Greece to buy new Russian infantry fighting vehicles

MOSCOW. (Nikita Petrov for RIA Novosti) - On October 11, Defendory 2008, the world's longest-running tri-service defense exhibition involving about 500 companies from 40 countries, ended in Athens.

Russia's Almaz-Antey Air-Defense Concern, the Kurgan Engineering Plant, the Tula Instrument Design Bureau, the Omsk-based Popov Radio Plant Production Association, the Sukhoi Corporation, the Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) Corporation, Russian Helicopters and many other companies displayed their products in the Greek capital.

This year a Russian-made BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicle stole the show in Athens.

As a rule, Russian defense companies offer mock-ups, models, prospectuses, video footage and pamphlets at various arms exhibitions. Instead of showing life-size, prototype military equipment, they like to display small firearms and small combat-support systems.

Their reluctance to show off heavy weapons is understandable because it takes a lot of time and effort to deliver them to exhibition centers. Moreover, it is not always possible to show them in action because few exhibition centers have proving grounds.

On October 7, Russian and foreign media said to the press day at Defendory 2008, that Greece, a NATO member, was planning to buy 420 BMP-3Ms from Russia. Other official sources also confirmed these reports.

The BMP-3M, displayed in Athens, convinced everyone that it would boost the Greek Army's firepower.

In the mid-1990s, the German Government sold 400 BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles and 13 Osa surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, formerly owned by East Germany, to Athens.

The Greek Government asked the Electromechanical Plant - Kupol in Izhevsk in Russia's Volga Federal District to upgrade the OSA SAM which was re-designated as the OSA-AKM. The Russians later sold another 16 Osa-AKMs to Athens.

Greek generals liked them so much that they also ordered several Thor-M1 short-range SAMs from the Kupol Plant.

A subsequent tender for the sale of long-range SAMs to Greece involved Raytheon Company, a major U.S. defense contractor and industrial corporation offering its Patriot PAC-3 missile system, and Russia's Almaz-Antey with its S-300-PMU-1 SAM.

Athens, which realized that Washington would not allow it to buy the world-famous Russian missile system, asked Cyprus that had acquired Russian-made T-80 main battle tanks and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles to buy the S-300 and even promised to finance the purchase.

However, Turkey protested the agreement saying S-300 radar would jam those of its military and civilian planes operating from the Mediterranean coast near Antalya. They said they would prevent the sale of Russian SAMs to Cyprus.

Greece subsequently bought the S-300 delivery contract from Russia, while deciding not to purchase Patriot missiles. So, the entire Greek air-defense system, which is part of joint NATO air defenses, now comprises Russian-made weaponry.

The S-300 example shows that Brussels' reluctance to implement military-technical cooperation projects with Moscow under the pretext that Russian weapons are incompatible with NATO standards is absolutely unjustified.

The BMP-3M has greater maneuverability and packs a more devastating punch because it features the new 660-h.p. UTD-32T supercharged engine and a state of the art fire-control system that identifies enemy targets and effectively destroys them even when the vehicle is moving at high speed.

Rosoboronexport, Russia's largest state-owned arms exporter which is promoting the BMP-3M contract on the Greek market, is trying to convince Athens to participate in the manufacture of the infantry fighting vehicle, taking up 10, 15, or 20% of production, including the possibility of assembling the vehicle in Greece.

Mikhail Dmitriyev, Director of the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service, said this was an attractive joint project. "Russian and Greek experts are now working together on this difficult project. We are convinced that the project will have a future, now that both sides are negotiating BMP-3M production in Greece," Dmitriyev told RIA Novosti.

French defense electronics firm Thales is ready to install its fire-control and thermal-imaging systems aboard BMP-3M IFVs. Other European companies have proposed the delivery of telecommunications systems and reactive armor for the BMP-3M project.

Russian companies are also ready to sell additional armor, the Shtora-1 system for defending against smart weapons and the Arena-E active-defense system. The Greek side will have options to choose from.

Military analysts said military-technical parameters were not the main source of resistance, and that some NATO countries were using various other pretexts for ousting Russia from the international economic cooperation system.

However, some NATO members prioritize military, financial and technical benefits, rather than time-serving political considerations. They are relying on Russia as a dependable and effective partner, while Moscow cherishes its reputation.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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