U.S. Air Force F-15 jets arrived in Larissa, Greece on Thursday for exercises with the three branches of the Hellenic Armed Forces "with the common goal of contributing to the security and stability of the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans.”
The reference to the Eastern Mediterranean region has echoes of Greece's tension with Turkey over control of the mineral-rich seabed.
The exercises come at a time when Turkey has expressed concern after the Greek Parliament ratified a defense cooperation treaty with France that will allow them to come to each other's aid in the event of an external threat.
The strategic military and defense cooperation pact between the two NATO allies includes an order for three Belharra frigates built by French company Naval Group. The frigates are to be delivered starting from 2025, in a deal to be finalized by the end of this year to the tune of $3.5 billion. In September, the Hellenic Air Force also said it wants to add six Rafale jets, taking the total order to about 30 aircraft.
Turkey, which has an uneasy history and relationship with its NATO neighbor Greece, has criticized the agreement as threatening "regional peace and stability."
"For the first time it is clearly stipulated that there be military assistance in the event of a third party attacking one of the two states," Greek Prime Minister Kyraikos Mitsotakis told lawmakers before the vote. "And we all know who is threatening whom with a casus belli (cause for war) in the Mediterranean," he added, in a clear reference to Turkey.
Close defense cooperation between Greece and the U.S., will further add to Ankara's worries.
In a statement, the Greek military said the exercises will include these missions: Advanced Defense and Aggressive Aviation Tactics, Air Support with Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), Air Battle, Protection - Attacking targets on land and sea and Offensive - Support of Naval Forces.