The variety of religious, economic, political, military, and ethnic factors that especially the Southeastern European region is rife with, opens space for numerous possible conflicts. Some of them have an obscure historical background, and have become an inseparable part of particular national determination and to a large extent influence the present positions of particular states. Although nowadays these types of conflicts, regardless of their duration and their national background, are largely subdued due to the presence of the international community, their existence, and the possibility of their revival, should not be completely ignored. Hence, the current SEE strategic environment is characterized by a number of modern challenges posed by a multipolar world with a renewed geostrategic competition of global centers of power, which have adopted far-reaching decisions about significant and for a longer period, higher military spending, which has led to intensive armaments in the aforementioned area. However, even in the complex current geopolitical moment, there are some great examples of cooperation in the military sector which further enhance the peace and security initiatives in the region. Unambiguously, that is the example of traditional ties and cooperation between Serbia, Greece and Cyprus.
Serbia is relying on its own potential
The Republic of Serbia, as a militarily neutral country, achieves its strategic defense goals independently and must provide its army with the required level of ability that is to establish an appropriate balance in relation to the armed forces in the region and thus enable the state to efficiently perform the function of deterrence in given very complex circumstances. Although the realization of these is no simple task at all, Serbia traditionally heavily relies on its own potentials in the development and production of weapons and military equipment. Thus the Serbian military industry has become a significant exporter and generator of large foreign exchange inflows so that the profits can be used to finance new development and the technological cycle. In the last five years, according to the official estimates, thanks to its own government investment, advanced technology and production defense capabilities, the Republic of Serbia conducted the first investment cycle (2017) in the worth of 47.5 million euros in companies in the defense industry and institutions of the MoD and the Armed Forces. During that period, the factories additionally invested around 143 million euros in the development of their own capacities. In addition to the revitalization and expansion of existing production facilities, the process of modernization has begun, striving towards the application of new production technologies such as automation and robotization of production, introducing the most modern machines and process equipment, application of nanotechnologies on production equipment and products, MIM technologies, technologies for making polymer components, 3D printing and more.
It is a fact that Serbia in the year 2021 has managed to be largely reborn from the events of the period 1990-1991. Serbia's defense industry, in co-operation with foreign state-owned and private companies, has developed a wide range of programs, ranging from modernizing existing systems to creating unmanned aerial vehicles with electronic warfare capabilities. Influenced by the co-production with Chinese and Russian companies, the Serbian Defense Industry seems to be moving towards the formation of "Reconnaissance-Impact" systems, focusing mainly on the modernization of platforms and the construction/conversion of cheap precision missiles.
Serbian military know-how as a basis for modification of the Greek defense industry
It is generally accepted that the Serbian defense industry, and in particular Yugoimport – SDPR, presents very worthwhile solutions for the Greek defense industry. This Serbian state-owned company, in co-operation with foreign private companies, has managed to make full use of Serbian military know-how transferring itself in an emerging state-owned industry.
In fact, the latest supply of the National Guard for the Nora B52 rekindled the interest of the company for the Greek Army, while the excellent impressions left so far by the Serbian Nora B52 give the possibility of expansion with new orders. Moreover, at the disposal of the Cypriot Artillery is another squadron of Nora B52, which will significantly enhance the firepower of the National Guard. The weapon system, which is considered reliable, effective and most importantly in the economic potential of Cyprus was presented for the first time in public, during the celebrations for the Independence Day of Cyprus in 2019.
After the latest developments, it became obvious that a part of the defense industry philosophy of Serbia could serve as an example for the Greek defense industry.
Serbian ALAS guided missiles
The ALAS (Advanced Light Attack System) family consists of a Serbian multi-role guided missile system, which was developed for impact against armored tanks, low-profile helicopters, industrial facilities, coastal defense ships and advanced enemy radar. It can be launched by attack helicopters, speedboats, armored vehicles and used by infantry units. ALAS missiles use a turbofan engine, while due to the infrared camera they can also act as a UAV by performing certain ISR functions within the battlefield. They are able to provide a live picture of the battle situation in the Command-Control center. The ALAS missile category is guided by a combination of remote-controlled electro-optical/infrared camera located at the front of the missile. Its tactical reliability lies in the fact that it can be used to accurately target targets in either land, water or air environment, being able to conduct low-profile flight over terrestrial terrain, avoiding conventional radar.
The ALAS-A is a surface-to-surface missile, which flies at an altitude of 160-500 meters, moves at speeds of 180 meters per minute in the average flight stage and has a maximum impact range of 25 kilometers. The ALAS-B Missile is an advanced version of similar capabilities with ALAS-A, but being able to hit targets at 50 km. Furthermore, the RALAS missile, or LORANA (Long Range Non light of sight Attack System) was manufactured in order to optimize certain capabilities of ALAS-A. ALAS-A and RALAS missiles which could also be launched by support/infantry transport vehicle are ideal systems for collaborative operation with the Israeli Spike NLOS, offering almost autonomous "Impact Recognition" capabilities at crucial (for the geographical data of the Aegean) distances.
Aleksandar self-propelled wheeled cannon
The 155mm Aleksandar self-propelled wheeled cannon is an improved version of the Nora B52. The Nora B52 is mounted on an 8 x 8 vehicle and incorporates an automatic filling system with 36 missile suspensions, of which 12 projectiles inside the automatic filling system and 24 projectiles in storage. With conventional missiles, the maximum range is 32 km, while with increased range missiles the maximum range is 40 km. The maximum firing rate is 6-12 rounds per minute, depending on the version. It could be especially useful in inaccessible battle environments, as it can cross trenches up to 1,600 mm wide, being able to withstand obstacles in the water with a depth of 1,100 mm. Given a basic short/medium range air defense, similar artillery systems are able to make a difference in the inaccessible environment, as agility and adaptability to harsh environments are essential for both precision shots and armor support.
Strsljen/X-01 Unmanned Helicopter
The Serbian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Strsljen/X-01 has a length of 8.75 meters, a weight of 400 kg, a maximum take-off weight of 750 kg and a width of 1.8 meters. It operates with full autonomy for 3.5-4 hours, has a maximum flight altitude of 4,000 meters, while moving at speeds up to 180 kilometers per hour. It is capable of reconnaissance, surveillance and surveillance operations, and can strike armored vehicles. According to the manufacturer, it has a built-in autopilot system in order to provide stabilization to the helicopter on all axes during the flight, while at the same time it is able to fly in full as autonomous operation throughout the flight.
Multiple Shumadia and Tamnava rocket launchers
The Shumadia multiple rocket launcher is mounted on an 8 x 8 vehicle of the Russian Kamaz, with an armored cabin for the safety of the crew (maximum speed: 100 kilometers per hour, maximum range: 600 kilometers). The Shumadia can launch two types of ammunition: the Jerina-1 missile with a maximum range of 285 km, and the Jerina-2 rockets with a maximum range of 75 km.
Tamnava is a multi-launcher system with a maximum range of 40 and 70 km respectively. In total, Tamnava can carry 25 122 mm rockets or 6 267 mm rockets. It is served by three (3) people and the total battle weight is 35 tons. The cycle of action of the system (development-shot-exit) is 3 minutes.
It is worth noting that Yugoimport has also developed a rocket launcher system with a modular design so that it can accept, in a short time and with little technical support, rockets of a different caliber. Thus the launcher can be customized according to the requirements of each customer.
In particular, Serbia seems to have absorbed the lessons of the Missile Revolution and is investing precisely in systems of this category, expecting mainly in exports and industrial cooperation. We have already mentioned the pioneering ALAS-guided missile which could offer to the defense of the Republic of Cyprus, but and Greece. It is worth noting that ALAS has also been selected by the United Arab Emirates, which chooses its weapons systems based on quality and operational capabilities and not cost. Moreover, the UAE seems to be investing heavily in the Serbian war industry, recognizing its quality and export potential. The ALAS-B ground-to-ground version also appears to have a range of 60 km, while the ALAS-C version, developed in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, aims to hit naval targets and has a range of 25 km with the prospect of reaching 50 km.
However, probably the most important addition of Serbian war material to the arsenal of the Greek Armed Forces and the National Guard could be the increased missile capability for the 128-mm M-77 Oganj systems, which reaches a range of 50 km. Based on an initial estimate, such systems would be rather easy to replace some of the 122mm Czechoslovak RM-70 multiple rocket launchers available to the Greek Army.
At some point it has become obvious that it is not just the United States, Western Europe and Russia that are producing weapons systems. In fact, for countries like Serbia, defense co-operation may have a large geopolitical potential, even if limited to more modest markets, due to the smaller size of the country. The very serious know-how that Serbia already possesses in the field of missile systems, especially rocket engines, and is expected to develop even more, can be combined with Greek technologies so that innovative and low-cost domestic systems can be developed. It seems, that these efforts can be combined to create a structure of industrial-military cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Serbia, which can serve as the basis for a broader geopolitical approach.
Nevertheless, the contemporary geopolitical constellation could offer us some other interesting perspectives. A memorandum of defense and military cooperation has been for the first time signed by the Ministers of Defense of Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which among other things, provides for joint exercises, training programs and consultations, promoting operational cooperation between the armed forces of the Republic of Cyprus and the UAE. Here it should be noted that the recent large-scale joint exercise MEDUSA, which took place with the participation of forces from Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, France and the UAE, is tangible proof of the future prospects of cooperation. Additionally, the strengthening of relations between France and India, that is between two countries that are ranked from immediate to very important interest in Greek diplomacy, fits perfectly with the new Greek perspective of geostrategic balances concerning its security. France with which the strategic alliance has not been abandoned, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which is really investing in its relations with Greece, and finally India, which is a country of special and ever-increasing special weight on the international stage. Its participation in any armaments program is a guarantee of success due to its enormous needs, while the extremely serious and ambitious UAEs invest impressively in defense technology and industry.
Furthermore, the recent talks between Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia and Minister of Defence Nebojsa Stefanovic who met at the arms fair "IDEX 2021" in Abu Dhabi with Crown Prince and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, referring to successful cooperation so far, especially in projects related to the military industry and the Ministry of Defence, necessarily point to the emerging role of Serbia in contemporary geostrategic chess-board of South-East Europe.
According to profound experts on international relations, it was said that Greece should proceed to form an "ambiguity circle" with itself in the center, an important part of which can and should be Serbia. Moreover, it has been reasonably argued that Serbia as the stability factor in Southeast Europe due to its efforts to preserve stability and comprehensive peace in the region could represent an intermediary country for Greece to establish a healthy geopolitical relationship with Moscow, Beijing, the Arab states and Iran. Taking into consideration that two countries today do not present competing elements, but only synergies, the strengthening of relations between them could create a strong geopolitical complex of high potential.