By Debra ValineJune 5, 2019
Just 16 months from signing a Letter of Offer and Acceptance between the United States and Greece, the Security Assistance Command has delivered 70 Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed reconnaissance helicopters and one Boeing CH-47D Chinook heavy-lift helicopter.
The Hellenic army acquired the helicopters through an Excess Defense Articles program grant. USASAC executes EDA cases for the Army.
The excess helicopters had been in long-term storage at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and regeneration Group facility on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.
"This is the fastest turnaround for an EDA case that I've seen in my 15 years working security assistance programs," Dimitrios Arkoumanis, a foreign military sales specialist working in the Office of Defense Cooperation Greece, said.
"Typically from the Letter of Request to the LOA takes about two years," Arkoumanis said. "This one was signed in 11 months."
The LOR was submitted in February 2017, and the LOA was signed in January 2018.
The procurement of the Kiowa helicopters by Greece helps build partner capacity by covering an immediate gap in Greece's attack or observation helicopter requirement and will further the Hellenic army's goal of establishing two operational aviation brigades, said Andrew Neushaefer, USASAC's country program manager for Greece.
"Per ODC Greece, two operational aviation brigades enables better participation in NATO and European Union operations," Neushaefer said. "Furthermore, this transfer will engage U.S. and Greek industry through the follow-on support and sustainment of this capability."
The helicopters were unloaded at the Greek port of Volos May 16 and then flown by U.S. and Greek crews to the Hellenic Army Aviation air base at Stefanovikio where crew training will be conducted.
The chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff, Lt. Gen. Georgios Kambas, and Army Aviation Director Maj. Gen. Christos Iliopoulos were on site to see the first OH-58D Kiowa Warrior flying out of the port painted with Greek markings, which shows how important getting the helicopters is to Greece.
Arkoumanis, a retired Greek army officer who flew UH-1H Huey helicopters, said, "After flying Hueys for 18 years, I can easily understand the importance of introducing a 'War Dog' (the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior) into the Greek army inventory."
The total value of the helicopters, spare parts and special equipment granted to Greece in this case is about $590 million, according Arkoumanis.
Through the EDA program, allies and partners are able to acquire excess defense equipment at a reduced price that is based on the condition of the equipment or through a grant. The partner pays for packing, crating, handling and transportation, as well as refurbishment, if applicable. Partner forces typically use the equipment for modernization.
The total package included 36 fully operational Kiowa helicopters, 24 incomplete models to be used to train Hellenic army pilots, and 10 airframes that will be used for spare parts, and the Chinook helicopter.
According to a Forecast International news release dated Jan. 24, 2018, the Greek government's council for Foreign Affairs and Defense provided $45 million to cover the costs of pilot and crew training, restoring the helicopters to operational status once in Greece, and for acquiring the necessary spare parts to support two years of usage.
Prior to the arrival of the Kiowa helicopters, the Greek armed forces, the Hellenic army did not have similar capability, according to Arkoumanis.
"With the arrival of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, Greece covers this operational gap," he said. "Also, these helicopters can take some of the Greek Apache units' missions."