The Greek Parliament overwhelmingly approved on Thursday the purchase of 18 French-made Rafale fighter jets.
All of Greece’s political parties, with the exception of the Communist party and Gianis Varoufakis’ Mera25, voted for the bill which was approved by a Greek parliamentary committee late Tuesday under a fast track procedure.
The Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs discussed three contracts under the bill, including six new and twelve used Rafale jets, at a cost of €1.5 billion this year.
The two countries are expected to sign the agreement later this month.
Defense expenditure doubles
In December, Greek lawmakers approved the 2021 state budget, which includes a doubling of defense expenditures.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government aims to increase spending on military capacity by 57% compared to that of 2019.
Greece’s defense budget is projected to reach around 5.5 billion euros ($6.6 billion US), more than double last year’s spending.
Greece will purchase eighteen French Rafale fighter jets, which will cost 1.5 billion euros next year, from a total of 2.5 billion.
“Within a few days, the deal on the acquisition of eighteen Rafale type jets from France will be signed here in Athens,” PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis told lawmakers during the debate on the 2021 budget.
“Never before has such a complex and important military program been carried out so quickly and efficiently,” he said, adding the government also wants to acquire new frigates, helicopters, and drones, upgrade its F-16 fleet and recruit an additional 15,000 personnel to its ranks.
Jets to arrive in July
Pilots will begin training in France in early 2021, while the first six planes — which have been previously used — will arrive in Greece by July, Defense Ministry officials said.
The Rafale is a French twin-engine, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation.
Equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. It is referred to as an “omnirole” aircraft by Dassault.