Following the accidental explosion of an ammunition depot at a Greek Air Force base near the city of Volos in late July, there are some concerns that Greece’s military infrastructure may not be ready to facilitate advanced systems like the F-35.
A probe was subsequently launched by the government into the causes of the fire. The findings of that probe were presented on August 4 and will likely have an impact on how the military safely stores weapon systems in the future.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a 5th Generation stealth fighter and a significant step up in terms of technology and capabilities when compared to Greece’s existing fleet of military aircraft. Procurement of the F-35 constitutes a considerable investment for Greece and proper logistical and infrastructural support systems will need to be in place for the successful operation of the new fighter.
Findings from the Sworn Administrative Examination
On Friday, August 4, 2023, Chief of the General Directorate of Defense, General Konstantinos Floros, presented the findings of the Sworn Administrative Examination (EDE) regarding the factors contributing to the fire outbreak at the ammunition warehouse, numbered 111. The conclusive report was handed over to Minister of National Defense, Nikos Dendias, at the Fighter Wing headquarters.
It was previously known that the explosion of the ammunition depot had been caused by the spread of local wildfires to the military base. This was largely due to high winds. However, the purpose of the probe was to uncover more about whether the necessary measures were taken on the base to prevent such incidents from occurring.
According to the Greek state broadcaster ERT, the report found that “As far as the camp’s fire safety measures are concerned, faulty cleaning was found in its sloping and difficult northern part, from where the fire reached and approached the area of open and closed warehouses.”
ERT further reports that “The very small fire zone around the warehouses was not enough to prevent the intense heat load due to the fire that spread to the above-mentioned non-deforested part of the Camp, and combined with its turbulence and the speed of the wind, it quickly moved towards the area of ammunition”.
The commander of the 111th Combat Wing was reportedly relieved of his duties. The government probe also noted that “for the omissions and negligence of Air Force officials recorded in the conclusion of the EDE, the corresponding responsibilities will be attributed.”
Greek military infrastructure and the procurement of the F-35
Although the government probe into the recent ammunition depot incident does not directly pertain to Greece’s procurement of the F-35, it does raise important questions; namely, is Greek military infrastructure ready to facilitate an advanced stealth fighter that costs on average $75 million per unit?
Logistics is an often unglamorous and underappreciated aspect of military practice but it can determine the success or failure of any fighting force. Greek military aviators are among the best in the world, but they depend on efficient logistics and infrastructure to complete missions. Of course, this includes the safe storage of munitions and vehicles.
Greece is expected to receive its first batch of F-35s in 2028. By then, the Greek military will want to have implemented any relevant findings from the recent report to improve fire safety in its facilities.