In an indication of the rising tensions over the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean this year, there has been a significant increase in the number of violations of Greece’s national airspace by Turkish fighter jets since the beginning of 2019 and as a result mock dogfights with Greek jets have more than doubled, according to data released on Wednesday by the Hellenic Air Force General Staff (GEA).
More specifically, there were 267 engagements between Turkish and Greek jets in the first nine months of the year, compared to 128 in 2018 and 176 in 2017.
During the previous period, 2010-16, these engagements were significantly less frequent. Moreover, so far this year, Turkish jets have conducted 50 overflights over Greek territory, against 47 in 2018 and 39 in 2017.
Overall, airspace violations by Turkish jets have climbed to 3,520 and it is expected that they will have surpassed 4,000 by the end of the year, breaking last year’s record of 3,705 violations.
Against this backdrop, according to sources the GEA is seeking to complete pending military programs, including the upgrading and modernization of Greece’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets.
According to estimates, the Hellenic Air Force’s F-16 Block 52+ Advanced aircraft are expected to undergo trials in the US by the end of 2021, while the first four pilot F-16s are expected to be incorporated into the production of the Hellenic Aerospace Industry.
The same sources also said that contracts will be drafted for follow-on support for Greece’s fleet of Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets.
In addition, decisions have also been taken for the maintenance of Super Puma helicopters, as well as the provision of support for C-130 and C-27J aircraft.
At the same time the agreement between Greece and the US for the T-2 and T-6 trainer aircraft will continue.
What’s more, four more Greek-made Pegasus II type unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are expected to be delivered in 2020.
There are also plans to lease another UAV and to procure others with low-angle radar tracking.