by Kakaouskia for The Saker Blog
Greetings to the Saker community and readers.
Reports in the press show that the Cypriot government has signed an agreement with France for the provision of four SA-342M Gazelle helicopters from the reserves of the French Army. These helicopters are the modernised version of the SA-342-L1 of which Cyprus already operates four since 1988. The upgraded version has night fight capabilities as well as the ability to fire the HOT missile.
In addition, reports also show that Cyprus has ordered several new Mil-Mi-35M from Russia. As with the Gazelles, Cyprus operates 11 Mi-35Ps (one was lost while on a training flight). The possibility of upgrading the Mi-35Ps to the MI-35M was examined but it was rejected, probably due to concerns about cost. It should be noted though that the Cypriot Mi-35Ps reportedly have the same electronics suite as their Russian equivalents instead of the downgraded export version. Also, they have some of the structural features of the Mi-35M version.
1st May 2018 – The Greek government has published the agreement with the U.S. government for the upgrade of 85 F-16s to the F-16V standard. The total cost of the agreement is $1.528B. As noted in an earlier sitrep, the U.S. government proposed to fund this deal with $460M.
24th May 2018 – Greece confirms granting asylum to one of the eight Turkish officers which defected to Greece after the failed coup against Erdogan. This decision is a pilot one, as it exhausted all legal procedures and arguments thus it paves the way to grant asylum to the other seven officers. Turkish press accused Greece of “harbouring the traitors”.
31st May 2018 – Greek defence minister along with U.S. ambassador to Greece visited the MQ-9 Reaper detachment in Larissa air force base. At the moment the detachment operates 2 MQ-9s in order to train and establish operational procedures; regular operations to start soon. In the past USAF operated quite a few MQ-9s from Incirlik in Turkey, but it appears they are looking for alternatives although Larissa is a bit far from the obvious operational areas (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria).
7th June 2018 – The U.S. include in the FY2019 defence budget draft provisions of $50M for upgrades and improvements of Souda naval station in Crete. Souda is already large enough and has facilities to accommodate Nimitz class carriers; image below is from the recent visit of CVN-75.
Image credit: LT Andrew Stopchick, Port Services Officer
10th June 2018 – Air Force 1 landed at Souda around 03:08 while carrying President Trump to the Singapore meeting with Kim Jong Un. This was a highly symbolic move as there was no such need for the stop; as a matter of fact, the AF1 could have easily travelled over the Pacific.
Image Credit: Steve Herman
12th June 2018 – Greece and FYROM Prime ministers announce that they have come to an agreement regarding the official name of FYROM. As per the agreement, FYROM must:
- Use the name Severna Makedonja (Northern Macedonia) both internally and internationally
- Use the unified term Macedonian/citizen of Republic of Northern Macedonia as a replacement of the simple Macedonian as the definition of nationality / citizenship.
- Place clear signs on monuments to indicate their Greek origin where such is the case and rename public infrastructure that uses names related to Greek Macedonia / Alexander the Great etc
- Establish that the current language spoken in FYROM belongs to the South Slavic family of languages and has no relation to the ancient Greek civilization as well as the Greek / Macedonian culture heritage.
- Finally, the most important part of the agreement – Complete removal from FYROM’s constitution of any and all terms related to Macedonia, the “need to protect oppressed Macedonian minorities in other countries”, the “guarding and reclamation of Macedonian borders” etc
In exchange, Greece will stop vetoing the application of FYROM to join both NATO and the EU but will ratify both the treaty and the approval to join the aforementioned organizations only after FYROM completes and approves the constitution modifications as well as take a referendum on the subject.
As expected, the agreement caused the wrath of nationalistic elements in both Countries. When the RYROM prime minister visited the FYROM president to present the agreement, the meeting lasted only 2 minutes with FYROM’s president effectively kicking him out and vowing to preserve Macedonia.
14th June 2018 – The opposition in Greece initiates a vote of no confidence against the government. During the arguments in parliament, Barbarousis, an MP from the self-proclaimed nationalistic Golden Dawn party (in reality the equivalent of the Bandera party in Ukraine) in his speech asked the armed forces of Greece to overthrow the elected government and arrest the prime minister along with other people. Immediately Areios Pagos (the equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court) opened a case against Barbarousis, accusing him with high treason and execution of preparatory acts in order to commit high treason. Note that these accusations automatically revoke the immunity parliament members enjoy in Greece. Since the parliament session was televised live and Barbarousis’s speech was recorded in the official and ratified records of the session, the attorney general issued a warrant for the arrest of Barbarousis.
15th June 2018 – Golden Dawn announces that they have expelled Barbarousis from their ranks in an apparent effort to protect themselves from the treason charges. Barbarousis is on the run and he managed to evade a police roadblock and a subsequent high-speed chase that followed in rural roads under heavy rain. In the meantime, sources affiliated with Golden Dawn and other nationalistic elements publish the phone numbers of all parliament members which results in a flurry of death threats. At night, while the discussion for the no confidence vote is under way, according to the president of the parliament the parliament guard assisted by anti-riot police manages to repel what appears to be “a coordinated attack on all entrances of the building by Golden Dawn assault squads”. The vote of no confidence is rejected by the parliament with 153 MPs voting against it, 127MPs in favour while the MPs from the Greek Communist Party did not participate in the process at all.
17th June 2018 – The prime ministers of Greece and FYROM are to hold a meeting at a Greek village on the shores of Lake Prespa, a lake that is shared between Greece, Albania and FYROM in order to sign the naming agreement and start the implementation process.
22nd May 2018 – Rumours begin to surface that U.S. congress is looking for ways to block the transfer of F-35 jets to Turkey.
27th May 2018 – According to Haaretz, the Israeli government urges the U.S. to deliver downgraded – if they deliver any at all – versions of the F-35 to Turkey.
28th May 2018 – A Rosoboronexport official allegedly contacts a defence journalist stating that the company is not allowed to export SU-35 let alone SU-57 planes to Turkey; the best they can do is export Mig-31s. This comes as a response to articles in the Turkish press indicating that if the U.S. block F-35 sales to Turkey, Turkey has other sources of high-tech planes.
29th May 2018 – In an unprecedented move for allied countries, the U.S. Congress includes in the Defence Budget FY2019 draft law (see here, section 1269, pages 680 – 683) a section that aims to halt the transfer of any F-35s to Turkey, to expel Turkey from the F-35 program (of which Turkey is a partner) altogether and that hold Turkey’s current senior leadership (see Erdogan) personally responsible for the health and safety detention of pastor Andrew Brunson. In the draft law it is stated clearly that these measures are the result of the recent rapprochement between Turkey and Russia and the decision by Turkey to purchase the S400 system. Turkey in an effort to alleviate U.S. worries announced a 10-month delay of S400 deliveries citing “training and infrastructure requirements”. This is a move without any value as it restores the delivery timeframe to its original schedule. If the law passes by Congress and is signed by Trump, it will put U.S. – Turkey relationship in a deep freeze.
3rd June 2018 – Turkish officials receive invitations to attend the delivery ceremony of the first Turkish F-35s scheduled to take place on June 21st in Lockheed’s facilities at Fort-Worth, Texas. This is in line with the draft law as the planes will not leave U.S. soil. Contractually, the planes should arrive to Turkey one year later although that remains to be seen.
Syria / Lebanon / Israel:
21st May 2018 – It is officially confirmed that French artillery units operate in Syria equipped with Caesar guns, reportedly in the vicinity of Deir ez-Zor.
28th May 2018 – Lebanon accepts another four of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft. The Super Tucano is a Brazilian (made by Embraer) turboprop aircraft used for reconnaissance and light ground support. USAF is purchasing these aircraft and then “gives them to friendly countries facing insurgents” like Lebanon and Afghanistan.
30th May 2018 – U.S Navy announces the list of participants to the annual Pacific Rim international naval exercise (RIMPAC). Of note is the withdrawal of the invitation to the Chinese contingent and the invitation to Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Brazil and…Israel.