The counterargument to this headline could be that along with fighter modernization programs, weapons and new systems such as the SNIPER targeting pod are necessary for the Air Force’s backbone F-16 fleet. , dozens of other decades-long needs of the Greek Army and Navy are pending. We will completely agree… At the same time reminding that it is indeed extremely difficult to meet all these needs, or even the most pressing ones, within a period of three years and under the conditions, energy and economic, that prevail in Europe and especially in Greece.
On the other hand, of course, an important factor in further delays in critical armament programs are the pathologies of the Greek “system” of armaments, with all that this word can include and mean. Many of the needs of the Navy, but also of the vital missile artillery, could have already been covered, or even been initiated, if there were priorities and funds did not “go away” in programs that were not included in them.
So before comments are made about the Air Force getting the lion’s share again, let’s make it clear how DR’s view is that the Navy also absorbed significant funds in past years ($1.1 billion) for aircraft alone, while priority should, based on common sense, be the modernization of the four MEKO 200HNs at least five years ago. If three more MH-60Rs are purchased as “leaked”, the amount, just for PN aircraft, will hopefully be 1.350 to 1.4 billion dollars!
After all this we return to the Air Force to note that the modernization of 83 F-16C/D Block 52+ and Block 52+ Advanced is in full progress and from September 12 deliveries to the 343 Squadron of the 115th Fighter Wing will begin. The big risk is the delay of the LOR mission from Greece for the modernization of 38 F-16C/D Block 50 to Block 50M which will include at least 30 SNIPER targeting pods. Why these systems are critical for the utilization of the air-ground arsenal of the Air Force has already been explained in detail (https://defencereview.gr/vomves-kathodigisis-leizer-axiopoio/).
It is of particular critical importance that the modernization of the F-16s should be completed within four years if we want to talk about a force of 200 fighters in Greek service. The prospect of acquiring even one Squadron of Mirage 2000-9 fighters (if and as long as it exists we will know for sure soon…), would solve a significant part of the problem both from an economic and an operational point of view, for Greece.
In the event that the alternative of the Mirage 2000-9 of the UAE (https://defencereview.gr/mirage-2000-9-from-united-arab-emirates-as-a-potential-fighter-for-hellenic-air-force /) is not implemented, the only available solution for the Air Force seems to be the modernization of 32 F-16C/D Block 30 to Block 50M. The data reveals that even if an F-35A Squadron purchase program moves forward as quickly as possible, these aircraft will not be available for operations before 2030. For all these reasons, an immediate boost to the fighter force by 16 to 20 Mirage 2000-9 fighters, is the one desired by the Air Force.
Block 30 F-16s will not be able to function as trainers unless they are modernized
In a recent article by V. Nedos in Kathimerini (https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/561995443/sta-skaria-i-anavathmisi-38-f-16-block-50/) it is stated that the Air Force will continue to operationally utilize the 32 F-16 Block 30 it has in an interception role (Air Policing), while at the same time it will also use them to meet training needs, with the aim of introducing the pilots to the F-16 Block 50M and F-16V.
The truth is that, at least in an interception-police role, the Block 30 could offer their valuable services for a few more years. However, there is no need to talk about the role of the educational operational stage. A fighter with electronics and mission systems of the 80s cannot be used in such a role. The aircraft manufacturer (LM) itself points out that support for most of its systems has ended, or will end very soon.
Without IFF Mode 5, Link 16, and SATURN (Second Generation Anti-Jam Tactical UHF Radio for NATO) secure communications systems, these fighters cannot be used in the modern operational environment, nor as introductory trainers to modernized versions of the F-16 . Combat tactics in all roles today and for several years are based on the utilization of secure communications and data link systems.
Pinpointing the location of enemy targets to friendly aircraft, surface units and operations centers, targeting and firing weapons against them can be performed in near real time with high precision and from safe distances via data link. For example, shooting a METEOR or MICA missile against a flying target can be done by a Rafale F3R receiving targeting data via data link. The same applies to the USAF F-16s being modernized to a level close to the Viper, while in all probability (we have no secure information), it will also apply to the Greek F-16Vs.
The integration of the appropriate software will ensure the same capability in the modernized Block 50 (Block 50M). It is therefore easy to understand that the 32 F-16 Block 30s will either have to be upgraded to the Block 50M level along with the 32 Block 50s, or they will be forced to retire. And indeed in a very few years from today. This is the reality and the data confirms it. It is not something that is arbitrarily supported by DR.
It is true that the Air Force does not wish to withdraw these fighters. As well as having invested significant funds in the past to extend their operational life through two structural upgrades, as well as an engine upgrade, he does not want to lose 32 very capable units in terms of performance. The manufacturing company LM, for its part, states that it is ready to submit an updated proposal for the modernization of Block 30.
The word “updated” is used to indicate that this is a proposal that was submitted in the past and will now include new elements. The Greek side in turn and in view of the developments and the inflexible needs of the other two Branches of the Armed Forces, does not have many (economically feasible) alternatives at its disposal. The goal of 200 combat-ready fighters is not going to be met within the next five years unless the Mirage 2000-9s are acquired, or the Block 30s are not modernized. Which will be retired, whether we like it or not, along with the Phantom AUPs if they remain as they are.