Rafale - New Fighter Aircraft / Next Generation Fighter
By the late 1990s, the Hellenic Air Force had a requirement for new jet fighters in 2006 and beyond. In an annual state of the economy speech, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece would obtain 18 French-made Rafale fighter planes to replace its aging Mirage 2000 fighters. In addition to 10 new generation Rafales, the French Air Force will donate 8 Rafale aircraft in the basic variant to Greece. Answering a journalist question, Kyriakos Mitsotakis later clarified that Greece will buy 6 new Rafale aircraft and 12 slightly used ones with the aim of the first planes arriving in the country in mid-2021 and the relevant program if completed by 2022. France welcomed the Rafale acquisition, the first by a European country. “Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly welcomes the choice announced today by Prime Minister Mitsotakis to acquire 18 Rafale aircraft,” a statement by France’s Armed Forces ministry said.
“I am delighted with this announcement, which reinforces the exceptional relationship we have had with Greece for nearly half a century, and I thank the Greek authorities for their confidence in us once again. Dassault Aviation is fully mobilized to meet the operational needs expressed by the Greek Air Force, and thus contribute to ensuring Greece’s sovereignty and the safety of the Greek people,” said Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.
In April 1999 Greece confirmed its intention to join the Eurofighter program with 60 to 90 aircraft to be delivered from 2005 onwards. On 04 April 2001 the Eurofighter Consortium was officially informed of a decision by the Greek Government to delay procurement of a next generation fighter. According to Eurofighter, " This decision comes as a surprise to the four-nation partnership following a period of intense and detailed negotiation by the Eurofighter consortium and partner Governments. The Eurofighter partners believe they have offered Greece a unique opportunity to join Europe's most important defence and aerospace program. Negotiations have focussed on delivery of an advanced swing-role/multi-role weapon system combined with a highly attractive industrial participation agreement."
Although there was a Governmental Council for foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) decision to procure 60-90 Eurofighter jets, the Greek Government had not committed to the Eurofighter consortium. Briefings were provided on the Joint Strike Fighter, (JSF) program to the MOD and HAF. There are co-production opportunities associated with the (JSF), as well as a substantially reduced cost compared to the Eurofighter. Estimated program value is $2.6 billion. However, the final decision was postponed until 2005.
On 25 July 2006, the Greek Government announced plans to spend an estimated EUR 27 billion for arms procurement over the following decade. The first five-year leg of the program does not include appropriations for a new fighter in an apparent effort by the Karamanlis administration to relieve political pressures to buy European aircraft and take some of the strain off the budget, at least temporarily.
Columnists generally agreed that the absence of mention of a new fighter in the procurement announcement signals the postponement of any action on this item for at least three years -- and actually favors the US-built Joint Strike Fighter over the Eurofighter Typhoon. MoD watchers suggested that the Karamanlis government, by postponing decisions on the new fighter, sought to diffuse politico-diplomatic "pressures" from competing manufacturing countries and, also, reduce the strain on the budget, at least temporarily.
Greece was identified by Lockheed Martin officials as one of the possible buyers in presentations to industry in 2007. The presentation mentioned a start of the acquisition process in 2008 with Letter of Acceptance procedure in 2011 and contract finalising late 2011. First F-35As would be delivered early 2014. This was commercial wishful thinking. By 2015 there was no current F-35 RFI running.
By April 2008 the procurement program for a new forth generation fighter aircraft for the Hellenic Air force was on the final phase since the staff procedure had been completed with the decision of Chiefs of General Staffs’ Council (SAGE). Now the only thing remaining was for the Governmental Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) to name the winner. The program was about the procurement of at least 60 fighters, most probably in the form of the immediate procurement of 40 aircraft and an option for additional 20. The Air Force’s Supreme Air Council on the 17 and 18 of April validated the Program Specification Study (MPK) filed by the respective committee of the HAF’s General Staff.
A gap had been created by the retirement of A-7 Corsair IIs, the remaining of the original 60 A-7H/TA-7H Corsair IIs having been withdrawn from active duty. HAF’s fighter force had dropped from the desirable 301 fighters (as declared by the Future Force Structure 2005-2020 approved by KYSEA on July 2005) to 240. It is true of course that during 2009-2010, the deliveries of the 30 new F-16 Block 52+ Advanced will be completed. The committee projected the procurement of 80 more fighters from 2015 onwards in order to counter the Turkish procurement of 100 F-35As and at the same time maintain a number of fighter aircraft close to 300 as planned.
Greek press, rampant with speculation in advance of PM Papandreou's May 9-10, 2010 trip to Paris that France and Germany would support EU assistance aimed at abating Greece's economic crisis, reported 11 February 2010 that the price of this assistance was Greek procurement of European weapons systems, such as the Eurofighter and the French-built FREMM class frigate. Building on a Venizelos statement that Greece's decision to procure its next generation fighter aircraft would be made by the end of 2010, media outlets reported that the GoG had likely decided already to go with the Eurofighter, given German pressure.
Defense Minister Venizelos reassured the press that these reports were inaccurate, and that Greece's fighter procurement, which would not be decided until December 2010, would proceed in a transparent, open framework.
With the Eurofighter, there was a decision, but they were not acquired. Greece would become the first export user of Eurofighter. On March 8, 2000, the government of Kostas Simitis announced its intention (in large undertaking, despite the fact that no contract or agreement had been signed) to supply 60 Eurofighter-Typhoon fighters with an option of 30 more. It was, in fact, a promise by the government in Germany that it was pushing for Eurofighter that this fighter would be the next one to be acquired by the Air Force. The decisionis controversial because of fears that high defense outlays would undermine Greece’schances of achieving a budget surplus by 2003 in line with future commitments to the terms of the euro-zone’s stability and growth pact. The “promise-commitment”, as you might call it, for the 60 + 30 Eurofighter-Typhoon supply never materialized.
The government of Kostas Karamanlis announced a 'surprise' order of 30 F-16C/D Block 52+ Advanced in July 2005. The upgrade of the F-16s was agreed upon by Tsipras' visit to Washington when he met with Trump in 2017. The 84 F-16 BLOCK 52 upgrade to VIPER is completed and the Block 50 to F-16 Block 52 M conversion was completed.
The Hellenic Air Force (HAF) had an operational near term requirement for 30-40 fighter aircraft. With already established "rock star"-like status in Greece, French President Sarkozy's 06 June 2008 visit to Athens solidified Athens' perception of him as Greece's closest partner within the EU. Greek officials responded warmly to Sarkozy's statements of the need for greater "significance to European defense and security policy." Sarkozy also pressed Athens to purchase French military equipment. Rumors abounded that Sarkozy left with Greek commitment to purchase Rafale jets, and that Sarkozy made headway in selling French frigates. The F-16 is the most likely candidate for the interim/near term solution from an operational and cost effective point of view. European weapons such as the Eurofighter and the Rafale will be difficult to justify and support, given that Greece would incur substantial costs associated with operating a new model of fighter aircraft.
Greece will pay a total of 2.3 billion euros ($2.8 billion) under a deal it is due to sign soon with France for the purchase of 18 Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets, its government spokesman said on 17 December 2020. Greece will buy six newly-built and 12 second-hand Rafale jets for 1.92 billion euros and pay another 400 million for their equipment. The first six used jets will be delivered around June and the rest by the middle of 2023.
France was completing the sale of 18 Rafale jets to Greece ahead of January 2021, when French defence minister Florence Parly is to visit Athens to sign it. The sale will make Greece the first European client for the advanced plane, in a deal valued at 2.5bn euros ($3bn). Rafale will be stationed at Tanagra Air Base.
For Rafale, the deal reached 1.8 billion euros just for their purchase. An additional € 120 million will be allocated for four-year support alone, and another € 300 million for their armaments, which are not in the financial package. These are the Meteor air-to-air missiles that will give Greece an asymmetric advantage in the Aegean and concern the largest amount of 300 million euros. The rest will go to receipts, or even purchases of new pieces from existing weapons (Exocet, Scalp, MICA). The total "package" amounts to approximately 2.2 billion euros.
Greece is in such a hurry to acquire the Rafale, it pressed France to deliver the first squadron by May 2021, six months ahead of the original schedule. Tactically, the Rafale allows Greece to strike anywhere within Turkey, having a range of up to 3,700km, twice that of the Mirage and four times that of the F-16. It carries the most advanced European missiles, the Meteor, Mica, Scalp and Exocet. It also carries a 200km-radius radar capable of tracking 40 targets and engaging eight of them, enabling it to act as a force co-ordinator. Greece believes it can thus increase its deterrent capability against a Turkish first strike.
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