ATHENS – After Turkey was barred from acquiring them, Greece’s Air Force wants to get US-made F-35 fighter jets to bolster the country’s arsenal, hopes rising after an amendment in the American Senate tied to the defense budget.
That was co-authored by New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and Florida Republican Marco Rubio in an increasingly rare bipartisan move in the US Senate that has split over ideological lines.
The F-35 is a Fifth-Generation stealth multirole combat aircraft that’s far superior to the American F-16s being used by the Greek Air Force now and could provide a critical advantage in a conflict.
Turkey was prohibited from getting them after buying a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system that undermines NATO, the defense alliance to which Greece and Turkey belong, and which could also be used against Greece.
Some 83 of the F-16s used by the Greek Air Force will be upgraded into a Viper configuration, noted Kathimerini in a report on the possibility of the F-35’s also being added.
Greece also has signed a 2.5 billion euro ($2.81 billion) deal to buy six new and 12 used French-made Rafale fighter jets – and another agreement for French and American warships – further enhancing its military strength.
Senior Air Force officers that have seen the F-35’s capabilities describe it as the “last manned aircraft,” estimating that the sixth generation of multirole aircraft will more likely be unmanned, the report said.
The F-35’s cost is almost prohibitive for some countries though, currently at about $100 million each, although some 720 have been sold to European countries, including those not in NATO such as Finland and Switzerland.
Lockheed Martin managers estimate that Greece can acquire the F-35A, the conventional takeoff and landing variant, for under $80 million each at some point, the report said.
Besides the Rafale fighters, Greece will spend 3.05 billion euros ($3.43 billion) for three advanced French FDI frigate warships, while also being one of the few countries to meet NATO requirements
There is also a time element. Even if Greece does decide to buy the F-35 it will be five years before they can become operational and air bases must be upgraded to handle them, the newspaper said.