PARIS — The Hellenic Army is adding several Safran-made tactical drones to its arsenal, amid growing industrial ties between France and Greece.
The French company announced June 20 that Greece selected its Patroller medium-altitude, long-endurance tactical drone to upgrade the Army’s unmanned fleet. The service will procure four new Patrollers, designed to carry out surveillance missions, to complement its existing Sperwer aircraft.
The Sperwer was originally produced by French company Sagem, before the firm merged with Snecma in 2005 to form Safran Group. The UAV is currently used by the French and Greek armies as well as the Swedish and Dutch air forces and the U.S. Air National Guard.
The Patroller became the first tactical drone to be officially certified to NATO’s airworthiness standard STANAG 4671, for fixed-wing drones weighing more than 150 kilograms (331 pounds), according to a company news release.
The NATO Support and Procurement Agency coordinated the negotiations with Safran on behalf of the Hellenic Army.
Defense News has contacted Safran and the Army for additional information on the contract.
The selection of Safran’s Patroller serves as an example of ever-deepening ties between France’s defense industry and Greece. However, it also puts into perspective Athens’ balancing act between recent efforts to support its local drone industry and a remaining dependency on foreign suppliers for such systems.
Asked whether opting for a foreign-made drone over a domestic one contradicted efforts to build a stronger national industry, Nikos Koklas, director of research and development at Hellenic Aerospace Industry, described the question as “valid,” but noted it’s not for industry to answer.
“The Hellenic Army assesses its needs accordingly. Archytas [Greece’s latest locally build surveillance drone] will become operational next year; perhaps the Army requested an immediate solution to its operational needs,” Koklas said.
In May, French shipbuilder Naval Group opened its new subsidiary Naval Group Hellas in Athens to support work on the Hellenic Navy’s FDI frigate program, among other maritime projects. The firm also plans to coordinate and further research and development projects in cooperation with Greek partners.
That same month, the European consortium MBDA — partly owned by French defense company Airbus — also inaugurated a new office in Athens to support its contracts with the country’s military. The Hellenic Navy and Air Force are longtime users of the company’s Exocet missile system, and the firm is supplying weapons packages for the Air Force’s Rafale aircraft as well as the Navy’s FDI frigates.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.
Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.