Greece signed a 2.3 billion-euro ($2.8 billion) deal with France on Monday to purchase 18 Rafale fighter jets.
Florence Parly, the French Defense Minister, signed the agreement in Athens to deliver 12 used and six new aircraft built by Dassault Aviation over two years, starting in mid-2021.
Υπογραφή στην Αθήνα του συμβολαίου πώλησης 18 #Rafale στην Ελλάδα 🇬🇷από τη @HellenicGDDIA, το @Hellenic_MOD και τις γαλλικές🇫🇷 εταιρείες @Dassault_OnAir @byMBDA @SAFRAN @thalesgroup @Armees_Gouv pic.twitter.com/fblHKP0oQx
— La France en Grèce (@FranceenGrece) January 25, 2021
PM Mitsotakis noted that the purchase of the jets from France was “a sign of the need for direct and closer military cooperation at European level in the Mediterranean, or in our ‘mare nostrum’, as [French] President [Emmanuel] Macron aptly calls it, as it is the place where the vital interests of all EU countries intersect.”
After a meeting with Parly and National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, who had earlier signed a procurement agreement, the premier said that it reflects Greece’s national strategy, which includes defense as a so-called twin pillar of Greek foreign policy.
Parly said that the strategic partnership with Greece is part of a plan first described by Macron in January 2020 of promoting Europe more strongly and of contributing jointly as Europeans to the protection of its citizens and security.
She noted that the Air Forces of both countries will be holding joint exercises shortly, besides a new joint defense exercise scheduled in April.
At the same time, the “Charles de Gaulle” aircraft carrier will be patrolling the Mediterranean, with a Greek frigate possibly accompanying it during this operation.
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 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.