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Republic of Cyprus - National Guard

Under the provisions of the constitution of 1960, a 2,000- member bicommunal force, the Cyprus Army, composed of 60 percent Greek Cypriots and 40 percent Turkish Cypriots, was to be the primary security arm of the Republic of Cyprus. This force was never brought into being because of disagreement about its organization, and since 1964 the National Guard--composed mainly of Greek Cypriot draftees--had served as the main armed body in the southern part of the island. In addition, a Greek Army regiment of 950 men was present on the island in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Alliance.

During the decade after its formation by Archbishop Makarios, the National Guard became increasingly oriented toward a pro-Greek junta, anticommunist, and, ironically, ultimately anti-Makarios position that culminated in the 1974 coup. The fall of the military from power in Greece led to the recall of the most avid right-wing Greek officers and their replacement by officers of more moderate views. By the late 1970s, the National Guard was no longer identified with any political faction and exercised no political influence. Although it had not been regarded by Western analysts as a very effective professional military force because of its earlier intense politicization, the National Guard performed credibly in 1974 in resisting the initial landing of overwhelmingly superior Turkish forces.

Although it had undertaken a major strengthening and modernization program in the late 1980s, the National Guard had only a limited ability to deter a major Turkish offensive or to mount counterattacks. According to a statement by Minister of Defense Andreas Aloneftis in 1990, the National Guard buildup was strictly defensive in purpose. Aloneftis acknowledged that the Greek Cypriots would like to "liberate" the land in the north but said this was impossible in light of existing realities. He said that he was seeking to build a reliable deterrent force against a Turkish effort to occupy the whole island. The objective, he asserted, was to be able to delay the Turkish advance for two to three weeks until the UN Security Council could intervene.

Foreign military observers considered the Greek Cypriot and Greek forces on the southern part of the island to be seriously deficient relative to the Turkish Army contingent in the north, notably with respect to armored strength. They also had little protection against aircraft based on the nearby Turkish mainland. During the 1974 fighting, the 200 Turkish tanks ferried to the island had proven the determining factor in the collapse of the Greek Cypriot defenses. The acquisition of armored equipment, antitank weapons, and antiaircraft systems by the National Guard in the late 1980s addressed the most conspicuous weaknesses in the National Guard's defensive armaments, but still fell short of matching the Turkish forces in the north.

The National Guard's armor, which had previously consisted of a few Soviet T-34 tanks of World War II vintage and a small number of armored personnel carriers (APCs) and obsolete armored cars, was significantly augmented beginning in 1987, with the delivery of French AMX-30 B-2 tanks mounted with 105mm guns. The total order of fifty-four tanks was due to be in service by the early 1990s. A total of 127 French wheeled APCs had also been acquired; 27 were fitted with 20mm cannons and the rest with turret-mounted machineguns. Also on order were 120 EE-9 Cascavel six-wheeled armored vehicles from Brazil, equipped with 90mm guns, of which 40 had been delivered as of 1989. The EE-11 Urutu, a Brazilian APC, had been purchased and twenty-eight armored reconnaissance vehicles, the EE-3 Jararaca, also manufactured in Brazil, were on order. It was also reported that 500 vehicles, presumably unarmored, would be supplied by Greece as aid in 1990, as part of a longer term plan to modernize 2,000 vehicles in the National Guard inventory.

The National Guard's artillery units were equipped with 75mm to 105mm guns and howitzers and truck-mounted 128mm multiple rocket launchers of Yugoslav manufacture. Antitank defenses had been stiffened by the purchase of Milan and HOT (high-subsonic, optically tracked) wire-guided missile systems from France. Some of the HOT missiles were fitted to armored vehicles and to six Gazelle helicopters acquired from France in 1988.

The air defense capability was strengthened in the late 1980s by the acquisition of triple 20mm cannons from Yugoslavia and twin 35mm towed antiaircraft guns from Switzerland, which were to be used in conjunction with the Contraves Skyguard fire-control radar system. The older 40mm and 94mm antiaircraft guns still in the inventory were considered virtually useless against modern fighter aircraft. The National Guard had also acquired from Syria a small number of Soviet SA-7 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.

The National Guard air element as of 1989 included Gazelle helicopters and one Pilatus Maritime Defender suitable for coastal patrol and light transport duties. In mid-1989, the first of two Swiss Pilatus PC-9 turboprop aircraft was delivered. These planes were intended for advanced training but could be modified for combat missions.

Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:05:32 Zulu