Defense Chief Says Greece Will Look at Buying F-35s to Counter Turkey

Αssociated Press

FILE - Greek defense chief Evangelos Apostolakis during a NATO meeting in Brussel. (Photo by Eurokinissi/NATO)

With Turkey – which regularly violates Greek airspace – wanting to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets as pilots from both countries engage in mock dogfights, Greece reportedly is mulling buying the new jets too after saying it wanted to upgrade its aging fleet of American F-16 fighters.

Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis, a former Naval commander who headed the country's Armed Forces, said the F-35 purchases could be on the table, said Kathimerini, without explaining from where the money would come as they cost up to $89 million each.

“Beyond the upgrade of the F-16 fighter jets, we are in the process of selecting a new plane for Greece, so we can gradually move to the new generation of aircraft,” he told journalists during a visit to Andravida Air Base, western Peloponnese.

“The statement by the US Congress helps in this perspective. We will examine it, all the elements, and see what will happen,” he added.

Locked in a dispute with Turkey, which wants to buy US-made F-35’s as well as a Russian missile defense system, the United States was reportedly mulling letting Greece as well as Romania and Poland – buy the fighter jets, a move that could escalate tension with Moscow.

The US wants to let five countries who are European allies get the jets, a Pentagon official told Congress. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned NATO and the US and its allies from getting too bold near his country’s border.

Greece was anxious that Turkey would have a far superior airplane in the F-35 compared to the F-16s that Greek pilots use, that Greece wants to upgrade as there are frequent violations of Greek airspace that see pilots between the countries engage in mock dogfights.

In written testimony submitted to the US House of Representatives seen by Reuters, Vice Admiral Mathias Winter – the head of the Pentagon’s F-35 office – said that “future potential Foreign Military Sales customers also include Singapore and Spain.

Foreign military sales like those of the F-35 are considered government-to-government deals where the Pentagon acts as an intermediary between the defense contractor and a foreign government. Finland, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates want the jets too.