Last week, the first six multi-purpose tactical supersonic aircraft of the French-made Rafale landed at the Greek airbase Tanga. These Rafale are older and renovated aircraft from the armament of the French Air and Space Forces AAE (Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace).
The Rafale F3-Rs, four single-seater and two two-seaters, arrived in Greece after a two-and-a-half-hour flight from the French airbase Istres. During the flight, the planes covered a distance of 1600 kilometres. Before landing at the base of Tang, they made a ceremonial flight over the Acropolis of Athens.
The first Greek Rafale will head to the 332nd Squadron “Geraki”, replacing the Mirage 2000 BG / EG aircraft purchased in 1985. The squadron will receive Rafale just one year after signing the contract. Speed of delivery is one of the huge advantages of the assertive style of sales of French Rafale aircraft.
Greece purchased 95 French fighters in the last century. It includes 40 Mirage F.1 in 1974, 40 Mirage 2000BG / E.G. in 1985 and 15 Mirage 2000-5 in 2000.
Greece and France signed an agreement in January 2021 that includes the purchase of 12 older – ten single-seat Rafale C, two two-seat Rafale B, and six – four Rafale C, two Rafale B – newly manufactured Rafale multi-role fighters. The contract price is 2.3 billion Euros. The last six older Rafale from the AAE will arrive in Greece in the second half of next year.
The six newly produced Rafale deliveries will be from December 2022 to August 2023.
In September 2021, Greece booked another six new Rafales, but the contract is not signed yet. The contract value is estimated at more than one billion and thus obviously includes the supply of other equipment and services. The delivery of these six Rafale to the Greek Air Force (Polemikí Aeroporía) is planned for 2025 to 2026.
Greek single-seat Rafale fighters were given the designation Rafale EG and two-seat Rafale DG. The contract for the purchase of 18 Rafale also includes a package of technical and service support for five years and training of pilots and technicians. So far, eight Greek pilots and 50 technicians have been trained for Rafale aircraft. Tanga Air Base has also undergone the required modernisation.
Greece has purchased Rafales as the plane, and associated weaponry gives the country an advantage over the Turkish F-16’s.
Plans to purchase F-35
Greece is also interested in the U.S. plane, the F-35. In December 2021, the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2022 was passed, which includes an amendment to the US-Greece Defense and Interparliamentary Partnership Act of 2021.
The “Greek” specific amendment to the NDDA states: “The United States should support the sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Greece, including those [eight] F-35 aircraft manufactured but never delivered to Turkey, as Turkey was excluded from program due to the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems.”
“The president is entitled to expedite the delivery of any future F-35 aircraft as soon as Greece is ready to proceed with such a purchase, under conditions that the president may require. Such transfer will be submitted to Congress in accordance with the certification requirements of Section 36 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 USC 2776),” it adds.
As early as January 2020, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos revealed his country’s interest in acquiring 24 F-35A Lightning II aircraft. The purchase has not yet been approved, but there is nothing to prevent the United States from selling the F-35A to Greece, thanks to an NDAA law.
F-16V upgrade project
The Greek Air Force intends to modernise 84 F-16 fighters to the latest F-16V standard. In 2021, the Greek company Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) upgraded the first F-16C to the F-16V standard. All F-16V’s is planned to be delivered to the Greek Air Force by 2027.
The Viper standard upgrades will increase the operational life of the Greek F-16’s by 20 years.