light. Apart from the humane aspect and the merit of assistance in distress in a foreign country, the diplomatic significance of this measure is beyond any doubt, especially since the Greek aircraft were amongst the first foreign forces to rush to Israel's aid.
In July 2011 a joint Greco-Israeli exercise, CSAR took place in Larissa. The famous team of special operations 669 (Yechidat Hilu'z Vehapinu'i Behethes 669 airborne team for intelligence and rescue)was accompanied by the lieutenant general in charge.
The men of 669 undergo very rigid training which includes specific courses in first aid on the battlefield, parachute drops in free fall, static strap, scuba diving, orientation, rescue under extreme adverse conditions, addressing terrorists.
The exercise took place in Thessaly, with focus on Larissa. On the Israeli side, apart from transport helicopters,6 Apachi,and 7 Black Hawks were taking part whilst on the Greek side 4 Apachi,4 Huey ,1 Super Puma and 2 F-16 fighter planes, participated.It is worth mentioning that the program of joint operations in Greece and Israel, were amongst the major topics in the discussions that the Head of the Greek Air Forces Brigadier B. Klokazos during his visit to Tel Aviv at that period.
From the Greek side besides the armaments was the procurement based on a bilateral agreement, of the guidance system SPICE which is fixed as a kit on bombs of general purpose, which are available within the Greek arsenals, with the purpose of enhancing the accuracy of targeting land objectives.
- September 2011. A defense agreement between Greece and Israel was signed by the Secretary of National Defense. According to unconfirmed information, this agreement provides Israeli air forces and the navy to be hosted at Greek military bases in the Mediterranean, while the security agencies of both countries will share info material. This is of significant importance in a period of tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
- October 2011. It seems that the Cyprus government has decided on a full military cooperation with Israel after it was agreed to have joint exercises. Although Cyprus has no Air Force (only Russian made attack helicopters for search and rescue has), but has a modern military airport base in Paphos called "Andreas Papandreou. This was created for the needs of a common defense doctrine. So Tel Aviv is planning exercises in the airspace of Cyprus (previously issued NOTAM) that includes air refueling, aircraft interceptions, but also exercises on touch and go in Paphos. Unconfirmed info, suggests that Cyprus and Israel have agreed on the exchange of intelligence, joint exercises with helicopters in the Cypriot airspace etc.
- From 14 to 18 November 2011, a team from the 110 Fighting wing was officially in Israel, to participate in joint training exercises. Specifically, five Greek fighter planes F-16 Block 52+ their pilots and the required technical staff, all from the 337 Squadron. They met their counterparts in OVDA Airbase on the southern tip of Israel. This was conducted under the military cooperation program, Greece-Israel 2011
14 December 2011. A lot of movement of Israeli helicopters over the airspace of Cyprus has been reported during that period. Eight Black Hawk patrolling the area landed shortly after noon at Larnaca airport under the auspises of joint military exercises. The aircraft mentioned had received permission from the civil aviation authorities to land at Larnaca. Meanwhile, Israel almost daily performs patrols over Cyprus, in order to control the area. This fact strengthens the defense cooperation between the two countries, whilst sending a very clear message both to the Turkish and the Cypriot public opinion, of the intentions of Israel to maintain security in the region.
23 December 2011.The program of a military cooperation between Greece and Israel for the year 2012 was signed. The final context of the cooperation was made between 19 and 22 December 2011 in Israel, where a delegation of 4 representatives of the relative Greek high military command. The political framework had been agreed upon during the visit of the minister of Defense Mr. P Beglitis. The military cooperation program for the year 2012 includes several joint exercises of both airforces, daily and longer mutual exercises in the framework of other actions. These training exercises shall take place in the Greek airspace and the Athens FIR in general. For the execution of these manovers it has been foreseen that Israeli aircraft will be based on Greek soil. A similar program has been scheduled for joint naval activities most of which will take place in the Mediterranean. For the army, an exchange of intelligence, as well as the exchange of personnel for studies in the institutes of the reciprocal countries, on different levels, has been decided. Similar student exchange will take place at the military academies. Military sources have indicated that the individual joint actions are not always specifically documented and are subject to additional specifications and deployments.
-10 January 2012. The Greek Ministry of Defense, visited the Vice President and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, during his 2 day official visit to Athens. Mr Barak met with Minister of Defence D. Avramopoulos. Working groups of the two countries convened to define the areas of cooperation.
-13 February 2012. In a highly symbolic gesture, the new head of the Israeli Air force decided for his first trip, after taking office, to visit Athens. Major General AMIR ESEL arrived in Athens on 13 February 2012. Major General ESEL visited and held discussions with policy makers,on issues of mutual military interest .He met with Chief of Hellenic National Defense General Staff ,General Michael Kostarakos, the Chief of Hellenic Navy General Staff, Vice admiral Kosmas Christides and the Chief of Hellenic Air Force General Staff ,Air Marshal Anthony Tsantirakis.
-18 July 2012. Ships of the Israeli Navy conducted five exercises in the high seas of Mirtoo. The exercises include firing missiles on the rocky islet of Karavia, west of Milos.This is an indication of the enhanced military cooperation Athens - Tel Aviv in the military Navy sector. The Radar in Parniths, was responsible for the synchronisation of the volleys. According to Israeli established policy, the number and types of the ships, which took part, were not revealed. However, according to unconfirmed info, the corvette LEHAV class Sa'ar S and the fighting ship YAFFO class Sa'ar 4.5 of the Israeli Navy, executed volleys and systems of short range defense, (CIWS) Phallanx accompanied by Greek torpedo boat CRYSTALIDIS (P69) Because of an agreement Papoulias- Yilmaz not to carry out manoevers during the summer period, no Greek air and naval units were involved in this exercise. The fact that the exercise was performed just days after the completion of the 4-day visit of the Chief of Hellenic Navy General Staff, Vice admiral Cosmas Christidis, after the invitation of the Israeli Naval commander Vice admiral Ram Rutberg, does not seem accidental.The greek Vice admiral visited the Israeli Naval base in Haifa. There he sailed for a short trip on the updated corvette type Sa'ar 5.
-Early September 2012. Airborne exercises between Greece and Israel took place in southern Crete with dozens of helicopter simulated fights over Ierapetra involving sophisticated attack helicopters. The Israeli-Greek helicopters AH-64D Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk, took part in another joint exercise. Each country participated with 8 helicopters. This is not the first time that Israeli AH-64D, are flying so far from their home base. This demonstrates that the Israelis have the possibility a deep penetration by the Apache.
-(5-6 September 2012). The Minister of National Defense Mr. Panos Panagiotopoulos paid an official visit to Israel. This visit was preceeded by an invitation by the acting Premier and Minister of Defense of Israel, Mr. Ehud Barak. During his two day stay, Mr Panagiotopoulos met with the Israeli Premier, Mr Netaniahou, in his office in Jerusalem, as well as with the acting premier Mr Barak, with whom he discussed in a very friendly atmosphere, all matters of common interest of both countries, in the field of their expertise. Allegedly, committees, of specialized officials, were planned for the cooperation of both countries in the defense industrial segment.
- (21-26 October 2012). The Hellenic Air Force General Staff, made a short announcement, that from the 21rst through Friday October 26th, a joint training exercise between Greece and Israel, under the joint Military pact of 2012,will take place in the 110 wing of the air base in Larissa. However based on unconfirmed info, participated in this exercise, personnel and aircrafts of three fighter squadrons of the Israeli Air Base RAMON, the 119 mentioned, the 201 The One AHAT the 107 Suadron "Knights of the orange tail (Ha Rosh Ha Aryev). All had F-16D Block 52/SUFA. It is worth mentioning that this is the third time that Israeli fighter planes are hosted in a Base of the Greek Air Force, which demonstrates the increasing confidence between both airforces, and the high level of cooperation between them.
Findings and conclusions
The defense cooperation between Israel- Greece-Cyprus has been upgraded remarkably from 2008 onwards.
The existing treaties and the prevailing political situation are favorable for a long-term cooperation between the three countries. The problems between Israel and Turkey are manifold and fundamental, prominent of which are the Palestinian and Kurdish issues, where both countries have conflicting interests.
The first issue is of vital importance for Israel to solve, while the second is of similar importance to Turkey. These imply that the relations between Israel and Turkey are expected to remain strained for an unforeseen period of time.
This period therefore, affords a "golden Opportunity" for the establishment of deep and durable defense cooperation Greece-Cyprus-Israel.
Let us not leave this opportunity pass unexploited.
1."The geopolitical importance of the military alliance between Greece and Israel" Panos Nastos 2005.
Athens Security Forum
EUROPEAN INTELLIGENCE ACADEMY (EIA)
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