Cypriot National Guard

Combined military forces of Cyprus
National Guard of Cyprus
Greek: Εθνική Φρουρά
Emblem of the Cypriot National Guard.svg
Emblem of the National Guard of Cyprus
Flag of the Cypriot National Guard General Staff.svg
Flag of the National Guard General Staff
MottoΑμύνεσθαι περί πάτρης (Defend the Homeland)
FoundedJune 1964
Service branches Cypriot Ground Forces
Cyprus-roundel low.svg Cyprus Air Force
 Cyprus Navy
HeadquartersNicosia, Cyprus
WebsiteOfficial Website
Leadership
Minister of DefenceCharalambos Petrides
Chief of the Cypriot National GuardLieutenant General Dimokritos Zervakis
Personnel
Military age18 years old
Conscription3-14 months
Active personnel12,000
Reserve personnel50,000
Expenditures
Budget€ 465 Million
Percent of GDP1.9%
Industry
Foreign suppliers Brazil
 France
 Germany
 Greece
 Serbia
 Russia
 Israel
Related articles
HistoryMilitary history of Cyprus
RanksCyprus military ranks

The National Guard of Cyprus (Greek: Εθνική Φρουρά, Ethnikí Frourá) also known as the Greek Cypriot National Guard or simply National Guard, is the military force of the Republic of Cyprus. This force consists of air, land, sea and special forces elements, and is highly integrated with its first and second line reserves, as well as supporting civilian agencies and paramilitary forces. [1]

The mission of the National Guard is to take all necessary measures for the defense of the Republic of Cyprus for the purpose of dealing with a threatened invasion or any action directed against the independence or territorial integrity of the Republic or threatening to secure the life or property of citizens of the Republic.[2] The main threat to Cyprus comes from the presence and offensive formation of more than 35,000 Turkish Troops stationed in the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. [3]

Greece currently maintains a garrison of 950 men in the Republic of Cyprus under the designation Hellenic Force in Cyprus (ELDYK), but this is not officially part of the Cyprus military and mostly takes orders from Greece's Hellenic Army General Staff. [4]

History

The National Guard was established in 1964 as a force composed predominantly of ethnic Greeks, following the Cyprus crisis of 1963–1964 and the breakdown of social and political relations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on the island of Cyprus.[5] As outlined by the tripartite Treaty of Alliance (1960)[6] and defined by the early Constitution of 1960–1963, Cyprus was entitled to an army of 2,000 men, to be made up of 60% Greek and 40% Turkish personnel.[7] The Cyprus army was a short-lived volunteer force, 1960-4.[7] The first elected President of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III, proposed thirteen constitutional amendments to the 1960 constitution, which would have adjusted the distribution of manpower and voting power for all civil and military services.[8] This adjustment was aimed at giving greater representation and influence to the Greek Cypriot majority, which at the time formed around 77% of the island's indigenous population. [9]

Operational history

The Cypriot National Guard has been involved in multiple combat operations, all within Cyprus territory.

1963–1974

The Cypriot National Guard, in its existent form, was initially mobilised circa mid-1963 as a Greek Cypriot infantry force with some small elements dedicated to artillery, anti-armour and light armour forces. [10] The Greek Cypriots also possessed some Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft guns,[11] along with a variety of Bedford trucks and old US made jeeps.

Battle of Tillyria

The military confrontation at Kokkina in August 1964 between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot forces saw the Greek-Cypriot force mobilised for the first time to attempt to eliminate a fortified coastal enclave in the Tylliria region of the island, in an effort to stop Turkish vessels putting ashore there to offload food, weapons and ammunition for the Turkish Cypriot militia units active in that region.[12] Kokkina was regarded by Grivas as a major coastal beachhead for Turkey to land weapons in Cyprus, with the aim of arming the Turkish Cypriots. For this reason, he persuaded the government in Athens to authorize an all-out assault on Kokkina, with the aim of eliminating the beachhead and preventing more weapons from being delivered to Turkish Cypriot militia groups. [13] As a necessity of mounting such an assault, Grivas required a naval presence off the coast of Kokkina, in order to bombard the enclave from the sea and to prevent any other ship from interfering. Consequently, the Phaethon and the Arion were utilized in the assault and commenced their assault with broadsides of 40mm and 20mm gunfire into the enclave on 6 August. This action was coordinated with battery fire from six land-based 25-pounder guns and around a dozen mortars used by ground forces to besiege the enclave from the south and south-west.[14] On August 8th, the Turkish government decided to begin a bombing campaign on the area as it became apparent that the defences at Kokkina were going to fall and as a result, the Turkish Air Force dispatched a number of formations of F-100 Super Sabres to commence air strikes against the Cypriot ground and naval forces, in broad daylight and flying at a low level. [15] The first formation of F-100 Super Sabres spotted the Phaethon near to a small fisheries harbour west of Kokkina. The Phaethon commenced evasive manoeuvres and put up 20mm cannon fire, but was struck in the engines by strafing rockets and exploded into flames, killing seven of her crew. One of the four survivors then piloted the ship with a single functioning engine to run aground next to the harbour, so that the crew could be recovered by local fishermen. The Phaethon was then gutted by flames, rendering it a wreck. Minutes after the attack on the Phaethon, a second formation of F-100s spotted the Cypriot gunboat Arion further up the coast towards Kokkina. The Arion was strafed with guns and rockets, causing superficial damage. As the Arion successfully made her escape using evasive manoeuvres, an F-100C Super Sabre, piloted by Cpt. Cengiz Topel of 112 Filo[16] was shot down by a Cypriot 40mm anti-aircraft gun emplacement on the shoreline. The loss of the Phaethon was a severe shock to the National Guard leadership and was compounded by further casualties and material losses at Kato Pyrgos, a nearby Greek Cypriot village which was bombarded on 8 and 9 August in an effort to dislodge National Guardsmen using its hilltops for directing artillery fire with radios. [17] The siege ended on 9 August after two days of daylight air strikes by the Turkish Air Force around Kokkina and neighbouring Kato Pyrgos (a mountain village overlooking Kokkina which was being used for observation and artillery fire-direction positions). Having sustained manpower and material losses as a result of these air strikes, the Cypriot National Guard had achieved its objective of stopping shipments of weapons coming through Kokkina and as a weapons corridor, because of the material losses and no longer needing the need to storm the area of Kokkina (In part due to UN negotiations), the Cypriot National Guard solidified a perimeter of containment around Kokkina, leaving the Turkish Cypriot village isolated from the rest of the island, and buffered only a narrow UN demilitarized zone which remains to this day.[18]

Aware of the glaring deficiency of their military capabilities, the leadership of the Cypriot National Guard under General George Grivas was able to compel the civilian Government of Cyprus, under Archbishop Makarios to seek out foreign assistance for a massive armament campaign. Since Cyprus could not afford major weapons purchases under her own depleted national budget, Makarios was forced to dispatch an envoy on 1 October 1964 to the Soviet Union to request military assistance. This move resulted in rapid Soviet assistance, widely regarded by Western countries as a step towards a Cold War alliance between Cyprus and Russia.[19]

Kofinou incident

In 1967, the Cypriot National Guard engaged in combat against both the Turkish Armed Forces alongside TMT in the Kophinou village in Larnaca with the aim of destroying the enclave that was created by the Turkish. The operation was successful but led to severe political consequences for the island. [20]

Coup and invasion

On 15 July 1974, the Cypriot National Guard, under its own leadership and in conjunction with the EOKA-B ultra-nationalist organization, overthrew the civilian Government of Archbishop Makarios in Nicosia and attempted to assassinate him by using tanks, infantry and special forces to storm the Presidential Palace.[21] [22] Makarios escaped, but the confrontation in Nicosia resulted in multiple casualties as the National Guard units engaged in a gunfight with Makarios' loyalist forces. Since Kyrenia in the north of the island was not expected to present much armed resistance to the coup, many forces which were stationed there to fend off a threatened Turkish invasion were sent to Nicosia on 15 and 16 July to enforce the coup in the Capital. Kyrenia was thus, poorly defended when the Turkish invasion began on 20 July.[22]

On 20 July 1974, Turkey commenced an air and sea invasion of northern Cyprus, under the codename "Attila-1" which had the anticipated aim of seizing Kyrenia as a beachhead with amphibious forces, whilst simultaneously establishing a beachhead from Kyrenia to the northern suburbs of Nicosia (the site of two Turkish fortified enclaves that could be used as strongholds to seize northern Nicosia) using parachute forces. [23] A naval force of Turkish vessels was detected by coastal radar at Apostolos Andreas approaching the coast, and a second force of naval vessels was sighted off the coast of Kyrenia during the early hours. The Cypriot Naval Command quickly ordered its two motor torpedo boats, T-1 (under the command of Lieutenant Junior Grade Nicolaos Verikios) and T-3 (under the command of Lieutenant Elefterios Tsomakis), both based at Kyrenia, to attack the Turkish flotilla directly and both vessels were promptly sunk by combined air and sea attacks. [24] The rest of the Cyprus Navy vessels were scuttled by their own crews at Naval base "Chrysulis" in Boghazi on 14 August 1974. The attack was heavily supported by a daylight air campaign. The Greek Cypriot military leadership enacted the "Aphrodite-2" defense plan to coordinate containment and resistance to the invasion forces. [25] At the same time, the Greek Cypriot EOKA-B forces, subordinate to their own de facto leadership, enacted their own interpretation of the existing Aphrodite defense plan (sometimes referred to historically as Aphrodite-3 or Hephaestus) and attacked multiple Turkish Cypriot enclaves simultaneously, causing heavy Turkish Cypriot casualties and rounding up an estimated 20,000 Turkish Cypriot POWs who were interred at Limassol until later that year. [26]

Post invasion

In 1978, Egyptian commando forces raided Larnaca International Airport in an effort to seize a hijacked Greek Cypriot airliner. Greek Cypriot commando forces (LOK) resisted the Egyptian forces, resulting in a sustained gun battle with the death of 15 Egyptian commandos and 3 Egyptian Air Force aircrew and an additional 15 Egyptian commandos hospitalized, an Egyptian C130 destroyed and Egyptian Jeeps destroyed. [27] [28]

On 10 September 2005, National Guard Pilatus PC-9M turboprop aircraft "902" crashed into a church bell tower while performing an unauthorized flight maneuver near Kollossi in Limassol Cyprus, having deviated 80 km from the planned flight path. The aircraft was destroyed, and its two pilots killed.[29]

On 5 July 2006, a National Guard Mi-35P Hind attack helicopter (serial number 822) near the Paphos-Limassol motorway crashed shortly after departing from Andreas Papandreou Air Base in Paphos. The aircraft was written off and both crew members (a Russian instructor and Cypriot student) were killed. [30] [31]

Military service

Military service in the Republic of Cyprus is mandatory for males. [32] Today, the obligatory service period is 14 months.[33][34] Legally, the Greek Cypriot community comprises the ethnic Greek population as well as Cypriots belonging to three Christian minorities—the Armenians, Latin Rite Catholics and Maronites. Since 2008, service is mandatory for all members of the Greek Cypriot community and not only for ethnic Greek Cypriots. The current supreme commander is a Greek military commander, as have all of his predecessors.[35]

All male visitors, irrespective of what citizenship they hold, to the island of military age (16 and over) who have a parent of Cypriot extraction are also eligible for military service; to be rendered exempt from military service they are required to obtain an exit visa from a Defence Ministry office in order to legally leave the island.[36]

Cyprus participates in the establishment of the permanent structured cooperation. Introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon, PESCO is the most important initiative in promoting the establishment of a European defence policy.

The Cyprus National Guard has since 2016 aimed to move towards semi-professionalization and in the scope of this change, the compulsory military service time was reduced from 24 months to 14 months, whilst about 3, 000 professional soldiers were hired. [37]. The way in which the semi-professionalization has been criticized by some academic researchers.[38][39]

Europe's defence is present in Cyprus through Permanent Structured Cooperation. The government had argued for it to increase deterrence against any intervention on the island.[40] Cyprus has made available the military base in Paphos and the naval base in Zygi, along with other facilities. These have been upgraded and equipped with electronic surveillance systems.[41]

The force has in recent years, experienced exponential draft dodging (in Greek: φυγοστρατία). Policy has been designed to tackle this and according to the National Guard (As of 2019), draft-dodging had been cut down by almost two thirds.[42] [43]

Components

Organisation of active forces

The National Guard is an interdisciplinary force. It consists of the Army, Navy and Air Force as mentioned above with the General Staff of the National Guard being the supreme hierarchical step and includes the Chief, the Staff, the Arms / Body Divisions and Organizations and its Organizational Units. [44]

Over- simplified Organisational Structure of Cyprus National Guard.

The force heavily relies on the Reserves (Εφεδρεία), making up the biggest percentage of Human Resources in the case of full mobilisation of the National Guard.[45]

Army- It consists of a number of Brigade Formations and Regular Regimental Groups:

  • 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade (Ιη Μ/Κ Ταξιαρχια ΠΖ)
  • 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade (IIη M/K Ταξιαρχία ΠΖ)
  • 3rd Support Brigade (IIIη Ταξιαρχία ΥΠ)
  • 4th Infantry Brigade (IVη Ταξιαρχία ΠΖ)
  • 6th Mechanized Infantry Brigade (VIη M/K Ταξιαρχία ΠΖ)
  • 7th Mechanized Infantry Brigade (VIIη M/K Ταξιαρχία ΠΖ)
  • 20th Armored Brigade (XXη ΤΘ Ταξιαρχία)
  • Hellenic Force of Cyprus (ELDYK- ΕΛΔΥΚ) - Mechanized Group (battalion plus) Formation
  • Military Police (Στρατονομία)
  • Special Forces Command - 1 Regiment (Διοίκηση Kαταδρομών)
  • Artillery Command (Διοίκηση Πυροβολικού)
  • Engineers Command (Διοίκηση Μηχανικού)
  • Military Music Department of the National Guard

Navy- It consists of:

  • Naval Command (Διοίκηση Ναυτικού)
  • Navy Units (Marine Base Administration, Coastal Surveillance Administration, Emergency Arms Command, and Underwater Demolition Command/ Navy SEALs).

Air Force- It consists of:

  • Air Command (Διοίκηση Αεροπορίας)
  • Units (including Attack Helicopters - Aircraft, Air Force Patrols, Air Control System, and Operational Support Degrees).

[46]

Special Forces unit flash that is emblazoned with ΔΥΝΑΜΕΙΣ ΚΑΤΑΔΡΟΜΩΝ (Raider Forces).

Military equipment inventory

1964-1974 (Pre invasion)

The Cypriot National Guard, inherited some mixed equipment from its pre-civil war organisation, including 54 British-made 25-pounder gun-howitzers, 40 Marmon-Herrington Armoured Car (Mk. IVF), 4 Shorland light armoured cars, 2 Daimler Dingo light armoured cars, 5 C-17 light armoured trucks and a variety of machine guns, mortars and a few anti-tank weapons (namely M20 Super Bazookas and a small number of PIAT weapons).[47] The Greek Cypriots also possessed some Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft guns, along with a variety of Bedford trucks and old US made jeeps. [48]

The Cyprus Naval Command became active circa 1963, following the outbreak of civil conflict between extremists within the Greek and Turkish ethnic communities of the island. At the outset of operational status, the Cyprus Naval Command was manned by Greek Navy officers and junior officers, whilst the sailors were primarily Greek Cypriot conscripts of educated backgrounds. The first equipment made available to the Cyprus Naval Command was a set of three ex-German WW2-era R-boats (two of the R-151 class called P-01 Arion and P-02 Phaethon, and one of the R-218 class under the name Dedalos). All three vessels were in service by August 1964, having been purchased from a shipyard in Piraeus, Greece by a private sponsor named A. Leventis. The three vessels were in poor condition due to their age, and had to be refurbished in Greece before delivery to Cyprus.[49]

23–24 December 1964, a Soviet Navy freighter arrived at Limassol Port[50] carrying the first batch of arms intended to re-equip the National Guard. These supplies included 4 unidentified armoured vehicles, and 130 ZIL heavy trucks, along with sufficient number of crates to fill 36 Bedford trucks. After this initial delivery, arms transfers made by the Soviet Navy to Cyprus accelerated, with freighters travelling via Alexandria in Egypt to Limassol under cover of night. These deliveries included a full package of Soviet-made radars and radio systems to complement the structural and strategic requirements of a reinforced National Guard. In addition, a consignment of 32 Soviet-made T-34/85 medium tanks (from Yugoslav surplus) were delivered along with 40 BTR-152 armoured personnel carriers,[51] as well as a batch of 30 M1944 100-mm field guns,[52] 40 modern 3M6 Shmel anti-tank missile firing units, a batch of ZPU-1 14.5mm anti-aircraft guns and a consignment of around 4500 Czech surplus vz. 58 assault rifles, as well as machine guns and mortars.

Post invasion 1974-2004 (Pre EU accession)

Immediately following the 1974 conflict, the Cypriot National Guard experienced a major depletion of its military capability due to lack of equipment and ammunition, compounded by the wartime economic collapse of the country. A small armored unit of 11 surviving T-34/85 tanks continued to operate in service until circa 1985, albeit in poor mechanical condition with lack of spare parts. Small numbers of other armored vehicles (including re-engined Marmon Herrington Mk-IV F armored cars)[53] and artillery guns from the pre-war period also continued in service until the economic revival of the Cyprus Republic in the mid-1980s.


In the early 1980s, Cyprus sought new suppliers of arms in order to circumvent US and European embargoes, combined with an apparent unwillingness by the Soviet Union to supply further aid. From Brazil, a large consignment of new light armored vehicles was ordered in 1982, 15 EE-3 Jararaca armored reconnaissance vehicles (delivered 1984–1985), and 126 EE-9 Cascavel armored fighting vehicles (delivered 1984–1988). [54]

Faced with an urgent need for infantry-portable air-defense equipment, the Cypriot Government was able to procure 20 firing units of Strela-2/ SA-7B Grail anti-aircraft missiles along with 324 live rounds from neighboring Syria in 1984.


Major arms orders were also placed with France, one of the few European powers still willing to support weapon deliveries to Cyprus. In 1984, Cyprus purchased from France a total of 27 VAB-VCI infantry fighting vehicles with 20mm cannon (delivered 1985–1988) along with 100 VAB-VTT armored personnel carriers (delivered 1985–1988). [55]


In 1987, the first batch of new French tanks were purchased to replace the T-34s that had been removed from service - a total of 15 AMX-30B2 main battle tanks and 1 AMX-30D recovery vehicle, all delivered the following year. Also in 1987, Cyprus purchased from France a unit of 6 SA-342L Gazelle scout anti-tank helicopters and 18 VAB-VCAC guided-missile tank-destroyers, along with 1200 HOT-2 anti-tank missiles (interchangeable for both airborne and ground launcher platforms), all delivered in 1988. A further 2 VAB-VTT armored personnel carriers were ordered as options in 1987 (delivered in 1988) along with 250 MILAN-2 anti-tank missile rounds and an unknown number of firing units (possibly 45).[56] Additionally, in June 1987, the Cyprus National Guard Air Command purchased a batch of six Aerospatiale SA-342L Gazelle scout anti-tank helicopters with 1200 Euromissile HOT-2 wire-guided anti-tank missiles (the interchangeable live rounds to be shared with the Army for use on their VAB-VCAC tank destroyers). The six aircraft were delivered from January 1988 onward, and were issued the serial numbers 351, 352, 353, 354, 355 and 356,[57][58] drawn from Aerospatiale 21XX and 22XX series construction numbers.[59] Of these aircraft, five examples (excluding 351) have been noted in regular use with the Cyprus National Guard airborne forces, suggesting number 351 had been withdrawn for use as spare parts, or as a technical training air frame, prior to 2004.[59] The Gazelles were delivered in a three-tone desert camouflage consisting of light sand, dark sand and drab-olive tones - this camouflage has been retained to the present day. All aircraft utilize a low-visibility Cyprus flag fin-flash and a low-visibility Hellenic Air Force-styled roundel marking at the midsection of the tail boom. The designation SA-342L is inscribed above the fin flash, along with the three-digit serial number.


In 1989, the Cyprus Government ordered a batch of 35 AMX-30B2 main battle tanks and 1 AMX-30D armored recovery vehicle as part of a $115 million US dollar purchase from France. The deal included 12 GIAT Mk F-3 self-propelled 155mm howitzers and 12 AMX-VCI armored personnel carriers. All of the equipment ordered from France in this year was delivered from 1990–1991.[60]


In 1990, Greece supplied Cyprus with 81 ELVO Leonidas-2 (4K-7FA) armored personnel carriers, which were fielded to provide the Greek ELDYK Army Regiment in Cyprus with a Mechanized Infantry vehicle force. These were followed in 1996–1998 by a batch of 52 French-made AMX-30B main battle tanks supplied from Hellenic Army surplus, along with a further 65 new Leonidas-2 armored personnel carriers delivered in 1996–1997.[56]


In 2001–2002, Cyprus discreetly acquired 12 new-build examples (serial numbers 811–822 inclusively)[61] of the Mil Mi-35P Hind-F attack helicopter type from the Russian Federation, following a lengthy tender process which included reported competition from the Mil Mi-28 Havoc,[62] and Denel Rooivalk.[63] The helicopters were first made public at a surprise three-ship flypast of the funeral of Lt General Evangelos Florakis on 12 July 2002[64] (himself killed in the crash of Cypriot Air Command Bell-206L Long Ranger "112"[65] on 10 July 2002 whilst observing a command and control exercise at night). The Mi-35s were initially supplied in an unusual matt-black (and presumably infra-red absorbent) camouflage[66] suitable for night operations, but lacked the optional FLIR turret and identification friend-or-foe systems made available for the more advanced Russian Mi-24PN. Aside from their monotone camouflage, the aircraft carried a small, high-contrast Cyprus Republic tail fin flag, and a high visibility Hellenic Air Force styled blue-on-white roundel on the tail at the midpoint. Bright red danger markings were applied to the rotor tips and to the end of the tail boom.[67]

Developments Post 2004 (EU accession)

The SA-342L Gazelle anti-tank helicopter force remains in service to the present day, although the four remaining Gazelle anti-tank helicopters are thought to have undergone an overhaul, reportedly completed in August 2014 at Valence-Chabeuil airport by Aerotec Group.[68][69] The four Gazelle helicopters were assigned to 450ME / 1st Platoon, which has been implemented at Andreas Papandreou Air Base (in Paphos district) following the closure of Lakatamia air base (in Nicosia district) in April 2013.[70] Their prior host unit, 449MAE Helicopter Squadron, was disbanded with the closure of Lakatamia AB.

In February 2017, the Cyprus Navy was given an offshore patrol vessel by the Sultanate of Oman. The Al Mabrukah training and patrol vessel displaced 930 tons and was 62 metres long, making it far larger than any vessel previously operated by the Cyprus Navy. The vessel was refitted and modernised for the donation process, and came equipped with a large helicopter pad and expanded accommodation facilities, making it suitable for use as a support ship under its new designation, A620 Alasia.[71] However the low speed of the ship, combined with its age, highlighted mechanical difficulties with the ship's propulsion, and following its use in the TELES-2017 naval exercise in May 2017, the ship was laid up at Larnaca Port, requiring repair.[72]

Cyprus Navy P-4 "Skinhead" class Motor Torpedo Boat

On 28 November 2017 the Cypriot Defence Ministry announced the planned acquisition of eight helicopters,[73] four SA-342L Gazelle scout anti-tank helicopters, to be acquired from France with night and all-weather capability, and four attack helicopters to be selected by tender.[73] The four existing Gazelle helicopters in the Air Force would be upgraded, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were also being sought as part of a combined Unmanned Air System package.[73][74]

In 2018, the Cyprus Navy received a Sa’ar 62. The P-61 has the capability to bring state-of-the-art surveillance and labelling systems for marine, ground and aerial targets. It was purchased by the Republic of Cyprus through a transnational agreement with Israel and was built by the Israeli shipyards in Haifa. The new vessel has a displacement of 430 tons, an overall length of 62 meters, a maximum speed of 32 knots, and carries up to 30 crewmembers plus a Special Forces unit. Installed on the vessel are multiple sophisticated systems including 2 Rafael Typhoon Weapon Stations with a single 23mm gun each, advanced radar, two TOPLITE electro-optical payloads, SATCOM, navigation systems, command and control systems, and more. Among others, the vessel is armed with two 12.7mm heavy machine guns but also it is Fitted for But Not With (FFBNW) a Rafael MLS-NLOS system. In late 2018, an option was exercised to purchase a second vessel of the type.

In late 2018, the Cyprus Government purchased 24 Nora B-52 self-propelled 155mm heavy field howitzers from Serbia, along with 8 BOV M16 Milosh MRAPs / Light Armoured Vehicles and an unspecified number of options to purchase additional systems for both types. The acquisition of Nora B-52 was widely reported to be part of a phased refurbishment of the Artillery Command, transitioning to a greater number of self-propelled guns and launcher systems, integrated and better networked for a more sophisticated war fighting capability.

In early 2020, Cyprus signed contracts worth more than 240 million Euros to purchase French Mistral MANPADS, Exocet ASMs and a short-medium range SAM system.[75][76]

In late 2020, Cyprus also became one of the contributing nations to the new drone system being developed by a Greek company, with the system being called "LOTUS" (Low Observable Tactical Unmanned System) which will have varying capabilities including that of stealth, stand-off capabilities and secure communications. [77]

In June of 2022, the Cypriot ministry of defense announced the procurement of 6+6 EC145 light utility helicopters from France and personal protective gear (Vests and helmets), from Israel. [78] [79] [80]

Weapons related PESCO Projects

Cyprus has become an increasingly active member in the european defense industry, mainly as part of PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) and as such, is part of the following projects: [81]

  • EU BEYOND LINE OF SIGHT (BLOS) LAND BATTLEFIELD MISSILE SYSTEMS (EU BLOS):

The purpose of the EU BLOS will be for autonomous target designation (regarding tanks) and will have an Surface-to-surface and Air-to-surface capability. [82] [83]

  • MAIN BATTLE TANK SIMULATION AND TESTING CENTER (MBT-SIMTEC):

The reason for the creation of MBT-SIMTEC is for the training and improvement of the current doctrine in the use of tanks. [84]

  • UPGRADE OF MARITIME SURVEILLANCE (UMS):

The objective of this program is so that member states can increase their effectiveness and responses in international waters, with land-based surveillance systems, maritime and air platforms in order to distribute real-time information. [85] [86]

Foreign Military Relations

Greece

Since the inception of the Republic of Cyprus, the 2 countries have always shared a close bond with each other in both the political and also in the military sphere. Since the beginning of the National Guard in the 1960s, Greek (From Greece) Officers have formed part of the Cypriot National Guard and this includes the current (And all previous) chiefs of the National Guard, who are of mainland Greek origin. [87] [88]

Additionally, after the signing of the Zürich and London Agreements and the treaty of guarantee, Greece maintains a permanent regiment in the Republic of Cyprus known as ELDYK, which is manned only by soldiers, NCOs and Officers from Greece, it is subordinate to the Hellenic Army General Staff. [89]

In 1974, both the Cypriot National Guard and ELDYK played a role in stopping the Turkish advance after the Atilla 2 offensive, and since the days after the ceasefire on the 16th of August 1974, have not seen any major combat operations.[90] [91]

To this day, the Republic of Cyprus and the Hellenic Republic hold close military ties with bilateral trainings and exercises being conducted on a yearly basis. [92]

Israel

As closely neighboring countries, Israel and Cyprus have enjoyed greatly improving diplomatic relations since 2010, after relations soured with Turkey regarding the gaza flotilla raid.[93]

During the Mount Carmel Forest Fire, Cyprus dispatched two aviation assets to assist fire-fighting operations in Israel – the first time Cypriot Government aircraft were permitted to operate from Israeli airfields in a non-civil capacity.[94]

In addition, Israel and Cyprus have closely cooperated in maritime activities relating to Gaza, since 2010, and have reportedly begun an extensive sharing program of regional intelligence to support mutual security concerns. [95] [96]

On 17 May 2012, it was widely reported that the Israeli Air Force had been granted unrestricted access to the Nicosia Flight Information Region of Cyprus, and that Israeli aviation assets may have operated over the island itself.[97]

Cyprus, as a former S-300 air-defense system operator, was speculated by Greek media to have assisted Israel in strategic planning to challenge such air-defense systems, alongside shorter-range SAM systems, although this remains unconfirmed. [98]

Cyprus and Israel have a mutual cooperation agreement with Israel and the 2 countries since 2017, have been conducting multiple military exercises both in Cyprus and Israel, including the yearly military exercise "Iason", which is an exercise conducted within the Nicosia FIR. [99]

In November of 2018, IDF Special Forces teams from the Maglan unit, came to Cyprus, to engage in a joint training with Cypriot Special Forces in a counter-terrorism exercise.[100]

In November of 2021, it was announced that Elbit Systems will develop and produce a surveillance system for the Cypriot Ministry of Defence which will be used on the buffer zone to monitor the flow of irregular migration from the occupied north and other illegal activities alongside monitoring the Turkish Forces on the green line. [101] The program will cost approximately 30 million euros. [102] [103] The project is expected to take approximately 3 years to complete. [104]

The largest overseas exercise in the IDFs history was held in Cyprus in May-June of 2022, with the aim of the exercise to increase co-operability and to help Israeli Forces train for a possible war with Lebanon based terrorist organisation, Hezbollah. [105] [106] [107]

It was also announced that Cyprus would be purchasing personal protective equipment from Israel in order to increase the protection of individual soldiers. [108]

France

France is one of Cyprus' major arms suppliers, selling to the country equipment such as anti-tank weapons, armoured personnel carriers, tanks, artillery, mortars, anti-air, missiles and helicopters. [109] [110] [111]

France has a bilateral agreement of defense cooperation with Cyprus and the 2 train on a regular basis, including on areas involving search and rescue and air, sea and special operations. [112] [113] [114]

Jordan

Cyprus and Jordan share a bilateral military co-operation relationship and since 2019, Special Forces from Cyprus have taken part in the eager lion exercise. [115]


In 2022, during Eager Lion 2022, Jordanian Special Forces also came to Cyprus in a training exercise with the Special Operations Force of LOK, named "SCORPIOS-2022". [116]

Egypt

Cyprus and Egypt too have bilateral military cooperation ties, however, the relationship between the two countries was originally strained with an almost war happening after a botched Egyptian attempt to rescue a group of hostages at Larnaka Airport which resulted in the deaths of 15 Egyptian commandos. [117]

In March of 2016, then Minister of Defense for Cyprus, Christophoros Fokiades visited Cairo and signed the first military co-operation agreement with his counterpart. [118]

Training between the Egyptian armed forces and the Cypriot National Guard happen in the context of either naval or special operations-related exercises, including the Egyptian-hosted medusa and Bright Star exercises which other countries are taking part in too. [119] [120]

In September of 2021, Cypriot and Egyptian special forcces engaged in a two week long SOF exercise.[121]

United States

The United States has, since 2020, seen a growth in relations with the Republic of Cyprus and part of the growing relationship has also included the militaries of the two nations. [122] The first exercise was on a trilateral, special operations-based exercise which was held in Crete in January 2021 with the relationship continuing since. [123] [124]

Gallery

  • National Guard soldier with the G3A3 rifle (Cypriot National Guard Camouflage)

    National Guard soldier with the G3A3 rifle (Cypriot National Guard Camouflage)

  • LOK officers marching at Republic Fest Military Parade in Italy, 2007

    LOK officers marching at Republic Fest Military Parade in Italy, 2007

  • LOK raiders at a welcoming ceremony of Dmitry Medvedev

    LOK raiders at a welcoming ceremony of Dmitry Medvedev

  • Bell-206L3 of Cypriot Air Force

    Bell-206L3 of Cypriot Air Force

  • National Guard's Mi-35 attack helicopters in a parade.

    National Guard's Mi-35 attack helicopters in a parade.

  • AW-139 helicopter of the National Guard in a Search & Rescue exercise.

    AW-139 helicopter of the National Guard in a Search & Rescue exercise.

  • Aerospatiale SA-342L1 Gazelle of the Air Force Command.

    Aerospatiale SA-342L1 Gazelle of the Air Force Command.

See also

References

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