February 2, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Competition with Turkey at the bottom of the Aegean intensifies

The conditions for competition in the Aegean and the gradual leveling of the net advantage that the Greek Armed Forces (AF) had under the surface of the sea are being created thanks to the start of the process of integrating T-214 anaerobic-powered submarines into the Turkish fleet.

Yesterday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited Piri Reis, the first of six submarines of this type under construction for the Turkish Navy and currently undergoing sea trials, which – based on what Ankara has recently announced – will be commissioned at 2023.

Submarines of the Piri Reis class of the Turkish Navy are almost identical to the Greek submarines Papanikolis (Papanikolis, Pipinos, Matrosos, Katsonis) and were created by the same German company. According to some defense analysts, Turkish submarines will de facto have some improved technical characteristics, since 18 years have passed since the launch and subsequent integration into the fleet of Papanikolis-class submarines.

Greek Project 214 submarines were a key balancing factor during the 2020 Orus crisis.

Given the likelihood that Turkey will be able to launch six Project 214 submarines by the end of the current decade, Athens at some point discussed the possibility of activating the option to build two more submarines and gradually modernize the old ones, starting with Papanikolos.

How does the gradual integration of T-214 submarines into the Turkish fleet affect the balance?

In total, Ankara has pledged to build six submarines of this type – using German know-how and with the supply of equipment and mechanisms from Germany. Ankara’s goal is to commission one such modern submarine every year and complete the program of their construction and final integration into the Turkish Navy by the end of 2028.

Analysts do not exclude delays and the completion of the entire program by 2029. The contract with Germany for the construction of six submarines was signed in 2009. Construction of the Piri Reis began in 2015 and was launched in 2019 at the shipyard in Gulyuk. Today, the construction of the second Khizir Reis submarine, as well as the third Murat Reis submarine, continues. The total value of the contract for the construction of six submarines using German technology is 2.5 billion euros, although there are reports that the cost due to delays and weapons systems could exceed 3.5 billion euros.

The Turks explain the huge delays in the construction program of the T-214 ships with the “unofficial” German embargo on military operations of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) in Syria. Germany separated these programs for a while as it placed an embargo on all weapons systems associated with the land army, such as engines for Altay tanks, it continued on Turkish naval programs, but with delays.

Recall that in September 2021, Erdogan threatened Berlin, saying that “Germany should soften on the issue of the Reis submarine.” “If she does not fulfill her promises, then we will also find an alternative. Alternatives do not end,” he said, “we can move forward together in shipbuilding. Steps will be taken with Russia, joint steps even in the construction of submarines.”

These statements were made after Erdogan’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Preparations for the commissioning of Piri Reis indicate that there has been a gap in relations between Berlin and Ankara on this issue. It should be noted, however, that in response to repeated calls from Greek officials to stop German aid, Berlin also monotonously replied that this was a 2009 contract that could not be terminated.

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