France and Greece have reached an agreement for the latter to acquire 18 Rafale fighter jets of which 10 will be sold and the remaining 8 will given away as ‘donation.’
“Contacts between the two sides are at a very advanced level, with those who know the background expressing the assessment that within 2020 the agreement will have been officially announced," Greek publication, Pentapostagma reported quoting source aware of the deal.
The jets would be fully armed versions ready for immediate deployment as Greece faces up to an incresingly belligerent Turkey over territorial dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean. Recently Greek and Turkish F-16 jets were briefly engaged in a 'dogfight,' reports said.
Based on what has been leaked so far, the agreement seems to be moving at two levels. The first provides for the donation of eight fighter jets from the French Air Force to the Greek AF and the second the purchase of ten brand new Rafale from France.
The eight planes that will be given as a “gift” are used jets from French Air Force inventory. These are the ones that attacked the Al Watiya air base in Libya a couple of months ago causing damage to Turkish air defence systems, the publication reported.
The 10 brand new fighters that are to be purchased will come from the stock being built for the Egyptian Air Force. The two governments are expecting to reach an agreement with Egypt to divert 10 of 20 jets meant for Egypt to Greece. The remaining 10 for Egypt would be delivered later.
Egypt had ordered 24 Rafale jets in 2014 of which 4 have been delivered and 10 are in process.
The Greek air force primarily consists of old F-16 jets which will modernized by the United States to the F-16V standard making them more lethal than the F-16s with Turkey. However, the deal was signed only in 2019 with Lockheed Martin and it will not be until 2022 when the first modernized F-16 rolls out.
In the meantime, Greece’s relations with Turkey have worsened with the latter using its greater military muscle to force Greece to back off from enforcing its territorial claim in the Eastern Mediterranean.
France has unequivocally sided with Greece even flying two Rafale fighter jets for exercises with the Greek Air Force in recent weeks.