BY NICO HASAPOPOULOS – SOURCE: THE NEWS – [Μετατροπή σε κείμενο:
“The place is full of American helicopters,” said the Minister of National Defense, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, to the American ambassador, George Tsunis, when they arrived in Volos on their way to Thassos. And indeed the Americans moved a helicopter base along with the 3rd Army Aviation Brigade from Poland to Stefanovice and Volos. All kinds of helicopters from attack Apaches (with the Hell Fire missile tank killers), Chinook transports and multi-role BlackHawks, even anti-submarine Romeos. This is not the first time the Americans have done this, but the third. The first was three years ago when they came here to winter out of the cold of Poland that they were forced, due to weather conditions, not to fly often and they got excited about Greece. Because, as the Minister of National Defense observes, in Greece they found a “field of multiple missions”, i.e. mountains, plains, cities, sea, plains, islands, rocky islets, something they did not have, nor could they ever imagine that they might have in Poland or even in any other European country.
The arrival of American helicopters is continuous in Stefanovikio. Some come on giant ferry ships to the port of Volos, but others arrive from the port of Alexandroupolis, which the Americans consider the second Souda or “Souda of the North”. Dozens of helicopters (at least 150) are expected to come and go in these eight months from the base in Stefanovikio. In a few days, it is possible that the special forces of the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the American army will also arrive, as happened last year.
The benefit is also great for the Hellenic Army Air Force, which will train together with the Americans in almost daily missions, but also for the local community of Volos, since the American pilots and helicopter technicians and engineers in every outing in the bars, in the shops and they leave enough money in the restaurants of Volos.
The facilities that host the US military and helicopters have already expanded (and are constantly expanding), both in Stefanovikio and in Volos at the “Georgoula” camp, where the 32nd Marine Brigade is based. With each flight – exercise, the American helicopters will be in the heart of the Aegean, they will fly in cooperation with the Greek helicopters over the islands and they will patrol the entire Greek territory and the entire area of the Athens FIR.
In Larissa the Americans have created another base. From the 110th Fighter Wing of the Larissa air base, the 6 MQ-9 Reaper UAVs of the American armed forces are expected to operate again from the beginning of November. The benefit for the Greek defense is considered important by the staff. And this is because:
The first facilities in Larissa were further upgraded in the context of the MDCA.
And secondly, the Greek MQ-9s will also come and will be a good co-training, since the information they can convey is described by the Greek staff as “absolutely useful”. The Americans are investing a total of 33.5 million dollars in the base, so that 110 B.M. to be able to accommodate technologically advanced platforms now and in the future. Although MQ-9 flights are associated with the need for surveillance missions in the Mediterranean region, their radius of action (1,850 km) also allows them to be used for missions in NATO wing countries bordered by the Black Sea (Bulgaria, Romania ), with the aim, of course, of monitoring movement in the region amidst the war in Ukraine.
For the Air Force, the presence of the MQ-9 has a further significance, as there is an ongoing negotiation between Athens and the Pentagon for the supply of three such state-of-the-art UAVs.