ATHENS – Coinciding with Turkey stepping up provocations again after a summer ceasefire in verbal shots to keep tourists coming to both countries, Greece is arming itself even further with a purchase of six more French-made Rafale fighter jets.
France's Defense Minister Florence Parly confirmed the deal after Greece's Parliament in January approved buying 18 jets for 2.5 billion euros ($2.95 billion) at a time when tension with Turkey was rising.
“Excellent news. Greece has just announced its intention to buy six extra Rafales. Together we are pushing ahead to build a truly autonomous Europe,” Parly said on Twitter.
The first deal was for 12 used and six new aircraft from Dassault Aviation over two years as France was siding with Greece in a dispute over boundaries in the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean that has brought NATO members Greece and Turkey to the brink of war several times in recent decades.
In July, the first Rafale fighter jet was delivered to Greece, in a ceremony in France at the Dassault's flight test center attended by Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and General Konstantinos Floros, Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA).
The company said that the first six delivered will be used to further train the HAF pilots and technicians in Dassault’s conversion training center in Merignac before they are deployed to the Tanagra base near Athens.
“The Rafale will provide the HAF with a latest-generation multirole fighter, enabling the Hellenic Republic to ensure its geostrategic stance in full sovereignty,” Dassault said in a statement, reported Kathimerini.
“The delivery of the first Rafale is a clear demonstration of France’s determination to meet the government of the Hellenic Republic’s expectations and to participate actively (in protecting) the sovereignty of the country,” it said
France and the United States are in competition to provide the Greek navy with new frigates, while Greece's government recently approved plans to cooperate with Israeli defense electronics firm Elbit Systems to create a new military flight academy in southern Greece.