Marines: June 14, 2002


: The Greek Defense Ministry's General Armaments Directorate currently has a $215.7 million (78 billion drachmas) tender out for a replacement fleet of amphibious armored vehicles, where the Russian BMP-3M once appeared to be a strong candidate. The larger question is whether the Greek Marines will stick with NATO/US style tactics or go with something more in line with the Russian's naval infantry.

The Greek 32nd Marine Brigade is in its final stages of it's acquisition process for 77 amphibious assault vehicles for the 2001-2005 EMPAE  (5-year mid-term armaments program). Athens sees three driving needs for this capability. The first is modern amphibious operations in the Persian Gulf and Somalia and the second, 32nd Marines Brigade participation in various allied war games. These have exposed Athen's lack of modern amphibious craft and equipment, resulting in the adoption of a dogma and practices unsuited to modern amphibious assault operations. 

An ominous third point was the events at Imia (Turkish claims on the Dodecanese island came to a head on 15 February 1996). The Greek armed forces faced a real-life scenario where Greek territory was at risk of being taken and where the Greek military was unable to respond using modern amphibious or special forces.

Initially the armed forces wanted 34 APCs, 12 armored assault vehicles, two command & control vehicles, five recovery vehicles, 12 TOW carriers and 12 heavy mortar carries. These requirements were subsequently modified, focusing exclusively on armored assault vehicles: 46 armored assault vehicles, two recovery vehicles, five command & control vehicles, 12 TOW carriers and 12 heavy mortar carriers.

So by summer 2002 the Greek short list for an amphibious armored vehicle had been narrowed down to the American-made Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicles AAAV and the AAV-7A1, as well as the Russian BMP-3F and the ARISGATOR (a modified M-113).

While a NATO force, the Greek armed forces aren't shy about using Russian equipment and currently have about 500 ex-East German BMP-1's, 360 of which can be upgraded. The Greeks see the BMP-3F advantages as its superior fire power, small size and low cost but there are severe limitations. Compared to American AAVs, the BMP-3's personnel capacity is substantially smaller. Only 20 AAV-7A1s are needed to transport 500 men, while 70 BMP-3Fs are required to transport the same number of marines. One Landing Ship Tank is sufficient to transport the aforementioned number of AAV-7A1s, but two are needed to transport the 70 BMP-3Fs.

Salemanship can be a wild-card factor either way, since some Russians view the Greek market as motivated at purchasing time by the corporate or personal financial gain of the country's leadership prevailing over its government or national security interests. 

Another issue is whether the BMP-3F satisfies the minimum requirement for protection from 12.7mm rounds and whether the BMP-3F can be adapted to the heavily NATO/USMC influenced amphibious operations dogma currently in vogue.

The only vehicle that satisfies most of Athens' requirements is the AAAV, although the firepower is less than they'd like. Greek military commentators noted that the Army General Staff should first clarify what dogma it plans to adopt and then choose the appropriate vehicle. - Adam Geibel


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