Warplanes: December 12, 2003


Turkey and Greece are both members of NATO, but have come to the brink of war several times in the past three decades. The antagonisms go back several centuries. Because both nations belong to NATO, their weapons, equipment and training are remarkably similar. Yet the Greek air force has long been thought to have a qualitative edge over their Turkish counterparts. Part of this comes from the observations of many foreign fighter pilots, and partly from the few incidents where Greek and Turkish aircraft have skirmished over the Aegean sea that separates them. Both nations have their pilots flying 180 hours a year, a high number that NATO encourages member nations to aim for. Both nations have roughly similar aircraft quality, although Greece has been introducing more modern equipment of late. But long term, the possible explanation for the Greek air superiority is how they train their pilots. Two items that separate the Greek air force from the Turks is their Weapons and Tactics School (similar to the American Red Flag and Top Gun schools) and a special training operation attached to each fighter wing. As a result, many of the 180 hours Greek fighter pilots fly each year are in organized, competitive and grueling training exercises. The Greeks also make greater use of flight simulators, in effect giving their pilots additional "flying hours." Turkey has noted the Greek practices, and is rumored to be considering similar practices. But these schools are expensive and money is always tight. It took the Greek air force generals a lot of effort and will to spend money on special flying schools, rather than on aircraft and equipment upgrades. It was a hard choice, but in the long term, probably the correct one.


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