ATHENS, GREECE — At least one fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II will operate in the Balkans. However, the country that will acquire them will not be Turkey. This will be Greece, according to the words of the Minister of National Defense of Greece, Mr. Nikos Panaiotopoulos.
- F-16 Block 70 for Turkey only if it does not violate Greek airspace
- Greece received two F-16 Block 52+ upgraded to Block 70 standard
- Greece sends LoR to acquire 20 F-35s, Spain and Romania could be next
Speaking to TV channel ERT 1, the minister expressed his positives and hopes. According to him, the first fighter from the first batch of F-35 for Greece will arrive in 2028. Greece has requested the purchase of 20 fighter jets with an option to purchase 20 more.
Mr. Panayiotopoulos explained the complexity of the process. 2028 is the optimal option for the delivery of the first fighter if everything goes smoothly in the negotiations. He recalled that the characteristics and specifications, as well as the terms of the contract, are yet to be specified. This process takes time, the minister said. However, he stressed that concluding such deals generally takes time worldwide.
BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that Athens has already received good news from Washington. On February 8th of this year, ERT 1 reported that US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez [D-NJ] approved the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Greece. This later led to the established process of US administration approval and defense treaty ratification.
Turkey will seek a solution
The good news for Greece is unpleasant for Turkey. The two neighboring countries have been engaged in political and territorial disputes for years, sometimes accompanied by incidents. It can be argued that the acquisition of the F-35 by Greece is a serious blow to the ambitions and image of Turkish diplomacy. We remind you – after Turkey acquired the Russian air defense system S-400, Washington made a unilateral decision that Ankara no longer participates in their program for modern fighters. Thus, Turkey lost its right to acquire nearly 100 F-35 fighter jets.
Turkey is forced to seek a solution. At this stage, the main issue is how Ankara should proceed with the modernization of its existing fleet of F-16s. To date, the Turks have managed to develop technologies similar to the American ones and have begun a serious modernization process of the F-16. New AESA radars and missiles are part of this whole “local package”.
But Ankara needs fighter jets. Therefore, he hopes that in Washington they will discourage the sale of dozens of F-16 Block 70/72 – the last version of the legendary Falcon. At the same time, Turkey will most likely rely on its fifth-generation fighter. In recent months, Ankara has stepped up the development of the indigenous TF-X. In fact, if all goes according to plan, its first flight is expected around the time of the first F-35 delivery to Greece.
Greece increases its combat capability
Undoubtedly, the acquisition of the F-35 in the current decade by Greece will seriously increase the combat capability of the Greek Air Force. It can be said that they are becoming the leader of the Balkans. Especially since the already-arrived French Rafales will fly alongside the F-35 in a few years.
Greece received an unexpected gift from France. As Mr. Panayiotopoulos said in the same television interview, very rarely in the history of the bilateral arms trade has the process of acquiring such sophisticated equipment happened so quickly.
Greek Rafales have been in the country’s air bases for almost a year now. Of course not all. Greece ordered 24 fighters and received the first nine literally within a month. The remaining 15 are expected to arrive in the coming years.
Relations between Greece and the USA
Historically, the two countries have continued their good relations for decades. Greece enjoys good connections and lobbying in Washington.
It is the same in military terms. For example, the Greek F-16s date back to a history between the two countries dating back to the late 1980s. Then Greece cooperated with the US on the F-16 program. Historical records show that the last F-16s acquired by Greece was in 2009. Then 30 F-16 Block 52+ Advanced aircraft were arriving in the Balkan country.
In recent years, Athens decided to upgrade its fleet of F-16s. The upgrade is in progress and all solitaires will be upgraded to Viper level. The first modernized Greek Viper even arrived at the end of last year. A total of 83 aircraft will be upgraded.
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