Greece is eying to buy the state-of-the-art F-35 fighter aircraft from the US, the country’s Defense Minister revealed on Tuesday.
Speaking after Greece and France signed the agreement to buy 18 Rafale fighters, Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said that “sooner or later, a purchase of F-35s will be discussed.”
“At some point we will move to fifth-generation aircraft, and the main aircraft within NATO at such level is the F-35,” he added, speaking during the main news broadcast of Alpha TV.
The F-35 is a stealth, fifth-generation, multirole combat aircraft, designed for ground-attack and air-superiority missions.
It is built by Lockheed Martin and many subcontractors, including Northrup Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, and BAE Systems.
By procuring state-of-the-art jets, Greece hopes it will cancel out the threat posed by Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system.
Change in balance of power
Panagiotopoulos said that Greece plans to purchase 40 fighter airplanes in total, including the 18 of the recently agreed-upon Rafale aircraft from France.
He also spoke of the ongoing upgrading of Greek F-16s into Vipers, “the most updated version of F-16s in the world,” and added that the first such Greek airplane would fly to the United States.
“In the next seven years, we will be developing between 8 to 12 F-16s into Vipers per year,” Panagiotopoulos revealed.
Turkey, he said, “understands that Greece is being strengthened quickly and decisively. The acquisition of Rafale aircraft will change the balance of power in favor of the Greek side.”
“The other side does not have,” the strategic arms these aircraft carry, he added, but quickly expressed the hope that they will not have to be used.
New frigates on the horizon
Speaking of the possibility of acquiring the “Belharra” French frigates, Panagiotopoulos said the decision “will be made in the first half of this year.”
He clarified that French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly did not bring a proposal for frigates during Monday’s visit to Greece, “but she assured us that this proposal is forthcoming.”
Proposals are also expected from Germany, Spain, the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, he said.
“We want a package deal,” the Minister clarified.
“Besides the shipbuilding of the four ships – the new types of frigates – we want to guarantee that some of these will be built at Greek shipbuilding yards, with the involvement of local industry.”
As the building will take an average of six to seven years, the winning bidders “will provide an intermediate solution, with two used ships in a good state, possibly upgraded. We are waiting for specific proposals,” he said.