Ankara’s recent decision to order 24 Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft has brought to the fore a discussion that has been taking place for some years within the Greek armed forces about how Greece can maintain its deterrent capabilities vis a vis Turkey without entering into an arms race with its neighbor.
The negative experience from the excessive spending on defense between 1996 and 2005 and the fiscal pressure on Athens, which is being asked to slash military expenditure by 400 million euros next year, means that only the absolutely necessary tasks are being taken care of.
Turkey will not take delivery of the F-35s it has ordered for some time. Initially, Turkish pilots will travel to the US to undergo training into how to fly the aircraft but it is expected that the first F-35s, which will be initially delivered in batches of four, will not be fully operational before 2021 at the earliest.
Although Defense Minister Panos Kammenos suggested on September 14 that Greece would like to obtain the latest military aircraft, it is thought that it will have to make do with upgrading its existing ones for the time being. It currently costs around 100,000 dollars to purchase an F-35 single-engine fighter, meaning that Athens would need 2 billion euros to build a squadron of 20 airplanes.
Instead, though, Greek authorities have chosen to upgrade the existing fleet of F-16s for a lower cost.
Athens is also looking into the possibility of obtaining from the US a decommissioned Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer.
Sources said that Washington is keen to help Athens in the supply of military equipment, as it is keen for Greece to be able to have strong defense capabilities during a period of unrest in the wider region.