In response to the operational constraints posed by its existing C-130B/H fleet, the Hellenic Air Force is now engaged in discussions with the United States to secure the procurement of new advanced C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft.
CNN Greece has reported that a US delegation recently visited Athens for discussions with the country’s political and military leadership to explore the possibility of Greece acquiring new C-130J aircraft.
The C-130J has been under consideration by the Hellenic Air Force due to its alignment with operational requirements.
The US delegation, comprising representatives from the US Department of Defense, the US Air Force, and Lockheed Martin, carried out discussions with senior officers from the Greek side responsible for the Air Force’s armament programs, including participation from the General Directorate for Defense Investments and Armaments (GDDIA).
The report said that during the talks, the Greek Air Force raised vital concerns such as aircraft availability, the systems they would carry, and potential delivery timelines.
Greece had earlier submitted a Letter of Request seeking information on the cost and availability of six C-130 aircraft in the ‘J’ configuration.
This proposal includes purchasing aircraft with associated equipment, staff training, infrastructure construction, and ongoing support. The report added that the objective of the Greeks is to acquire six aircraft if the pricing is favorable, with an estimated cost of around EUR 130 to EUR 140 million per unit.
According to Greek aviation sources, the US side proposed delivering the aircraft in the basic configuration, which includes most of the systems requested by the Air Force.
After a year of use and testing, Greece would have the choice to upgrade with additional systems based on their satisfaction with the performance.
Following the talks, the GDDIA will be responsible for drafting and sending Greece’s formal request to the US government — a necessary step as all armaments decisions in the US go through Congress.
Extremely Low Operational Availability Of Cargo Fleet
The scarcity of available transport aircraft was widely known within Greece’s Armed Forces, and continuous efforts were made to find solutions, albeit without success.
The issue gained prominence following the Greek mission’s inability to safely fly to Turkey for civilian evacuation and the subsequent mission to Sudan.
During the Turkish mission, the Greek delegation lost crucial hours that could have been used to aid those trapped in Turkish cities and faced the challenge of leaving its aircraft in Elefsina, opting for a C-27 to Adana, which lacked the capacity for heavy vehicle transport.
This predicament prompted a reevaluation of the matter and led to the activation of previously inactive procedures.
In the aftermath of these incidents, the Prime Minister authorized the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (HNDGS) and the Hellenic General Staff to actively pursue the most effective and advantageous solutions for the renewal of the transport aircraft fleet.
The acquisition of advanced transport aircraft holds paramount strategic importance for Greece, given the distinctive geographical challenges posed by its numerous islands in the Archipelago. This initiative seeks to enhance the nation’s rapid reaction capabilities, especially in responding to crises or natural disasters.
Most of the C-130 Hercules fleet remains grounded, leaving the Air Force with only three of the eight smaller C-27 transports. However, all C-27 aircraft undergo phase-out procedures through a support contract with the manufacturer.
This underscores the immediate need for comprehensive and timely actions to address the challenges and revitalize the transport aircraft capabilities critical to the operational readiness of the Armed Forces.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Defense has also informed Congress about a potential transfer of two second-hand C-130 Hercules transports from the US surplus defense material to Greece.
Greece had also explored the possibility of acquiring second-hand transport aircraft from various countries, including expressing interest in the British C-130J Super Hercules to replace its existing used C-130s.
In early 2023, signaling a proactive stance on addressing its transport aircraft needs, the Greek prime minister authorized the purchase of six second-hand C-130J Super Hercules from Italy.
However, the current status of this specific deal remains unclear. Yet, the latest developments suggest a potential shift in focus and suggest that Greece is now actively engaging in discussions with the United States to acquire new transport aircraft.
Greek aviation sources, in discussions with CNN Greece, have referenced the approach taken by the Israeli Air Force as an illustrative example regarding the acquisition of new transport aircraft.
Notably, the Israeli Air Force is currently equipped with 7 C-130Js. According to the reports, the Israeli Air Force conducted a comparative study and ultimately determined that, in the long run, opting for new aircraft was more advantageous due to the economic and operational benefits associated with such a strategic decision.