One year after Greece placed an order for French-made Rafale fighter jets, the first six aircraft are expected on Wednesday at Tanagra Air Base and will be delivered during a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The initial order was for 18 jets, and in September Athens added another six to bolster Greece’s diplomatic clout in view of Turkey’s ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The total cost of the aircraft is estimated at 3.3 billion euros, with Athens also planning to acquire three Belharra frigates from the French shipyard Naval Group for between 3 and 5 billion euros. Greece has also expressed an interest in purchasing five Gowind corvettes from the Naval Group.
“Greece’s position has changed in the eyes of its international partners. The country overcame the economic crisis, the immigration shock and stopped begging for capital. Instead, it again became an important partner for defense programs and contracts. Do not forget that when President [Emmanuel] Macron travels to Greece, he is accompanied by important businessmen,” said Dorothee Schmid, head of the Middle East and Turkey Program at the French Institute of International Relations.
In 2021, Greece’s annual defense budget reached 5.5 billion euros, a sharp 41% increase compared to 2020.
At the same time, the Greek-French alliance has irritated Ankara, especially after the signing of a strategic agreement with a mutual assistance clause in case of a border threat. Greece has also agreed to send troops to the Sahel region in West Africa to assist France.
In addition, Athens signed a contract for the training of Greek pilots in Israel, along with defense cooperation agreements with the United Arab Emirates and the US, while the possibility of Greece acquiring American-made F-35 fighter jets remains open.
French President Macron and Mitsotakis are the two most ardent supporters of Europe’s strategic autonomy.
France’s presence in the East Med reinforces these ambitions, while for Greece, such diplomatic agreements have become necessary to curb Turkish aggression.