Spotlight on Canadian Military Exports: Canadian ADATS Offered to Greece

Kenneth Epps

Kenneth Epps

The Ploughshares Monitor December 1998 Volume 19 Issue 4

The deal

With Department of National Defence cooperation, Oerlikon Aerospace has spent more than two years promoting the sale of Air Defence Anti-Tank Systems (ADATS) for a Greek armed forces requirement for short range air defence systems. The proposed sale includes the supply of ADATS originally purchased by the Canadian Armed Forces as part of a $1 billion Low Level Air Defence program and now considered surplus by the Department of National Defence.1 Although Greece announced a contract to buy 11 rival short-range air defence systems in October, the ADATS system is still in the running for a Greek Air Force program.2

ADATS is designed to combat low-flying aircraft and vehicles such as tanks. The system, typically mounted on an armoured vehicle, is essentially a turret with sophisticated tracking devices and eight launchers for missiles capable of speeds three times the speed of sound. The Canadian Forces ordered the ADATS in 1986 in a deal which saw the Swiss military multinational Oerlikon-Buhrle build a plant at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu to manufacture the Canadian order and expected subsequent export orders. The collapse of a major Pentagon order and the end of the Cold War dramatically altered ADATS sales projections however, and with the exception of a small order from Thailand, the Quebec plant has not sold any systems in over a decade. The company needs a deal very soon to justify its investment in Canada and keep the plant open.

The context

Greece and Turkey are committed to arms procurement programs that will total more than $75 billion within the next decade. This arms race is fed by long-standing tensions and disputes that most famously centre on the island of Cyprus. But rivalries also extend to airspace and claims to hoped-for oil riches in the Aegean Sea where as recently as 1996 the two nations came close to war over ownership of uninhabited islets. Despite being NATO allies, Greece and Turkey both view the other as their chief security threat.

Since the end of the Cold War, Greece and Turkey have been the leading recipients of surplus military equipment that has “cascaded” from NATO allies required by treaty to remove major weapon systems from central Europe. The two countries have received thousands of offensive military weapons, including main battle tanks, attack helicopters, armoured personnel vehicles, artillery, and combat aircraft. Together they now have a tank fleet larger than the combined forces of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy.3

Recent Greek Cypriot plans to purchase long-range Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles have heightened tensions in the region, with Turkey vowing to stop the missile deployment and Greece prepared to defend it. Although delivery of the missiles appears to be delayed until early 1999,4 Greek Cypriot construction of military airport and naval facilities has aggravated the Turks and made missile deliveries to Cyprus or Greece even more politically-charged.

The policy

Canadian government officials state that an ADATS sale to Greece would require an end-use certificate forbidding a transfer to Cyprus, and that Turkey has not expressed concern over the proposed sale.5 Yet, Canadian export control guidelines stipulate control of military shipments not only to countries involved in conflict but also to states “under imminent threat of hostilities.” The latter precaution, a recognition that arms transfers do not contribute to the resolution of tensions, should equally apply to threatened states that are unlikely to adhere to transfer conditions if fighting breaks out.



  1. The equipment may be surplus, but Canadians are still paying for the program. According to the latest DND expenditure estimates, remaining LLAD expenditures total about $27 million. ADATS deliveries began as the Cold War wound down and by the last delivery in 1992 their main function, to protect Canadian air bases in Europe, was over.
  2. “Mediterranean-Area Missile Race Continues,” Defense News, October 19-25, 1998, p. 18.
  3. “Mediterranean-Area Missile Race Continues.”
  4. “Canadian ADATS sale to relieve budget strife,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, 8 July 1998, p. 11.
Spread the Word