Backing up his bellicose rhetoric, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued thumbing his nose at NATO, having fighter jets invade Greek skies 99 times in a likely response to a Hellenic Naval exercise in the Aegean, with tensions ramping up.
The defense alliance to which both countries belong has said nothing about constant Turkish violations of Greek airspace and waters by fighters and warships with worries there could be a conflict, accidental or otherwise.
Forty-six of the violations on June 11 were conducted by fighter jets and the other 53 by CN-235 surveillance aircraft, with GEETHA officials adding that a pair of Turkish F-16s conducted overflights over Kinaros in the eastern Aegean, reported Kathimerini.
Later in the day another two F-16s flew over the eastern Aegean islets of Farmakonisi, Arkoi and Lipsoi. All the Turkish violations took place at high altitudes – between 22,000 and 27,000 feet – but they were over inhabited areas, which, authorities say, has become increasingly more common.
Turkish jets are intercepted by Greek fighter pilots who often engage them in mock dogfights but Erdogan purged his military and air force after a failed 2016 coup attempt against him, putting pilots with less experience in the skies.
Turkey wants to buy more advanced US F-35 fighter jets that would give its pilots an advantage against Greek counterparts but the purchase is on hold because Erdogan is also insisting on buying a Russian S-400 missile defense system that could compromise NATO, even though it’s a member.
Speaking to the US Congress on June 10,, Vice Admiral Mathias Winter, the head of the Pentagon’s F-35 office, said that the “future potential foreign military sales customers include Singapore, Greece, Romania, Spain and Poland.”
But the paper said that doesn’t necessarily mean that Greece will get F-35s as the country has been pursuing upgrades to its aging F-16 fleet and is only now slowly recovering from a nine-year economic crisis that has left little for new aircraft or weapons purchases.
Even if Greece were to proceed with a bid to purchase F-35s, it would concern 15 to 20 jets and this would take place over a period of 10 years, the report also added.