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Greece Receives First Rafale Jets from France

Rafale jets Greece
The jets flew over the Acropolis in Athens before they landed at Tanagra Airbase. Credit: AMNA

The first six of the 24 Rafale fighter jets bought from France in a landmark defense deal signed in January of 2021 arrived in Greece on Wednesday.

The initial order was for 18 jets, but in September Athens added another six to bolster Greece’s military clout in view of Turkey’s ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The jets landed at Tanagra Airbase after they flew over the Acropolis and their ownership was delivered over to Greece during a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Mitsotakis said that the jets will increase the country’s deterrent power. “The new fighters make our air force one of the strongest in Europe and the Mediterranean, and seal the Greek-French defense agreement,” he added at the ceremony.

The arrival of the first six Rafale fighter aircraft is a special moment in the strategic cooperation between Greece and France, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said in an interview with Politico.

“It is a special moment for our strategic cooperation with France, but also for our common vision for European defense. These next-generation superior aircraft multiply the deterrent power of the Air Force and strengthen our ability to meet any security challenge in our area,” Panagiotopoulos said.

The total cost of the aircraft is estimated at 3.3 billion euros, with Athens also planning to acquire three Belharra frigates from the French shipyard Naval Group for between 3 and 5 billion euros. Greece has also expressed an interest in purchasing five Gowind corvettes from the Naval Group.

Greek pilots have been training in France for several months, along with 50 technicians.

Greece hopes Rafale jets will significantly improve defense capabilities

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.

Versatile and best in all categories of missions, the Rafale is a true “force multiplier,” Dassault says.

The Rafale has exhibited a remarkable survivability rate during the latest French Air Force and Navy operations, thanks to an optimized airframe and to a wide range of smart and discrete sensors. It is slated to be the French armed forces’ prime combat aircraft until 2050 at least.

Greece also eyes US F-35s

In 2021, Greece’s annual defense budget reached 5.5 billion euros, a sharp 41% increase compared to 2020.

Greece is also eying to purchase the state-of-the-art F-35 fighter aircraft from the US.

Speaking after Greece and France signed the agreement to buy Rafale fighters, Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said that “sooner or later, a purchase of F-35s will be discussed.”

The F-35 is a stealth, fifth-generation, multi-role 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.

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