Speed ​​is the key in the competition between the F-35 and Rafale … for Greece

This post was published in Defence24. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


WARSAW, (BM) – It was known that the United States had agreed to sell 20 F-35A multi-role aircraft to Greece. Its source is the Greek media, which are pleased to add that some of these machines were previously intended for Turkey, and will now receive “white and blue markings”. The most interesting, however, is information about the date of delivery of the first machines.

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At the outset, it should be noted that the revelations about the US approval to sell the F-35A to Greece are a bit exaggerated. The US parliament has not yet issued a formal consent to sell these aircraft under the FMS [Foreign Military Sales] procedure.

The Greek newspaper Estia, which published the information, however, cites talks between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Greek authorities during his recent visit to Athens. It seems that there are no formal obstacles to sell such planes to Greece, which is a loyal member of the North Atlantic Alliance and – contrary to the Arab states [United Arab Emirates, Qatar] declaring their willingness to buy these planes – will not raise Israel’s objections. Therefore, inquiring and granting approval for the sale of aircraft may turn out to be just a formality.

The sale of Greek planes is therefore very likely, especially as it will be a signal for Turkey, which is increasingly ignoring the US and the European Union. One element of the reports is that the Greeks would finance and probably pick up the first F-35 already in 2022 – 3-4 years earlier than, for example, Poles who placed the order almost a year ago. At this express pace, six machines would be delivered, which Lockheed Martin has either already built for Turkey, or which will be half-finished and previously intended for this customer.

Let us recall that in July this year there was information about the purchase by the decision of the US Department of Defense of just six finished Turkish F-35s for about half the price from the manufacturer. It was then reported that these machines would power the US Air Force. At the same time, it was then announced that there are 24 more in “various stages of construction”, which were also created for the Turkish client and partner of the Joint Strike Fighter program.

Regardless of whether the Greeks will take over the planes already ready or those that will be completed, they caught the Turkish “slots” and took a good place in the queue, in addition, previously belonging to their geopolitical rival. This raises the question why the Americans decided (if reports are confirmed) to make such a nod towards Athens, especially since the US Air Force needs to implement the F-35 in the shortest possible time.

The first reason is, of course, political – it is a clear signal to Turkey, as well as strengthening and reassuring Greece’s position, in which Washington has been clearly investing recently. The second reason is economic. Only in August, information appeared that Greece purchased 18 Rafale planes from France. The contract for them is to be signed at the end of this year. Twelve of them are to be delivered in a very fast manner and will be machines previously used by the French air and space forces.

Considering that the Rafale is not a particularly cheap plane and it is difficult to talk about a favorable cost-effect ratio of this design, the Greeks made this purchase largely because of the possibility of a quick first batch – as well as political and military support from France in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. Hence the American proposal to quickly deliver the first batch of six aircraft, thanks to which the Greek pilots will have time to train before the remaining 14 aircraft are manufactured.

It is worth adding that the current fleet of Greek combat aircraft also consists of American and French machines. The main backbone of these forces is the 153 F-16C / D (part is currently being modernized with the F-16V package, plus more than 30 already coming down F-4 Phantom II), but also 42 Mirage 2000s are maintained. due to IFF systems that do not necessarily identify Turkish targets as allies.

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