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The Hellenic Patriot:
Greece's Best Air Defense for the 21st Century

By John Sitilides1 <>, Executive Director, The Western Policy Center

Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, 23 September 1998

One of the most significant aspects of Greece's ongoing defense modernization program involves improvement of its air defense capability. Its lengthy coastline, vulnerable islands and islets, and potential adversaries to its north, east and south make Greece especially receptive to a proven air defense system deployable against a broad spectrum of potential threats, such as high-performance fighter jets, cruise missiles, and tactical ballistic missiles from the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.

A behind-the-scenes debate throughout 1998 will soon be coming to a close, as KYSEA is expected to decide by October 8 whether to procure the Patriot air defense system from the United States of the S-300V system from Russia. Key factors in the decision will include achieving quantitative advantage within the regional balance of power, cost efficiency, interoperability, and technological benefits. An extensive review of confidential and public documents verifies that, based on these and almost every other consideration, the Patriot surpasses the S-300V as the most effective air defense system for Greece well into the 21st century.

Military forces around the world recognize the Patriot as a revolutionary air defense system, the product of years of technological advances, enormous research and development, and a proven record on the battlefield. It is a long-range, all-altitude, all-weather system capable of engaging multiple, simultaneous targets, even against the most intense electronic countermeasures. It is backed by the strength, long-term stability and economic commitment of the United States Army, which deploys the Patriot as the cornerstone of America's integrated air defense system.

Given Greece's long-standing military alliance with the United States and other NATO countries, the Patriot's ability to seamlessly integrate into the existing Hellenic Command and Control Structure demonstrates a clear operational advantage over the S-300V, designed during the Cold War to interact with now-defunct Warsaw Pact forces.

If Athens decides to award the contract in the next several weeks, an early version of the first Patriot systems can be deployed in Greece as early as the end of this year providing there is fast action on contracting. These, systems would be manned by the Hellenic Air Force and would provide advanced air defense capability for large population centers almost immediately.

The full arsenal of Patriots, consisting of 200 Guidance Enhanced Missiles (GEMs) with a range of 70 kilometers and a maximum altitude of 24 kilometers, would be manned by the Hellenic Air Force and operational by the end of 2001. About two-thirds of the system would be deployed as a battalion headquartered on the Greek mainland, and one-third would be stationed on an island to be designated by the air force.

Reliability is also provided by the Patriot's NATO-compliant Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transceiver, allowing the Hellenic Air Force to correctly ascertain the origin of a threat or target before engaging the air defense system. The S-300V has no such IFF capability.

The economic benefits of the Patriot to Greece are extensive. Starting almost immediately, Greece's domestic industries would participate in Patriot-related projects worth up to $1.9 billion which includes the opportunity to support other nations that purchase Patriot.

This high technical content work includes the manufacture, testing, and integration of the control stations, electronics systems, launchers, trucks and tractors, and the final assembly of the missiles. This transfer of technology and innovative manufacturing techniques, with great potential civilian application, would create 2,400 new jobs in Greece, strengthen the country's economic infrastructure and better equip the country for heightened competition within the European Monetary Union and the global economy.

Though the short-term cost of the S-300V hints at a lower price tag, the Patriot's software-driven system, automated maintenance, and reliance on fewer major equipment items would save the Hellenic Defense Ministry approximately $2 billion over the 25-year life of the system, or an average of $80 million annually, in comparison to the purchase of the S-300V. After six years, the Patriot system is less expensive to own and operate than the S-300V system.

Even if the Russians gave the S-300V system to Greece at no charge, it would cost more to operate after ten years than the Patriot system. The S-300V requires five times the manpower, twice the number of repair parts, and three times the major equipment items of the Patriot. As the Simitis administration proceeds to modernize and streamline the national economy, it may look to the Patriot for both immediate and long-term economic benefits.

The political benefits of the Patriot can also be extremely significant. Currently, the strongest element of the U.S.-Greek relationship is at the military level, with their armed forces cooperating on land, in the air, and on the seas. Defense Secretary William Cohen and Ambassador Nicholas Burns have voiced America's support for Greece's ambitious defense modernization program.

Since the U.S. Army has established the Patriot as the foundation of Theater Missile Defense and America's primary ground-based air defense weapon into the 21st century, Greece would benefit from the Pentagon's investment commitment to the future technological upgrading of the system. Along with the United States, Germany, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, Greece would confidently operate the most modern air defense system in the world.

Certainly, the contrast between the national suppliers - the United States and Russia - could not be greater. Political and economic stability in Moscow remains elusive. Any funds authorized for a thinning skilled defense labor pool to conduct research and development will likely be spent on Russia's domestic defense rather than on the upgrading of arms for export. Any long-term business relationship with a Russian enterprise would be extremely risky.

In short, the Hellenic Patriot would represent a quantum leap forward for Greece's qualitative defense capability, transforming the effectiveness of the military forces, bestowing sizable economic and technological benefits on the country, and securing an even stronger relationship with its most powerful ally well into the 21st century. From a political, economic, and strategic standpoint, the Patriot would be Greece's most effective, least costly, and most reliable air defense

1[The Western Policy Center is a public policy corporation promoting U.S. geostrategic interests and Western institutions in southeastern Europe by strengthening the debate on American foreign policy toward NATO allies Greece and Turkey, and toward Cyprus. Based in California since 1994, the Center opened new offices in Washington, D.C. in February 1998.]