NEWS

NATO air defense a concern

Armed forces officers and top officials at the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense are seriously concerned about the implications of structural changes to NATO’s air defense monitoring system as this will result in Turkish fighter jets entering Greek air space being classified as «friendly» rather than «suspicious» or «hostile» as is currently the case, sources have told Kathimerini. Changes to the network of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centers (CAOC) will result in the current 10 centers being whittled down to four, including two in the Mediterranean region – in Italy and in Greece. The Greek operations center – in Lamia – will be responsible for monitoring air space activity over Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. But the problem, according to Greek defense officials, is the implications of extending the air space borders covered by the Greek CAOC. With the new system Turkish jets will be recorded by Turkish radar first before they enter Greek air space. As a result the Turkish jets will be classified as «friendly» rather than «suspicious» or «hostile,» as they are when picked up by Greek radar. Defense officials are concerned because they had relied on the previous CAOC system to keep NATO informed about Turkey’s violations of Greek air space. Greek officials are reportedly proposing that Turkish jets entering Greek air space be permitted to have a «dual classification» – one by Turkish radar and another (as «suspicious» or «hostile») once they enter Greek air space. There are fears, however, that the extra data might lead to a system breakdown. Foreign Ministry and defense officials have been expressing serious concern recently following an increase in violations of Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets over the past two months.