The Hellenic Ministry of Defense plans to lease several Heron medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) drones from Israel for use in maritime reconnaissance and surveillance missions. The lease of three Israel Aircraft Industries-produced Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) involves a three-year timeframe and includes an option to buy at the end of the leasing period.
Greece is leasing a maritime-configured variant of the Heron, featuring maritime patrol radars and satellite communications as well as day/night capabilities.
The great security relations between Israel and Greece are expanding. First agreement between IMoD & the Hellenic Ministry of National Defense was signed: Israel will lease IAI Heron UAVs to Greece. The Israeli system will be used primarily for border defense. 🇮🇱🇬🇷 pic.twitter.com/11Q27hYGjf
— Ministry of Defense (@Israel_MOD) May 6, 2020
The Hellenic Navy has a pressing need for modern maritime patrol capabilities and increased capacity, as it continues to rely on its aging fleet of P-3B Orions acquired from ex-U.S. Navy stocks in 1995 and 1996. Though these are currently being modernized – thus allowing Greece to outfit its reactivated 353 Maritime Patrol Squadron – the process will not be completed until 2023.
As a country whose territory mostly borders the sea and who has territorial disputes in the Aegean with neighboring Turkey, Greece’s need for greater airborne maritime patrol capacity at reasonable cost prompted the leasing arrangement with Israel, a close security partner to Greece.
A leasing option makes financial sense for Greece, which remains cash-strapped following the country’s sovereign debt crisis that erupted in 2009. Long-standing defense modernization plans were effectively frozen in 2010, with only a few rare exceptions emerging post-2014. This naturally impacted military preparedness. Just as Greece’s economic and fiscal picture had begun to show clouds lifting, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) threatens to once again put pressure on the government budget.