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22 May, 2022
 
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Greece’s first six Rafale jets mark arrival with salute over Acropolis

Rafale jets have advanced electronics and weapons systems that will give Greece's air force an advantage over Turkey’s much larger military

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

The first six Rafale fighter jets Greece has purchased from France as part of a new defense agreement flew over the Acropolis in a salute on Wednesday after making the journey from Istres near Marseilles to Athens.

The jets are being formally delivered to the Tanagra Air Base in the capital’s north, during a ceremony that will be attended by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and is being broadcast live by state television ERT.

“Athens’ efforts are paying off big. … These relationships provide Greece with much-needed strategic depth,”

“It’s a special moment for our strategic partnership with France, but also for our joint vision of European defense,” Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Politico’s Playbook on Wednesday morning.

“These superior next-generation aircraft multiply the deterrent power of our air force and strengthen our ability to respond to any security challenge in the region,” he said.

Greece initially bought 18 of the French jets at a cost of €2.3 billion in late 2020 and ordered another six in September.

The passage of aircraft over the Acropolis

NATO allies Greece and Turkey have longstanding disagreements over boundaries and oil-and-gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean, a dispute that flared into a tense naval stand-off in 2020.

Turkey and Greece mount competing air force patrols in the eastern Aegean Sea around Greek islands facing Turkey’s coastline. The tensions in the region prompted Athens to speed up its military upgrade program and strengthen defense ties with allies France and the United States.

Michael Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said Greece had also developed military cooperation with Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

“Athens’ efforts are paying off big. … These relationships provide Greece with much-needed strategic depth,” Tanchum said.

The delivery of the French jets to Greece will be completed in January 2025, military officials said.

Greek officials say the Rafale jets have advanced electronics and weapons systems that will give its air force an advantage while confronting Turkey’s much larger military.

Turkey’s air force modernization drive suffered a setback in 2019 when the United States dropped Turkey from its F-35 program over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

[With information from AP]

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Cyprus  |  Greece  |  Turkey

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