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Greece unveils Turkish Bayraktar's Mediterranean rival

The Archytas drone will be tasked with monitoring the many Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, the scene of tensions between Athens and Ankara
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The Greek company Hellenic Aerospace Insdustry (EAB), together with three Greek universities, officially presented the final version of the Archytas drone at the end of September during the Thessaloniki International Exhibition. It is the first drone produced in Greece and its main task will be aerial surveillance of the Aegean Sea. 

The Archytas project is an interesting push by Greek industry to regain a position in the arms race in competition with Turkey. Greece, which is not involved in the production of the EU's EuroMale unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project, is thus opting for its own domestic drone capability. EAB did participate in the other European UAV project, the Dassault nEUROn. According to the manufacturer, the Archytatis is the first in a series that will be expanded in the future. 

The Archytatis is a fixed-wing drone capable of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), a feature that is highly appreciated in environments that do not have runways large enough to take off and land the aircraft, whether it is a firm ground or a ship. So far, the Greek navy has no LHD or similar vessels, making VTOL air assets essential. Currently, several frigates of the Hellenic Navy already have small helicopter-type drones, the Alpha 900. The Archytatis would greatly increase the capabilities of the Greek Armed Forces, which have already positioned themselves as the first future operator of this UAV, along with other armed forces in Greece. According to statements made by Nikos Koklas, EAB executive, to the US media DefenseNews, there are already other countries interested in acquiring the Archytas.  

According to EAB, the Archytas is designed for reconnaissance and strike missions. Its systems include a powerful radar system that allows it to detect other aircraft or ships. Surveillance is understood to be the main potential role of this UAV. 

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PHOTO/Ministerio de Defensa de Grecia vía Reuters - Greek and French ships sail in formation during a joint military exercise in the Mediterranean Sea

The Archytas is capable of covering distances of 300 km at a cruising speed of 120 km/h. The range is approximately 4 hours of uninterrupted flight time. Its armament capacity allows it to carry up to 14 kg of additional payload. First flight is planned for the end of October 2022. 

The unveiling of the Archytas comes just weeks after Turkish President Erdogan's threats against his Greek neighbour. Tensions between the two historic rivals rose again, as they do cyclically when Ankara accused Athens of preventing its planes from patrolling over the Aegean Sea.  "If Greece goes further, it will pay a heavy price," Erdogan said in early September. "Don't forget Smyrna," he added, referring to the massacre of Greeks in the Turkish city of Smyrna in 1922. 

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PHOTO/ Ministerio de Defensa turco vía REUTERS - The Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis is escorted by Turkish Navy vessels as it sets sail in the Mediterranean Sea off Antalya, Turkey

To Turkey's misfortune, Greece received its upgrade package for its F-16 fighters from the US the following week. The batch, valued at 1.5 billion, allows the Hellenic armed forces to upgrade its F-16 fighters to the Block 72 Viper version, its most capable yet. 

While the Archytas falls short of the capabilities of the Turkish defence industry's flagship product, the Bayraktar TB2, it is an interesting step for Greek industry. Getting a domestically produced fixed-wing drone and out of the loop of products subject to US Congressional approval for sale is one of the sine qua non conditions for the democratisation of weapons systems of this type. If the words of AEB officials are true, Greece may have a direct competitor to Turkey's Bayraktar in the future.