French Rafale jets made their flying debut over Greece on Thursday during the joint bilateral exercise, “Skyros 2021”.
The exercise allowed Greece to take a close look at the jets that Athens recently signed a contract for, Greek National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said.
The exercise, which concludes on Friday, includes Greek-French jet formations flying out of Tanagra, the base of the 114th Combat Wing, as well as Navy divisions.
Ravitaillement en vol d'un #Rafale 🇫🇷 dans le ciel grec. Même exercice pour les #Mirage et #F16 🇬🇷 #Skyros #Skyros2021 @HAFspokesman @Armee_de_lair @Dassault_OnAir #greece2021 @npanagioto @florence_parly pic.twitter.com/2HX83IdTiX
— La France en Grèce (@FranceenGrece) February 3, 2021
It was “an outstanding opportunity for the two countries to come closer and develop approaches at the tactical and operational level, and to also send a clear message of our deterrent force,” Panagiotopoulos said.
“Over time, we have created with France a stable and constantly evolving framework of military collaboration, through which we guarantee, strengthen and establish a safer geopolitical environment in our region,” he added.
France welcomes Greece to the “Rafale Club”
The exercise was observed by the top leadership of the Greek Armed Forces, the chief of the French Air Force, General Laurent Lherbette, French Ambassador to Athens Patrick Maisonnave, defense attaches from several embassies, as well as French and Greek journalists.
— La France en Grèce (@FranceenGrece) February 4, 2021
Ambassador Maisonnave welcomed Greece to the “Rafale Club” and noted that Greece acquired “weapons of superiority and power.”
He also said that France shares a common vision with Greece for security in the East Mediterranean that respects sovereign rights of all states without threats and bullying.
Lherbette called Greece “an ally, a partner and a friend” and said he was especially proud that the French fighter jets would be flying in Greece.
France’s Air Force will also participate in the exercise “Iniochos”, which will allow the further exchange of experiences among pilots of both countries, he said.
Aircraft involved in the Skyros exercise include, on Greece’s side, Mirage 2000s and F-16s.
In late January, Greece signed a 2.3 billion-euro ($2.8 billion) deal with France to purchase 18 Rafale 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.
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.