republic of cyprus

Naval History of the Republic of Cyprus

]] The Republic of Cyprus has two armed naval forces - the Cyprus National Guard Naval Command and the Cyprus Marine Police (Coastguard). The country has had an armed naval force in permanent operation since 1960. The Cyprus National Guard Naval Command has seen actual combat on several occasions during 1964 and 1974, the former in action against Turkish Cypriot militia and the Turkish Air Force, the latter against the Turkish armed forces and against pro-Makarios elements.

Naval Forces 1964-1974

The Cyprus National Guard Naval Command acquired the following vessels during this period:

  • Five Type-083 / P-6 Motor Torpedo Boats - ex-Soviet 1950's era fast attack vessel with a displacement of 73 tons and a maximum speed of 41 knots. Equipped with two 533mm torpedoes and a 25mm anti-aircraft gun.
  • Three R-41 Group Motor Minesweepers - ex-German / Soviet 1940's era patrol craft, taken up from mercantile use in 1962/63, and armed with either one 40mm or two 20mm anti-aircraft guns.
  • Two Kelefstis Stamou class Fast Patrol Boats - French built with a displacement of 115 tons and a maximum speed of 27 knots. Armament comprised two Mk-4 20mm / 70cal anti-aircraft guns. These vessels were ordered in 1974, but embargoed because of the war, and delivered to Greece instead.

The Cyprus National Guard Naval Command had the following bases of operation during this period:

  • Kyrenia
  • Boghazi
  • Xeros
  • Famagusta
  • Paphos
  • Larnaca
  • Limassol

The Cyprus National Guard had the following anti-aircraft armaments during this period:

  • Unknown number of Bofors L60 40mm anti-aircraft guns. Used to defend naval harbours, most notably Kyrenia and Xeros.

Combat Actions 1964

On the 6th of August 1964, Cyprus National Guard forces commenced combat action against the Turkish Cypriot enclave of Kokkina, in the north-west of Cyprus. This operation was regarded by both Cyprus and Greece as a necessary interdiction against a perceived threat by Turkish Cypriot militia, who were allegedly using Kokkina as a beachhead by which to land supplies and weapons shipped from Turkey. The Cyprus National Guard forces were under the command of General George Grivas, with the blessing of Athens. A combined land and sea attack was launched against Kokkina using at least two R-41 patrol boats, one of which was known to be the "Phaethon". Firing 40mm and 20mm shells, the two patrol boats bombarded the enclave for a period of time, in conjunction with land-based 25-pounder artillery.

The battle was well underway on the 8th of August, when the Turkish Air Force commenced its own interdiction operation with fighter aircraft, making numerous strafing passes of Greek Cypriot forces. The vessel "Phaethon" was struck by rocket fire to the engine and burst into flames, forcing the crew to deliberately run it aground near Xeros harbour. As the attack on the patrol boat continued, a Turkish F-100 Super Sabre, 55-2766, piloted by Captain Cengiz Topel, was struck by 40mm anti-aircraft fire and shot-down. The pilot ejected over land but was promptly captured and lynched by members of the Cyprus National Guard. The "Phaethon" was unsalvagable and later stricken. Several of its crew were killed or wounded.

A second R-41 patrol boat, identified as either the T-1 or T-2 by some sources, was attacked by the same Turkish fighter jet formations, and was reportedly struck several times by strafing fire.

Combat Actions 1974

On the 15th of July 1974, EOKA-B and elements of the Cyprus National Guard overthrew the legitimate President, Archbishop Makarios and replaced him with Nikos Sampson. Makarios escaped an initial attempt to capture him at the Archbishiporic in Nicosia, and fled to Paphos. A naval patrol vessel (possibly an R-41) called the "Leventis" was quickly dispatched to Paphos to begin shelling a radio station there which was being operated by pro-Makarios elements.

On the 20th of July 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus in a surprise-attack, without issuing a declaration of war. A naval force of Turkish vessels was detected by coastal radar at Apostolos Andreas approaching the coast, and a second force of naval vessels was sighted off the coast of Kyrenia during the early hours. The Cyprus National Guard Naval Command quickly ordered its two motor torpedo boats, the T-1 and the T-3, based at Kyrenia, to attack the Turkish flotilla directly. Both vessels were promptly sunk by combined air and sea attack. Two more motor torpedo boats, the T-11 and T-12, were captured intact at Boghazi when the harbour was overrun by Turkish forces during the invasion.

Modern Naval Forces

The Cyprus National Guard Naval Command and Cyprus Marine Police operate a large number of small patrol and fast-attack craft, the majority of displacement less than 100 tons. These types include:

  • Cantierre Navale Vittoria (CNV) P-190 fast-attack craft
  • Salamis class patrol boat
  • Kyrenia class patrol boat
  • SAB-12 patrol boat
  • Evagoras class patrol boat
  • Kingfisher (Shaldag) class patrol boat
  • Kimon class patrol boat
  • Nautimar HD-7 Rigid Inflatable boat (RIB)

The Cyprus National Guard Naval Command also operates an unspecified number of coastal-batteries and radars for a contingent of MBDA MM-40 Exocet Block-II anti-ship missiles. The Naval Command also has access to Mistral-SIMBAD very-short range surface-air missiles, as well as infiltration craft intended for Naval Special Forces.

Role of Naval Forces

During peacetime, the main roles of the Cyprus National Guard Naval Command and Cyprus Marine Police are:

  • Counter-smuggling (of illegal immigrants, narcotics, arms)
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Search and Rescue (SAR)

The main combined-arms war games, held on an annual basis, are codenamed "Nikiphoros" and are intended to maintain the Cypriot naval forces as a war-fighting force.

In order to assist in the protection of the coastline (that which is under Government control), the Cyprus National Guard Naval Command is in possession of an integrated coastal radar system produced by Elbit Systems of Israel.

Naval Special Forces

The Cypriot Naval Special Forces are known as "OYK" and are an underwater demolitions team similar in concept and deployment to SEAL's. Very little is publicly known about the OYK or their operations, except that recruitment is performed on a bi-annual basis.



  • Cyprus National Guard Official Site
  • Table 23, Republic of Cyprus: Major National Guard Equipment, 1990, Library of Congress (Additional sourcing: Based on information from The Military Balance, 1989- 1990, London, 1989, 85; and Christopher F. Foss, "Cypriot Rearmament Completed," Jane's Defence Weekly [London], March 12, 1988, 445.)
  • APORRITOS ATILLAS, Savvas Vlassis
  • "1974: The Unknown Backstage of the Turkish Invasion", Makarios Drousiotis, Nicosia 2002, ISBN 9963-631-02-9
  • Cyprus 1974 - The Greek coup and the Turkish invasion, Makarios Drousiotis, Hellenic Distribution Agency
  • Conway's: All The World's Fighting Ships 1947-1995
  • Cyprus, 1955-1973 By Tom Cooper,
  • Cyprus 100 Years Alex Efthyvoulou, Laiki Cultural Bank Archive
  • British Pathe Archive

Combat Actions

  • The Cyprus Conflict
  • "1974: The Unknown Backstage of the Turkish Invasion", Makarios Drousiotis, Nicosia 2002, ISBN 9963-631-02-9
  • Cyprus 1974 - The Greek coup and the Turkish invasion, Makarios Drousiotis, Hellenic Distribution Agency
  • Cyprus, 1955-1973 By Tom Cooper,

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