Reinforcing the Greek navy is imperative

Reinforcing the Greek navy is imperative

The modernization of the technical infrastructure of the fleet and staffing it with highly qualified technical personnel – and thus highly paid – is  imperative.

We recently celebrated our Armed Forces Day and soon we will celebrate our Hellenic Navy on its own day. Both celebrations fill us with national pride and respect for our armed forces that stand as strong guardians of our national interests as well as the honor and dignity of our country.

Certain thoughts come to mind when thinking of the Hellenic Navy in particular:

In the mid- to long term, the new agreements for the acquisition of ships and equipment are of vital importance as they will greatly reinforce its materiel, not just in the number of ships, but primarily by providing capabilities and strategic prospects that the fleet lacks today.

However, in the short term, there are challenges and problems that require an immediate solution, so our Hellenic Navy can become even more powerful, reliable and effective, capable of staying on assignment for long time periods when required, and at the same time able to be present on more fronts than required by the current geopolitical situation in the East Mediterranean.

The problems are obvious, they are known to all, and are relatively easy to remedy when compared to the cost and effort required for the acquisition of new, expensive units such as frigates and corvettes.

The reinforcement of the operating budget of the fleet is a necessary and non-negotiable move. Anyone who manages ships knows that without repairs, spare parts, maintenance and materials it is impossible to keep them seaworthy or operationally capable of fighting. The sum required is truly trifling and is no more than a few tens of millions of euros a year, a quick and easy decision for the government.

It is necessary for at least 10 very old and operationally useless ships of the navy to be removed from service, as their only use is to provide “comfortable” positions in the navy’s clientelist assignments. It is truly sad to visit the Salamis Naval Base and to see ships that are more reminiscent of a scrap yard.

Anyone who manages ships knows that without repairs, spare parts, maintenance and materials it is impossible to keep them seaworthy or operationally capable of fighting

In the mid- to long term though, these are the most important problems:

The continued loss of worthy and proficient technical officers by the Hellenic Navy, who after their training and experience in the military quit for much higher pay and better career prospects. The navy’s ships and services are running out of technical officers (and NCOs) and two whole graduating classes of the naval academy have been lost in this manner in recent years.

As a result, we will face an insurmountable problem in staffing our ships very soon, not to mention what will happen when the new frigates and corvettes that will require a large number of highly trained crew members join the fleet. How then will our new ships be staffed when electrical engineers, electricians and many other specialists are constantly quitting and leaving the navy?

Immediately linked to the problem above is the need for immediate reinforcement of all the technical infrastructure of the fleet, so the navy is a position to welcome the new ships (as well as the upgraded MEKO frigates) that will soon arrive and will require a completely different level of technical support when it comes to maintenance and repairs. An immediate reinforcement of the technical personnel with the necessary qualifications is required (and by extension, equivalent compensation or no one will join the Hellenic Navy when significantly higher paying jobs are available in the shipping market) as well as new labs and crews for high-level maintenance.

All the above seems simple, but the political decision to achieve it must be taken immediately. All the relevant authorities must understand that a strong defense is not ensured solely with new systems but primarily through consistent and constant efforts and attention to issues of training, infrastructure, support and logistics, as is well established in all theories of military strategy.

A very welcome step in this direction is the announced government initiative to adjust the wages of the armed forces, something that had been unresolved for a long time. The improvements must be targeted for those that serve on the front line, like pilots, navy crews on active duty and other similar roles.

All Greeks must understand that a Hellenic Navy (that has undoubtedly become the most important of the three branches of the military due to the changes in the geostrategic environment of the Mediterranean) that is very reliable, with serious responsibility and efficient support in material and personnel, is the best guarantee not only for our national defense, but also for giving the political leadership of the country ease of mind and trust for the political and strategic planning in both the near future as well as the in the long term.

Panos Laskaridis is the president of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation.

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