Major Revamp of Greek Air Force with F-16 Upgrades, F-35 and Rafale Procurement

US Offers Greece $200 Million Aid to Send S-300 and Other Arms to Ukraine.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The Hellenic Air Force (HAF) has undergone extensive modernisation in recent years. Greece has ordered 12 new and 12 used Rafale F3R multirole fighters from France. There are currently 18 aircraft in the HAF hangars. The Rafale will replace the old Mirage 2000EG/BG and coexist with the modern Mirage 2000-5 Mk II.

In addition, the HAF plans to convert 82 of its 153 F-16C/D Block 52+ to the F-16V Viper variant (equivalent to the F-16 Block 70/72). The upgrade programme will last until 2027, with work on the first aircraft already begun at Greek aerospace sector sites.

In any case, Greece plans to retire the remaining 24 Mirage 2000-5 Mk II and 33 F-4E Phantom II in the following years.

Greece has agreed to pay up to USD 8.6 billion for 40 F-35A Lightning II multirole aircraft. Understandably, the offer includes full operational support and replacement parts, including two spare Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engines.

According to Greek media, Athens would first purchase one squadron of F-35A (18-24 aircraft) for less than $3.5 billion. Construction of critical infrastructure at the 117th Combat Wing will cost an extra $500 million (not included in the DSCA offer). The F-35A will replace the antiquated F-4E Phantom II at the aforementioned wing.

Greece sent an official Letter of Request (LoR) to the United States in November 2020 and again in June 2022 to acquire 20 F-35As. The first F-35As for the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) will be delivered in 2027 or 2028. However, it is unclear if this refers to the transfer of aircraft in the United States (probable) or their delivery to Greece. After delivery to the customer, the F-35A normally remains in the United States for two years.

The Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) did not mention ammunition. However, it is a similar price of USD 8.3 billion for 35 F-35As for the Luftwaffe. The German offer included about 1000 pieces of varied ordnance, including 75 AGM-158B/B2 JASSM-ER missiles. Australia spent USD 235 million for 80 JASSM-ERs in 2022. The DSCA may not specify all items for sale; the Greek agreement may include unnamed munitions.

Greece can eventually deploy 40 new F-35A Lightning II, 24 twin-engine Rafale F3R, and 82 upgraded F-16V Vipers. The fate of the other F-16s is uncertain, as Greece is only upgrading the most recent F-16C/D Block 52+ delivered after 2000. Modernising the remaining 69 F-16 Block 30/50 with spare F-16 Block 52+ components is considered.

Turkey was booted out of the F-35 deal after refusing to give up the Russian S-400 Air Defence System. That is not the case in Greece, which has S-300 systems.

In 2022, Greece said it was ready to give Ukraine its long-range S-300 air defence missile systems made by Russia if the US swaps them with MIM-104 Patriots.

If the US puts in a Patriot system on the island of Crete and then connects it to the country’s air defence system, the S-300 can be taken down, Greek Defence Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos told a meeting at the Ministry of Defence. He said the same steps must be taken for any other air defence system made in Russia that they may want to send to Ukraine.

His comment came soon after news that the US is finishing plans to send Patriots to Ukraine, which is a very important development.

During those talks, Greece might have thought about sending its S-300s for the first time. In any case, Panagiotopoulos changed his mind about sending the S-300 weapons systems later in June 2022. He spoke out against sending them before.

Greece was lucky by chance when it got its S-300s in the late 1990s. Cyprus was the one who first asked Russia to send the system, which led to a dangerous standoff with Turkey. To avoid a possible war, the S-300s were sent to Crete and stored there until 2013, when Greece fired some of them for the first time. At the end of August 2022, Turkey said that a Greek S-300 radar had locked onto its F-16s while on a surveillance mission in international airspace.

Russia told Athens in December 2022 that sending Russian-made S-300 air defence missile systems to Ukraine was “provocative” and that the country should drop its plans. At a news conference in Moscow, Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that sending the S-300 systems to Kyiv would be “a gross violation” of the agreements between the Russian and Greek governments on military-technical cooperation and the supply of military goods. If Greece breaks their contract, it will have to deal with the results. Greece will also lose some of their air defence capabilities, she warned.

Greece has now changed its mind. According to a story from Kathimerini on January 27, Greece’s political and military leaders approved the transfer of old weapons systems to Ukraine.

The choice was made after the US approved Greece buying new F-35 fighter trains. In answer, Antony Blinken, the secretary of state for the United States, told Greece that it could give or sell weapons to Ukraine in exchange for up to $200 million in aid from Washington.

In addition to the S-300, Greece has Russian Tor, Osa, and ZU-23-2 air defence systems and ammunition stocks for these weapons.


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