Greece Confirms Plans to Buy F-35 Jets

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Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos said Tuesday that the country plans to acquire 40 fighter aircraft inclusive of French Rafales and U.S.-made F-35 jets.

“Sooner or later we will enter the discussion about a 5th generation aircraft which is the F-35,” the minister said during an interview with Alpha TV.

Supply of F-35 Jets is expected to be met with stiff opposition from Turkey which continues to make parts for the stealth jet despite being denied already committed aircraft for buying the Russian S-400 air defence system.

On January 25, Greece placed an order for 18 Rafale (6 new, 12 second-hand) fighter jets produced by French company Dassault Aviation. To meet the urgent need of the Greek authorities, the deliveries of aircraft will be begin in the summer of 2021 and will be spread over two years.

Talking about the Rafales and conflict with Turkey, Panagiotopoulos said, “The acquisition of Rafale jets will change the balance of power in favour of the Greek side.”

In November, Greek media reported that the Athens formally requested to buy between 18 and 24 new or used Lockheed Martin F-35s.

It remains to be seen if the Pentagon has the aircraft to supply to Greece after its recent approval of F-35 fighter jets sale to the U.A.E. and the denial of the same aircraft to Indonesia on grounds that there is not enough supply.

Procurement of Frigates for the Hellenic Navy

Another French deal Greece is eyeing is for Belharra frigates. Aside of France, the Hellenic Navy is expecting proposals from the U.S., U.K., Germany, Spain and Netherlands.

“We want a package deal. We want some of the frigates to be built at Greek shipbuilding yards with the involvement of local industry.”

As the building will take an average of 6-7 years, the winning bidders “should provide an intermediate solution, with two used ships in a good state, possibly upgraded,” Panagiotopoulos said.

“We are waiting for specific proposals. The decision will be made in the first half of this year,” the minister added.

F-16 Upgrade

In addition to the proposed F-35s and the expected Rafale jets, Greece is upgrading its F-16 jets which will have commonalities with the F-35 in terms of weapons deployed. The upgraded F-16Vs plus the Dassault F-35 will make Greece one of the most powerful air forces in the Eastern Mediterranean region, even more so than Turkey which only has older generation F-16s as its main fighter jets.

“We are also upgrading Greek F-16s into Viper configuration this year. This is the most updated version of F-16s in the world. In the next seven years, we will be modernizing 8-12 F-16s into Vipers per year,” the minister said.

In October 2017, the US state department had approved a $2.4 billion project to upgrade some 150 Greek F-16s to the Block 70/72 V (Viper) configuration which among other enhancements includes an APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar that significantly enhances the aircraft’s ability to identify and engage enemy aircraft. Lockheed Martin had announced on September 17, 2018 that it would begin upgrading the aircraft starting 2019 for delivery to be completed by 2027.