Greek Prime Minister Strengthens Defense Relationship with France: Announces French Weapons Deals


By Pierre Tran

Paris -The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said on Sept. 13, 2020 that a planned acquisition of 18 Rafale fighter jets from France would comprise six new and 12 second-hand units, with the first delivery due next year.

“It consists of six new aircraft and 12 which have been used slightly,” Mitsotakis told a news conference, AFP reported.

The first unit is expected in 2021, with the last to be shipped the following year, he added. No financial details were given.

The Greek announcement of a planned order for 18 Rafale underscored the importance of the prospective first sale of the French fighter jet to a European nation.

A drive to re-arm the Greek forces follows heightened tension with Turkey.

That tension is based on competing territorial claims over maritime access around Greek islands in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“Greece has announced its wish to acquire 18 Rafales,” armed forces minister Florence Parly said on social media.

“Excellent news for French aeronautic industry and a first: a European nation wants to acquire Rafale fighter jets.”

The next few months should lead to a contract for the Rafale, the armed forces  ministry said in a Sept. 12 statement.

That fighter deal was part of a wider Greek drive to strengthen the services and arms industry. The 2008 financial crisis hit Greece hard, forcing a freeze in arms acquisition.

Besides the Rafale, the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, announced Sept. 12 plans to acquire four frigates, four MH-60R naval helicopters, heavy torpedoes, missiles for the air force, and anti-tank missiles for the army, said Greek media reports.

Four Meko-200HN frigates will be upgraded, and 15,000 personnel will be recruited over five years.

The planned fighter jet order will allow the Greek air force to retire the oldest Mirage 2000, to fly a Rafale squadron.

That fleet of French-built fighters would be formed from a mix of new aircraft and those previously flown by the French air force, said Greek media reports.

That Greek announcement caught the French arms industry by surprise, with one executive saying, “It is hard to know whether it is good or bad news.”

For the French aeronautics sector, the Greeks appeared to be bearing gifts.

A Greek order would boost the business outlook for the prime contractor, Dassault Aviation, which saw a production gap in 2024-27 for the fighter jet.

The COVID 19 health crisis forced the company to cut sales forecast of its Falcon, while development of a new 6X version of the business jet and further work on that family of civil aircraft weigh on company finances.

Export contracts are critical to Dassault and French subcontractors, as deliveries of the 28 Rafale for the French air force only resume in 2022 under the multiyear military budget law.

Dassault is negotiating for a fifth tranche of Rafale and has called on France to bring forward order and delivery of that batch. If France ordered that fifth batch in 2023, deliveries could be made in 2025 instead of 2027, keeping the production line busy.

Egypt, India and Qatar are the three foreign nations which fly the Rafale, which equips the French air force.

“This announcement illustrates the strength of the partnership that has linked the Greek air force and Dassault Aviation for more than 45 years, and demonstrates the enduring strategic relationship between Greece and France,” Dassault said in a Sept 12 statement.

Greece ordered 40 Mirage F1 from Dassault in 1974, 40 Mirage 2000 in 1985, and 15 Mirage 2000-5 in 2000.

In the latter deal, 10 of the Mirage 2000 were upgraded to 2000-5, with work subcontracted to local industry.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey heightened when Ankara last month sent the Oruc Reis  research ship, escorted by warships, to search for oil and gas in Eastern Mediterranean waters claimed by Greece.

Each side has since held military exercises, and France sent two Rafales and two warships to back up Greece over the territorial dispute.

Dassault has delivered five Rafale to India out of the 36 ordered, and is delivering the fighter to Qatar. Egypt has received all 24 units.

The photo from the meeting with the French President and Greek Prime Minister is taken from the following article: