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Greece Joins European Missile Defense Project

European Missile Defense
The Arrow 3 missile will be an integral part of the Europe-wide program. Public Domain

Greece and Turkey on Thursday will formally join the European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI), a German-led missile defense project, according to Minister of Defense Nikos Dendias.

ESSI is a project to build a ground-based integrated European air defense system that includes anti-ballistic missile capability. Twenty-one European states will participate in the initiative after Greece and Turkey join.

“European Sky Shield Initiative, under Germany’s leadership, shows the value of Allies stepping up to meet NATO’s requirements while ensuring interoperability and integration,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană said recently.

He added: “This initiative helps translate Allied commitments on defense spending into tangible capabilities available for our collective defense. It demonstrates the clear commitment of European Allies to fair burden sharing as well.”

Last week Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner for the US Presidency, suggested the US would not protect NATO allies failing to spend enough on defense.

The ESSI enables participating nations to jointly procure an air and missile defense system efficiently and cost-effectively using interoperable, off-the-shelf solutions. This multinational approach offers a flexible and scalable way for nations to strengthen their deterrence and defense.

Initiative led by Germany

The initiative was originally proposed by the Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz in August 2022.

The proposal was made during the 2022–2023 Russian strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure and amid increased concerns about the limited European capability to defend against such threats as the Russian 9K720 Iskander ballistic missile systems deployed in Kaliningrad.

In October 2022, fifteen European states (Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, the United Kingdom) signed a declaration to join the German-led initiative. More European states followed.

All founding states are members of NATO, with Finland joining the alliance in 2023.

Capabilities of the European missile defense system

The ESSI will use multi-layered defense, with the following systems planned:

  • Medium range: primarily IRIS-T SLM
  • Long range: MIM-104 Patriot
  • Very long range (exoatmospheric): Arrow 3

In December 2022, the German Chancellor expressed hope that the system will be developed in the next five years. In June 2023, the German Bundestag authorized nearly €4 billion for the acquisition of Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system from Israel.

The Arrow-3 is jointly funded, developed and produced by Israel and the US.

It provides exo-atmospheric interception of ballistic missiles (during the space-flight portion of their trajectory), including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) carrying nuclear, chemical, biological or conventional warheads.

With divert motor capability, its kill vehicle can switch directions dramatically, allowing it to pivot to see approaching satellites. The missile’s reported flight range is up to 2,400 km (1,500 mi).

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