by Kakaouskia for The Saker blog

Greetings to the Saker community and readers.

This sitrep covers a series of events in recent weeks in Eastern Mediterranean that point to a possible arms race. Note that I deliberately do not cover the recent Douma affair as it has been extensively covered elsewhere and merits articles of its own.

Greece:

22nd March 2018 – U.S. Congress announces the provision of $460,000,000 as FMF funding to help start Greece’s F-16 upgrade program covering the upgrade of 84 planes to the F-16V standard. This program was originally intended to cover 125 planes, but Greece was unable to secure the down payment needed.

Excerpt from Congressional Records: FOREIGN MILITARY FINANCING PROGRAM

The Act provides $5,671,613,000 for Foreign Military Financing Program in this title, and an additional $460,000,000 in title VIII under this heading is designated for OCO/GWOT pursuant to BBEDCA. Countering Russian Influence Fund.–Funds made available for the CRIF under this heading are provided to assist countries in Europe and Eurasia in enhancing the capacity of their security forces, including for the modernization of systems of North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners, such as Greece. The Secretary of State is directed to consult with the Committees on Appropriations on the proposed uses of such funds prior to the submission of the spend plan required by section 7076(b) of the Act. Greece.–Not later than 30 days after enactment of the Act, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees detailing the proposed upgrades to the Greek F-16 fighter jet program and recommending specific actions to be taken to support such upgrades, including with funds made available under this heading.

It should be noted that the funds will essentially help Lockheed Martin as it is the main contractor for the F-16 upgrade program. Greece has until April 22nd to accept this offer.

The U.S. government also authorised the transfer of four Mark V Special Operations Craft to Greece as Excess Defence Articles. These craft are used by Navy SEAL teams and are scheduled to be delivered to Greece around the end of 2019. Boats of this kind have been requested by Greece for years however this is the first time U.S. government authorised provision of such equipment.

29th March 2018 – Senior Navy officials tip off press specialising in military affairs that the Hellenic Navy has decided to procure 2 FREMM class and 1+1 BELLH@RRA class frigates from French group DSCN. While the need to replace ageing frigates of S class is there, the idea was to modernise existing inventory. Rumours have it that the funding for these new frigates comes after France announced to Greece that it will pay any money owed to Greece due to excessive interest on bailout funds provided (EU decided earlier to return some money back to Greece) “in kind”, namely in military hardware or else.

4th April 2018 – Greece has signed with Russia contracts to extend the service life for Russian systems in Greek service as well as recertification of missiles, spare parts and follow-on-support. Greece maintains a number of Russian made anti-aircraft missile systems which are in need of support.

7th April 2018 – Reports of interception of ANKA UAVs over the Aegean by the Hellenic Air Force. ANKA is a UAV made in and used by Turkey.

10th April 2018 – The guard of Ro Island (a small Greek island about 8Km from the Turkish coast) has fired warning shots at a Turkish helicopter that supposedly approached during night. According to sources speaking to Sputnik, these actions were taken under new engagement rules after two Greek officers were apprehended by Turkey in an incident on the northern border between the two countries.

Turkey:

22nd March 2018 – Israeli website DebkaFile reports that the U.S. plan to withdraw from Incirlik and Al-Udeid military bases. While such a drastic move would have made headlines, it appears that now the U.S. is testing the waters by relocating smaller assets to other locations. In recent days MQ-1B UAVs have been withdrawn by USAF and MQ-9 UAVs have been moved to Afghanistan, with two units confirmed being moved to a Hellenic Air Force base on mainland Greece. Also, according to Turkish website Kokpit.Aero, a 40t mobile arms depot has been airlifted out of Incirlik for deployment to another area of operations. Depots of this kind usually are deployed in bases to provide small arms storage and maintenance facilities to serving personnel.

3rd April 2018 – After Putin’s visit to Turkey, the schedule for deliveries of S400 Batteries has been moved forward; Turkey is now scheduled to receive the first systems July 2019.

8th April 2018 – Turkish press reports that Turkey is interested in the urgent procurement of a number of 9M133 Kornet ATGMs from Russia. Turkey already uses the system and has around 800 missiles and 80 launchers. It is also reported that Turkey is discussing options to enhance the armour of its tanks using Russian systems. It is worth noting that in the past Turkey turned to Israel for tank armour upgrades which resulted in the M-60 SABRA model.

11th April 2018 – The editor of Yeni Safak newspaper published an article that ponders on the possibility of sinking a Hellenic Navy ship by Gioulen sympathisers in an action similar to the downing of the Russian SU-24 to cause Greece to attack Turkey.

Syria / Lebanon / Saudi Arabia:

22nd March 2018 – Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA, official U.S. government body to facilitate arms exports) published the approval of a request by Saudi Arabia for up to 6600 TOW 2B ATGMs. Saudi Arabia also got approval on April 5th for the provision of 180 kits to upgrade its M109 Paladin mobile artillery systems to the A6 standard. One can understand the artillery upgrade although to be fair the Saudis do not need the A6 standard, much less so they do not need 6600 ATGMs to fight Houthis. Note that these two new deals are not part of the infamous $110B deal Trump singed last year.

Readers can monitor major arms sales via this link, keeping always in mind that DSCA reports the maximum possible order quantity approved.

28th March 2018 – Cyprus announced the provision of €15,000,000 of military assistance to the Lebanese armed forces. The two countries have cooperated in defence matters in the past, with Cypriot officers and NCOs travelling to Lebanon for training. This move is intended to help relations between the two countries especially now as they try to finalise the Exclusive Economic Zone boundaries in East Mediterranean.

30th March 2018 – French newspaper Le Parisien reported that France will dispatch ground forces (read Special Forces) in Syria, supposedly as assistance to the Kurds. On April 3rd, the Turkish State News Agency Anadolu published a map that supposedly showed the locations of the French troops in Syria.

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