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Probe in ammunition explosions in Air Base depot has first findings

Some conclusions are reportedly emerging from an administrative inquiry (EDE) confirming that the explosions at the ammunition depot on a Hellenic Air Force base last Friday in central Greece were caused by the general-purpose air-to-ground bombs (iron bombs) stored in above-ground facilities that were exposed to the heat load of the wildfire that was raging in the vicinity.

Authorities are investigating why an ammunition depot at an air force base near the town of Nea Anchialos was not defended more effectively from a wildfire last week, resulting in mass explosions of precious ordnance, including heavy bombs and missiles, and necessitating the relocation of several F-16 fighter jets from the air base. The commander of the 111th Combat Wing has been relieved of his duties.

The inquiry, which is part of the government’s aim for a comprehensive revision of the rules for the protection of military camps, is moving within the bounds of what was foreseen – i.e. a formal confirmation that all rules had been followed in the usual way.

Tuesday saw a third round of testimonies of senior armed forces officers, which were necessary in order to draw up the conclusion of the inquiry ordered by Defense Minister Nikos Dendias.

The conclusion is supplemented by evidence from the autopsy conducted by the Hellenic Air Force’s pyrotechnic experts, the visual material from the Heron drones and the testimonies of the officers who were summoned on the matter.

According to early testimony, the storage was done in a “planned” manner, whatever that means for the actual safety of the facilities. In essence, the bombs appear to have been exposed, and their covering was insufficient to protect them from the increasing heat load.

However, violations of the rules governing the storage of outmoded munitions have been detected, but not to the point of causing explosions, kathimerini reported.

Check also KTG’s post: Fire in ammunition depot triggers massive explosions, F-16s evacuate the Air Base (videos)

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3 comments

  1. As Sir Humphrey, the senior civil servant in the old UK comedy series “Yes Minister” once said: “You never hold an inquiry unless you know what the outcome of the inquiry will be.” Obviously that works in Greece too?

  2. something to keep in mind that perhaps a lot of people aren’t aware of (specially as in this country so few people are familiar with muntions, being so restricted as they are) – munitions, even large charges, dont generally explode in a fire, they merely burn. For things like propellants, unless they’re burnt in a confined space (like the chamber of the gun or artillery piece) with pressure, it’s simply a fire, actually pound for pound giving less heat than an ordinary wood fire. For explosives, unless properly detonated they simply don’t go off, and burning them , again, is just a fire. More dangerous in a fire would be something like a propane cylinder.
    In this incident there was mention of storage of obsolete munitions – these might be left over stockpiles from 50 years back or more, which maybe because of red tape were easier to just keep in storage than detonate or otherwise dispose of. It is possible though unlikely for them to be sotred with detonators attached, and some of those detonators to be simple old fashioned chemical types which _might_ trigger in fire.. but typically with such munitions (e.g. artillery shells or something) the fuzes were only to be installed before actually using them. Otherwise theyre stored separately for safety.
    Probably the biggest concern of the military commanders now is not any damage from shells cooking off in the fire, or even the fire damage, but the enormous headache of accounting for lost munitions. in some countries ammunition is simply considered an expendable item and is easily written off, in the greek army it is tightly controlled with a level of paranoia way out of proportion to either its value or its use in arms (e.g. anyone who’s served in the greek army can recall that essentially nobody on base, even active duty soldiers on actual patrol duty, was ever issued live rounds, and those were always accounted for multiple times and checked in daily at the end of every duty shift. all the soldiers you see on guard duty have unloaded weapons!)
    so those officers now are facing a major headache and certainly will be looking to pass the blame anywhere else! some public thater is certain to follow..