Greece could receive six F-35 stealth jets originally built for Turkey before its ouster from the program, days after the latter conducted tests of the S-400 missile systems it bought from Russia.
The United States and Greece agreed upon the sale of 20 F-35s during U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Athens earlier this month. Of this, six will be purchased in 2022, Greek newspaper Estia reported on October 19.
On October 16, Turkey conducted first test of S-400 air defense system (ADS) from its missile test facility in Sinop province on the Black Sea, where it was delivered earlier this month with British-made Banshee drones for use as targets.
The U.S.-Turkey tensions skyrocketed after the latter bought the S-400 systems from Russia for $2.5 billion in 2017. Washington’s attempts to persuade Ankara to ditch the systems went in vain. Soon after Russia began shipping the S-400s to Turkey in July 2019, the U.S. struck off Turkey’s name from the list of F-35 program partners and refused to sell the jets, 100 of which Ankara had planned to buy.
Additionally, the U.S. is mulling over relocating Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to Greece’s Crete island, reports said. NATO allies rely on the base as a staging point for access to the Middle East.
However, a month earlier, Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Campbell told Anadolu Agency: “The U.S. has operated at Incirlik Air Base for decades at the invitation of the Turkish government, and our continued presence there demonstrates the ongoing and strong relationship between the United States and our NATO Ally Turkey.”
The Greek Air Force also plans to acquire 18 Rafale combat jets from France besides other major military equipment as friction with Turkey mounts. Modernization of 10 Mirage jets, buying two Type 214 submarines and four frigates from Germany, Spike missiles and drones from Israel, is also on the cards.
The Turkey-Greece conflict can be traced back four decades ago. In July 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus in order to crush a military coup backed by Greece. Ever since then, it continues to lay claim to the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a de facto state situated in the north-eastern portion of the island. Turkey demands authority over and a share of revenue generating from the gas reserves for the Turkish Cypriots.
On the other hand, Greece supports Republic of Cyprus and insists on Turkish Cypriots getting their share of the revenue only after the reunification of the island.
Turkey resumed energy exploration in the disputed Eastern Mediterranean Sea earlier this month after Greece and Egypt signed the controversial EastMed Oil Pipeline Project deal.