ATHENS – With Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis facing re-election in 2023, the United States is reportedly trying to speed the process of selling Greece 20 F-35 fighter jets and the option of 20 more.
That was done, said Kathimerini, through the the US said to be trying to expedite procedures of response to the Greek letter of request (LoR) with a letter of offer and acceptance (LoA) for the F-35 fighter program.
Those jets were denied Turkey after it went ahead with the purchase of a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system that undermines the security of NATO, to which the US, Greece and Turkey belong, and could be used against Greece in a conflict.
The jets cost $77.9 billion each which means the Greece would have to put out $3.116 billion during a time when the government said it can’t afford to cut the 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on food and needs further defenses against Turkish provocations in the Aegean.
Any response to the procedure is based on calculations taking into account current orders and deliveries, which have already increased since Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, especially over the F-35’s.
It’s unusual for the US and the Pentagon to try to push the procedures but it comes after the US and Greece renewed a military cooperation deal although Mitsotakis, in an address to the US Congress, urged lawmakers to veto President Joe Biden’s plan to sell Turkey more F-16’s and upgrade Turkey’s Air Force.
The Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff Konstantinos Floros and Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos held talks in Washington with Pentagon officials and executives of Lockheed Martin, which makes the jets.
For the deal to go ahead though, the infrastructure to accommodate a fifth-generation aircraft, which currently does not exist in Greece, must also be in place to deal with the advanced aircraft.
The Hellenic Air Force has requested a study on the suitability of three air bases, at Souda Bay on Crete – where the US Navy has a base – as well as Andravida and at Araxos, the paper also said.
The survey is being conducted by teams from the US Air Force and Lockheed Martin with the bases, two in western Greece and the other on Crete, seen part of the Greek Air Force’s choice to keep them away from the Aegan where Turkish fighter jets regularly violate Greek airspace with impunity.
It wasn’t said what military or other value it would have to put the F-35s in an area of Greece where there aren’t any threats as they would give the Air Force a distinct advantage over Turkey’s F-16’s.