Greece and Cyprus have deepened military cooperation ties with Israel in past months. This is best evidenced from resurged interest in the permanent installation of a marine radar system in Eastern Crete. The so-called Long Horizon system would cost approximately $8 billion – a rather considerable amount of expenses for the debt-squeezed defence budget of the Greek state.
Nonetheless, the installation of an over-the-horizon (OTH) radar in the island of Crete provides a competitive edge to the trilateral alliance. First of all the OTH radar’s area of coverage extends to thousands of kilometres beyond traditional radars. This infers that Israel, Greece and Cyprus will actual have a 24-hour real-time watchdog surveilling vessel movements across the Eastern Mediterranean basin.
Besides the Long Horizon investment, additional areas of cooperation have come into public spotlight, in anticipation of Wednesday’s trilateral summit of heads to be hosted in Tel Aviv. The three heads of states, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene to discuss a series of issues. Indicative topics in the agenda entail among others, the development of new business partnerships, progress over the East-Med pipeline project and security developments in the region.
SAR Operations and Naval Drills
A second area of military cooperation has been in the field of search and rescue (SAR) operations. Israel leased five cutting-edge drones to Greece to become part of the country’s SAR response teams to combat illegal trafficking and spot people in distress across the Aegean Sea.
In exchange, Greece invited Israeli officers to participate in naval training drills. The 2019 Noble Dina exercise will be hosted in coming days in Greece. Forty probation officers from the port of Haifa will arrive in Greece to participate in the naval drills and make two stops in the islands of Milos and Rhodes before returning to Tel Aviv. Israel’s participation in the annual naval exercise Noble Dina of the Greek and Cypriot navies was agreed last year upon the visit of former Greek National Defence Minister, Panos Kammenos to Tel Aviv.
The 2019 Noble Dina exercise will be attended by the navies of Greece and Cyprus, the probationary officers of Israel and delegates from the U.S. Navy. The naval drills are expected to take place in the Cretan and Eastern Mediterranean Seas while participants may also visit the premises of NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (MIOTC) located at the Naval Base in Souda Bay, Crete.