Six of the 18 Rafale fighter jets purchased by Greece as part of a massive defense program announced in 2020 in response to tensions between Turkey and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, were delivered to the Tanagra Air Base in Athens on Wednesday, January 19, from Dassault Aviation facilities in Istria, France.
After a 2.5-hour trip from France, the aircraft flew over the Acropolis of Athens with the Hellenic Air Force’s 332nd Squadron’s Mirage 2000-5 aircraft before landing at Tanagra. The Rafale aircraft were greeted by a large delegation at Tanagra Air Base after the flight.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Defense Minister Nikos Panayotopulos, Chief of Staff Konstantinos Floros, Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier, French Ambassador to Athens Patrick Maisonnave, and other senior Greek officials were present at the welcoming ceremony.
Speaking at the ceremony, Prime Minister Mitsotakis stated that with the acquisition of Rafale-type aircraft for the Hellenic Air Force, Greece gained significant regional power. According to Mitsotakis, the acquisition of the aforementioned aircraft is an important indicator of Greece and France’s strategic cooperation. Mitsotakis stated that they do not need permission from anyone to purchase Rafale fighter aircraft, adding, “We keep the windows of dialogue open with the same determination that we keep our doors closed against every threat. I’ll never get tired of saying it,” Finally, Mitsotakis expressed gratitude to the Greek pilots who transported the planes from France to Greece.
Éric Trappier, Dassault’s CEO, said at the end of the ceremony:
“The mastery with which the Hellenic Air Force carried out this first ferry flight is a testimony to the excellence of our cooperation and the strength of our historical relationship with Greece for more than 45 years. Thanks to our mobilization, we were able to meet the expectations of the Greek authorities in record time, who now have the Rafale on national territory to reinforce the protection and sovereignty of the country. It also attests to the outstanding quality of our aircraft, confirmed by its export success. Lastly, it reflects our total commitment to meeting the needs of the HAF and to participating in Greece’s strategic ambitions”.
On January 25, 2021, Greece signed a contract with France for a total of 18 Rafale fighter jets, 6 new and 12 used, for a total of 2.32 billion Euros. Greece later increased the number of aircraft ordered to 24 with a contract for the purchase of an additional 6 units. The first of the 12 second-hand aircraft arrived in Greece in July of last year. Greece, which has received seven of the eighteen aircraft, including the six Rafales delivered today, will receive the remaining six of the eleven aircraft by the end of 2022, and the remaining five aircraft by the end of 2023.
Two of the six Rafales that have been delivered are two-seaters. The two-seater aircraft will be used to train future Rafale fighter pilots in Greece. The remaining four aircraft will be operational. The Rafales, which will be assigned to the Hellenic Air Force’s 332 Squadron, of the 114th combat air wing, replacing 18 Mirage 2000s, which have been in service for many years.