The Minister of National Defense Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos attended yesterday, Saturday, November 5, 2022, at the event organized by the Air Force to celebrate the Archangel Michael, at the Athens Concert Hall.
Also present was the Chief GEETHA General Konstantinos Florosthe Chief GES Lieutenant General Charalambos Lalousisthe Chief General Vice Admiral Stylianos Petrakis PN and the Chief of the General Staff Vice Admiral (I) Themistocles Bourolias.
In his speech, Mr. Panagiotopoulos pointed out the following:
“Ladies and gentlemen,
It is therefore a special pleasure and honor for me to be here tonight at the Concert Hall, as a representative of the Greek Government but also the political head of the Armed Forces, of course, for the celebration of the patron of the Air Force Archangel Michael.
You will allow me to deviate a little from the text and tell you my experience two days ago in Kyiv, where I felt what it is like, to be close there, in a country, a leadership, a people, fighting for altars and hearths. He fights against the invader every day in order to restore the country, the territorial integrity of his country and of course the drama of the everyday lives of the common people and civilians amid the devastating effects of the war in their country.
It made me realize even more strongly how huge a national task it is for the country to have a capable and deterrent Armed Forces and how much we must continue our fight for an even better, even stronger, even more deterrent Armed Forces with every element of our forces. And that, of course, this fight is ultimately measured by work and result and that if we fight to achieve this work and this result, then in essence we celebrate every day the Air Force, every day of course the Navy and the Army and our Armed Forces.
This is our fight. It is a team effort, it is not a one-man effort, of course and for this purpose, I would like to take this step to thank all the contributors to this effort for their impeccable cooperation, especially the Chief of GEETHA for its planning, the implementation of which we are proceeding , the Chiefs of the General Staff for their impeccable cooperation in prioritizing the needs and of course the Prime Minister, by whose order we operate and act because this is a conscious decision by the Government, this huge effort that is being made for even better, stronger, more combatable, more efficient Armed Forces.
The current situation, the difficult times we are experiencing, the great risk and instability in the international geopolitical environment, which is already in the ignition stage, fully justify the urgency of this effort.
But today the Air Force and its officers are celebrating. The Air Force is one of the main pillars for the implementation of our National strategy, both in the field of deterrence and diplomacy in particularly difficult circumstances. I spoke about the work, which must be valued, must be measured and must of course always possess us in the effort to solve it and a sense of dissatisfaction, that we have not done much and there is still more that we must do.
I think we have every reason to feel that work has been done. It is certainly another thing to come out, and work comes out, for the benefit of the Air Force, that is, for the benefit of the deterrent power of the Armed Forces and ultimately for the benefit of the Motherland.
Starting at the end of 2019, when we started with the passing of the Bill that allowed for the first time, after several years, to have a Continuing Support contract for the “Mirage 2000-5” aircraft and therefore restart the flow of spare parts that slowly improve the availability of this necessary fighter aircraft for our Air Force and the overall strength of our Armed Forces, as well as the final arrangements that allowed the start of the implementation of the major upgrade program of a significant part of the fleet of F16 in the “Viper” version. A program, which is already in progress. The first ones have already, as you know, been delivered to ODA facilities in the Air Force and it is being carried out at a very satisfactory pace.
By the end of the year, the Air Force will have six aircraft of this type in its ranks, if I’m not mistaken, and more and more for the next few years, always according to the estimates and the program there at the ODA.
We didn’t stay there though. In 2020, we proceeded with the approval by the Equipment Committee of the Hellenic Parliament of Continuous Support contracts for most aircraft. Even for transport aircraft C-130 facing the known problems -faced for a long time as you know. But they didn’t have a Continuing Support contract and you – since the audience I’d say is made up of Air Force personnel, so you know what we’re talking about – didn’t have a Continuing Support contract. The same was true of our other C-27 transports.
These contracts are voted by the Hellenic Parliament. There is, I would say, a small but visible progress and little by little the pace is starting to pick up, especially with regard to the C-27s which are starting to increase their availability with what that entails with the transport capabilities throughout the Armed Forces of course and not only the Air Force.
At the same time, in 2020, the case of acquiring the “Rafale” aircraft unfolded. I don’t want to say more about exactly what they do or what exactly it is about, this state-of-the-art fighter jet. I will only say – and I am sure that many of you will also understand what I am talking about – the fact that within a year of signing the contract we received the first six aircraft.
The first six aircraft arrived at their base, Tanagra. I am especially happy for the 114th Fighter Wing because I experienced firsthand the uplift, both in terms and in the morale of the personnel that prevails there. So within less than a year from the signing, we had planes, the first six and soon we will receive the second six, at the beginning of the new year, maybe even a little earlier, so that they can also come to strengthen the Squadron of “Rafale” created in the 114th Fighter Wing.
More happened. As I told you, after the smooth start and rapid implementation of the eighty-three upgrade program F-16 in the “Viper” version, we also proceeded to approve the modernization program of another thirty-eight F-16 category Block 50. Something that had to be done, since this “Viper” upgrade started from our most modern aircraft, we decided that we had to do something for the immediately less modern ones, so the Block 50. Queued up and that’s it.
Finally, in order not to go too far with regard to the program for strengthening the Armed Forces, I would also like to dwell on a project, which is of great strategic importance because it refers directly to the future of the Air Force and especially to personnel training levels.
It is not this, none other than the great program for the creation of the International Training Center in Kalamata, in a move of strategic cooperation with Israel, thus also the Israeli Air Force, one of the best air forces in the world that comes and is involved in synergies and strategic type collaborations with our own Air Force. This had to be done because, on the one hand, I would say that we were quickly reaching dead-end situations in terms of the smooth processing of the training of our Icarus, regarding the ever-flying object, and on the other hand, because the Aviation Training Center in Kalamata, the goal is to turn into an international pole of attraction , training in the flying object.
Interest has already been expressed from other countries in order to send their own pilots, to be trained, when we have the possibilities, because of course it is important to cover the training needs of the Icarus of the Air Force. However, the goal is to turn this center into an international training center with all that it implies for the extroversion of the Air Force, of our country, I would say the strengthening of a primacy in aviation in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond.
So things have happened. Not everything has been done of course and more remains to be done. But I think that right now, the Air Force can claim to be on solid footing, on solid foundations. Of course, I could not omit the other move for the future, which is the entry of the Air Force, when we will be able to cope with the financial planning, the requirements of this program, the entry for the acquisition of the fifth generation aircraft of F-35.
We’ll have news soon on that front as well. Of course, as I told you, the main thing in all this is not to make decisions that we have to do this and this and the other, but to plan and intensify one by one these steps into a more comprehensive plan, part of which is inevitably also financial planning. So these have been done and I think that even at this point the future is predicted to be bright for the Air Force and the transition to the 5th generation aircraft.
But it is worth it to fight and plan and implement with the team, with whom we cooperate perfectly and bring these results, because in the end this is all about strengthening the Air Force. And I think that strengthening the Air Force is a national matter and this effort to strengthen the media is not exhausted, but of course it also refers to the personnel. And there have been reinforcement moves for the staff, which return to me from this step to congratulate them as a whole, not only the Airmen but also the Ground Technicians, the people who work with this intensity, this passion to maintain in the better condition the flying means of the Air Force, all the personnel who fight for the good of the Weapon and therefore the good of the Fatherland. Well deserved, congratulations to all.
If I could give one direction, it would be that we all continue together with this zeal, the sense of duty, the sense of patriotism, the dedication, the organization, these results and the work, because the times are not getting any easier. On the contrary, they will become, they are already becoming, more difficult and therefore we must rise to the occasion. So thank you to all contributors to this great effort. I truly believe in the capabilities of the Air Force.
I believed before, I think that now we can believe even more based on the work that has been done, the planning that has been done and the results that are already starting to become visible.
Once again, congratulations to the organizers of this very nice event and may, I close with this wish, our Air Force, our pilots, operators, all the executives continue to cover with their wings and their weapons the National Territory, defending our territorial integrity and may – and of this I am sure – parallel to this, the guardian Archangels of the Air Force cover them with their wings.
Be well even stronger, congratulations to everyone on the nice events of the celebration of the Archangel Michael, Patron of the Air Force.
First Appeared at: defence247.gr