Greece, faced with recurring tensions with Turkey, has announced its intention to acquire six additional French Rafale fighter jets, bringing the total of its orders to 24 aircraft, a decision hailed by Paris which sees it as an “advance” in European defense cooperation.
“Excellent news: Greece has just announced its intention to acquire 6 additional Rafale. Together, we are moving forward to build real European autonomy, ”French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly tweeted on Sunday. “European cooperation is progressing, in concrete terms,” added the French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune on Twitter.
Excellent news: Greece has just announced its intention to acquire 6 additional Rafale. Together, we are moving forward to build real European autonomy.
– Florence Parly (@florence_parly) September 12, 2021
Ensuring the “territorial integrity” of Greece
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hinted on Saturday that his country would take this step. “I announced the purchase of 18 Rafale. There will soon be 24 ”, he said at the Thessaloniki International Fair. “The first of them will fly in the Greek skies before the end of the year,” he added. Kyriakos Mitsotakis also announced “to discuss a five-year extension of the defense cooperation agreement” with the United States, instead of annual negotiations as carried out so far, “so as not to have to renew each year ”.
These agreements could lead to “a greater American presence in our country”, added the Prime Minister, who does not close “the door to other strategic agreements”, citing the “very close” relationship with France. Greece had concluded in record time in January the purchase of its first 18 Rafales to strengthen its defense and its partnership with France. The decision to negotiate was taken in September 2020 by Athens in reaction to Turkey’s gas exploration and its show of force in disputed waters with Greece and Cyprus.
France was then demonstratively sided with Athens and had sent Rafale and warships in the face of the deployment of Turkish military and prospecting ships. This first contract, worth around 2.5 billion euros, covers 12 used aircraft and six new aircraft, to be delivered by September 2023. For France, this contract represented the first sale of the aircraft. Rafale in Europe, towards which Paris is seeking to direct its arms exports and encourage cooperation. At the end of May, Croatia followed with an order for 12 used aircraft. Qatar (36 aircraft), Egypt (24) and India (36) are Rafale’s other international customers.
Egypt also confirmed in May a contract for the purchase of 30 additional Rafale. The aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation delivered its first Rafale to Greece in July, a second-hand aircraft taken from the French Air Force fleet like the 11 others to come. Greece has resolved to acquire second-hand equipment in order to have the means to ensure its air superiority in the Aegean more quickly. The main mission of the Rafales will be to ensure the “territorial integrity” of Greece in a context of “potential instability” coming in particular from Turkey, according to the Greek Minister of Defense Nikolaos Panayotopoulos.