As part of a growing arsenal being built in the face of Turkish aggression, Greece now has the first of 18 French-made Rafale fighter jets that was delivered as part of a 2.5 billion-euro ($2.94 billion) deal.
It came from Dassault Aviation in a ceremony at the company’s flight test center in Istres, southern France that was attended by Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and General Konstantinos Floros, Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA).
Twelve of the fighter jets are used and six will be new, the company saying 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.
Along with American-made planes such as the F-16, Greece has long relied on French fighters since the 1970s, including newer series of the Mirage jet, with Dassault Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier describing the Rafale as a “strategic game changer” for Greece.
He said “The Rafale is now proudly flying with the Hellenic Air Force colors,” adding that it :will play an active role by securing Greece’s leadership as a major regional power,” especially with Turkey now barred from buying US-made F-35 fighter jets after acquiring a Russian-made S400 missile defense system.