Tuesday, May 24

Greece receives its first Rafale delivered by France

Three Rafale fighter jets flying over Athens, January 19, 2022. ARIS MESSINIS

Six Rafale fighter jets ordered from France by Greece landed on the Greek military base of Tanagra on Wednesday, the first delivery of a Franco-Greek partnership intended to strengthen European defense and counter Turkish ambitions in the Mediterranean.

Athens, faced with recurring tensions with neighboring Turkey, signed a contract with Paris a year ago, worth around 2.5 billion euros, for the delivery of 18 Rafales – twelve used and six nines.

After an aerial demonstration and a brief ceremony in front of the six Rafales lined up on the tarmac, the French ambassador to Athens Patrick Maisonnave welcomed the fact that “only 16 months separate” the first Greek announcement and “the arrival of these first six devices today in Tanagra”.

“It’s, I think, unheard of,” he said of the Tanagra base.

After these six reconditioned aircraft, received on Wednesday, six new combat aircraft will be delivered to Greece from the summer of 2022 and six other used aircraft in 2023, Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier told AFP. calling it a “historic moment” the arrival of the Rafale “in a European country, a NATO country”, a “first”.

Greece also announced in September 2021 the purchase of six additional new aircraft. “Everything is ready” and the signing of the contract for delivery on July 1, 2024 is imminent, added Mr. Trappier, on the tarmac at Tanagra.

These “combat planes make our air force one of the most powerful in Europe and the Mediterranean”, welcomed Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Tanagra.

He welcomed “this first acquisition of combat aircraft after a decade” of Greek economic crisis, stressing that these aircraft “enhance Greece at the operational, technological and geopolitical level” and continue “the tradition of Greek-French cooperation in defence”.

With the unprecedented financial crisis that hit Greece between 2009 and 2018, the country froze its arms program. The Greek economy is still recovering and under surveillance from its international creditors, EU and IMF.

– Opposition reactions –

As the conservative government brags about the ‘reinforcement’ of the Greek military, left-wing opposition parties have slammed a tweet from the right-wing ruling New Democracy (ND) party that aired on Tuesday displaying a fighter jet accompanied by caption “They are coming” and the Greek and French flags.

“No party in the contemporary history of the country has transformed the purchase of armaments into a partisan spot,” lamented the leader of the main left-wing opposition party Alexis Tsipras.

For its part, the center-left Kinal party also called “a shame” “the use of arms purchases with taxpayers’ money, who are suffering the consequences of the pandemic and rising prices, in a ND communication propaganda”.

The Conservative government’s decision to negotiate with Paris was taken in September 2020 by Athens in response to Turkey’s gas explorations and its shows of force in waters in the eastern Mediterranean disputed with Greece and Cyprus.

France then sided with Athens and sent Rafales and warships in the face of the deployment of Turkish military and prospecting vessels.

Turkey, a NATO member country that has historically difficult relations with neighboring Greece, also a NATO member, had criticized the agreement, saying it threatened “regional peace and stability”.

– “Mutual assistance” –

At the end of September, a few days after the shock of the Australian submarine crisis, a new Franco-Greek agreement was signed concerning an order by Athens for three defense and intervention frigates (FDI), for an amount of “1 ‘order of three billion euros’.

The three frigates (named Belharra for export) will be built in France by Naval Group and delivered to the Greek Navy in 2025 and 2026. The agreement also covers an optional fourth frigate.

This order provides for a clause of mutual assistance by “all appropriate means” if the two countries “jointly find that an armed attack is occurring against the territory” of one of the two.


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