For years, the Turkish Aegean Army has been a real threat to the Greek islands in the eastern Aegean.
But what are Turkey’s possibilities for landing on large islands and how can Greece defend itself?
Amphibious operations have been conducted since antiquity, although amphibious ships are a recent discovery.
The Greeks in Troy (1200 BC) had to build a bridge to the coast, as did the Persians in Marathon.
Amphibious operations are the most difficult military operations and pose a huge risk to the attacker, who has no ability to unhook and retreat.
The participating forces consist of the task force and the amphibious forces. The operational team includes all the means to be used in the amphibious energy.
Amphibious forces, however, are under an independent command, which determines the mission, purposes, coasts, helicopter landing and landing zones.
Setting a date and time plays a crucial role and is linked to the weather.
It is therefore unlikely that amphibious operations will take place when there is turbulence and bad weather.
Landing craft are not particularly navigable, especially open-type vessels which carry the bulk of the landing weight.
Paratroopers, the use of helicopters and small boats to disembark special operations units and saboteurs are also prevented.
The proximity of the Greek islands
The issue that always concerns the Greek staff is the proximity of the Asia Minor coast to the islands of the eastern Aegean.
Proximity, on the other hand, cancels out the complete surprise. The distance between Chios and Kyssos (Κυσσός, Turkish: Çeşme) is less than 15 km.
The bay of Aivali (Αϊβαλί, Turkish: Ayvalık) is 18 km from Mantamados.
The Mykali Strait that separates Samos from the opposite coast is only 2.7 km.
Due to proximity, artillery from both sides will be involved in operations from the beginning.
As modern warships have limited ability to provide support fire, due to their proximity the Turkish Navy will probably not be used.
The Greeks can hit the Turkish amphibians on the coasts of Asia Minor from a sufficient distance, taking advantage of the relief that islands stay out of the range of enemy artillery.
Geography is an ally of defense
The islands of the eastern Aegean consist of mountain massifs between narrow valleys where settlements and crops have historically developed.
Most beaches are not suitable for landing because they do not have easy access to other places.
All beaches that have access are usually flooded with buildings mainly for touristic purposes.
So military operations will cause tourist losses from third countries if conflict occurs in the summer.
The chaotic construction exposes the attackers, if they reach the islands, to fight in an urban environment, while they will already be exhausted.
The urban environment gives huge advantages to the defender, one of which is the serious reduction of the possibility of being hit by air.
The abundance of high points gives an advantage in observation, for which the Turkish forces would use drones.
Given the summer, they will be hit by infantry anti-aircraft weapons, such as the ZU-23 and Stinger, which are relatively abundant in the Greek Army.
At higher altitudes and longer distances, the TOR-M1 and OSA anti-aircraft systems are a threat to enemy aircraft.
They will open their radars after receiving information about operating enemy aircraft.
This reduces the chance of being hit by anti-radar missiles, such as HARMs.
Finally, the landing on the west coasts of the islands is not appropriate, as it increases the cruising time and therefore the exposure to the Greek Navy and Air Force, in addition to the artillery based on the islands.
Amphibious operations: A hypothetical sequence
Assuming that the Turks want to land to occupy a large island, keeping the maximum possible surprise.
They will do it under the pretext of conducting exercises in the area.
During that time, commandos and saboteurs will disembark at night in order to set up obstacles, disorient the defenders and locate the dispersal positions of Greek units in order to set the stage for attacks by the Turkish air force and artillery.
Such actions, however, have now become more difficult with the blockade of sensors and patrols that has been developed to restrict migratory flows. If such Turkish moves are perceived, they are also dealt with by the squadrons of amphibious expeditions.
The main landing will be preceded by paratroopers or airborne landings by helicopter.
As soon as they are noticed, they will officially mark the beginning of hostilities.
The amphibious force must therefore already be in an offensive line.
The purpose of airborne forces is to occupy strategic points, such as ports and airports, so that reserves and supplies can be transported with relative security.
At the same time, Turkish forces will have to launch smaller operations to mislead Greek officials about the main purpose of the landing. This means the dispersal of Turkish forces and the accumulation of losses.
How many Turkish amphibians can be allocated for such operations?
The Turkish amphibious forces based in Phocaea include an OSMANGAZİ (14 tanks, 2 battalions), two SARUCABEY (11 tanks, 600 men), two BAYRAKTAR (20 tanks, 300 soldiers), eight new LCTs (2-3 tanks) , 12 EDIC (unknown how many are active, theoretical carrying capacity of 5 tanks) and 16 older amphibious vehicles that do not have the ability to land vehicles.
Landing and defense on the ground
Greek defense has, in addition to the advantages of absolute knowledge of the ground and the use of fortified positions, the advantage of height.
Enemy forces will be forced to land on beaches and will use specific routes for their objective purposes.
As there are no strategic points of interest on the islands other than the administrative centers, these will be the main objectives of the Turkish forces.
It is impossible, then, for the Turks to deliver the “decisive blow.”
The purpose of the Greek Air Force is to gain supremacy over the affected island, which is very likely.
If it cannot achieve this fully, it can, however, impede the Turks’ freedom of movement.
The overcrowding on the coast creates targets for long-range weapons of all branches, but also of heavy infantry weapons (mortars, anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft).
The rapid dispersal of Greek armor can decisively prevent the exploitation of the bridgehead and lead to its elimination.
Destroying amphibious vessels before or after landing will limit the ability to move supplies and reserves to the enemy bridgehead and will have a negative impact on a subsequent wave, if any.
Immigrant accommodation structures and fifth phalanx
A serious problem for the defense of the islands of the eastern Aegean is the accumulation of thousands of immigrants.
The existence of provocateurs and agents from Turkey is taken for granted.
In the event that the Turkish Armed Forces want to carry out amphibious action on one of the larger islands, the “hosting structures” will at best become hotbeds of unrest, and at worst, riot cells.
The gloomiest side is the transmission of information about the movements and dispersion of the Greek units, as everyone now has “smart” mobiles and can transmit image and geographical location in real time.
They will occupy the units of public order, units of the national guard or even the armed forces.
On the other hand, gatherings of people in the countryside can be the target of attackers.
The low resolution of cameras that drones have does not allow to see if a group of people are civilians or soldiers.
In general, an attack on a large island is not easy and can end tragically for the Turkish armed forces.
Cyprus in 1974 was a Greek failure, not a Turkish success.
The Turks are not Americans who had vast resources to carry out amphibious operations in World War II.
A more probable scenario is for the Turks to use their amphibious capabilities to occupy a smaller Greek island, which has limited defense capabilities.
But about the defense of small islands we will talk about in the next article.