Greece and Israel signed off on the creation of an international air force training center in Greece, the National Defense Ministry reported on Friday.
Signed by armed forces officials of both countries, the agreement allows for the center to be set up at the 120 Air Training Wing in Kalamata, Peloponnese.
The signing was attended by Israeli Defense Attache in Greece, Colonel Υossi Pinto, President and CEO of Elbit Systems Bezhalel (Butzi) Machlis, and a delegation from Israel.
The creation of the flight training center is part of a $1.68 billion deal between Israel and Greece — the largest-ever defense agreement between the two countries — which also provides for the Hellenic Air Force to acquire 10 M-346 aircraft.
Israel will also provide simulators, training and logistical support as part of the 20-year deal.
Increasingly close relationship between Greece and Israel
It is part of an increasingly close relationship between Athens and Jerusalem that has seen Greece lease Israeli drones and also involved a pipeline deal signed last year.
Athens attaches great importance to the agreement as it expands the strategic relationship with Israel, but also because it provides a solution to the problem of training Hellenic Air Force pilots.
The training center will not only be for pilots of the Hellenic Air Force, but also for pilots of other countries.
Israeli Defense Ministry Benny Gantz said in early January, that the deal reflected the excellent and developing relations with Greece.
“It is a long-term partnership that will serve the interests of both Israel and Greece, create hundreds of jobs in both countries and promote stability in the Mediterranean,” he said, commending “recent strengthening of defense relations between our countries” and noting “my expectation that these will deepen further.”
The flight school will be built and maintained by Elbit Systems.
The company’s CEO, Bezhalel Machlis, said the new capability will strengthen bilateral relations.
“This selection attests to the leading position we hold in the area of training, providing tested know-how and proven technologies that improve readiness while reducing costs.”
Strategic partnership “significant”
During his visit to Israel in February, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had said that Greece was “happy to have an Israeli company take over flight training in Greece for the next twenty years.”
This operation, the Greek PM stated, will be the “most clear example of the partnerships we can build in defense” between Greece and Israel.
Mitsotakis who met with Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of security issues that have cropped up in the region of late.
The Greek PM stated afterward in their press conference that the new strategic partnership between the nations was “significant.”
He then added that the Mediterranean “must remain a sea of peace for all countries.”