Greece Announces Intentions To Acquire Fifth-Generation F-35 Fighter Jets From The US

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with US President Joe Biden while in Washington for official talks. Biden and Mitsotakis discussed a variety of topics, including the 201st anniversary of the two nations’ establishment of diplomatic relations, defense cooperation, and the Russia-Ukraine war. Later, US President Joe Biden hosted a reception at the White House for Greek President Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his family, whom he met in the Oval Office. Following the meeting, at a reception, Mitsotakis declared that his country would begin the process of purchasing a squadron of F-35 fighter jets from the United States.

In his statement, Prime Minister Mitsotakis stated that they will maintain their long-term defense cooperation with the United States, adding, “we will launch the process for the acquisition of a squadron of F-35 aircraft. And we do hope to be able to add this fantastic plane to the Greek air force before the end of this decade. And I’m happy that on Friday, Lockheed Martin officially expressed its interest in investing in Hellenic Aerospace.”

In a statement to Greek SKAI radio, Greek Government Spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni assessed Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ interactions in the United States. Peloni stated that they wish to join in the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet program, as Mitsotakis stated at the White House reception, and that the required budgetary room will be made available. According to Peloni, “Greece will send a request to the United States to participate in the F-35 program and to purchase fighter jets. We will create the necessary financial means for this and we will gradually start negotiations with the United States.”

Although the Greek government has been discussing the purchase of F-35s for some time, Prime Minister Mitsotakis was the first to bring it up with President Biden. However, until the US makes an official statement, Mitsotakis’ statements are merely declarations of intent. In November 2020, the Greek government sent an official request to the US government for the purchase of F-35 fighter jets. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a military aid bill in 2021 that included the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Greece, but the bill was never passed by the US Senate General Assembly. Since then, despite this and other similar announcements and activity, Greece’s F-35 program has remained unofficial. The Greek media saw the issue as the United States prioritizing Germany and Finland in F-35 orders while delaying Greece’s requests.

Greece has increased its air force investments in recent years as a result of the ongoing tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. The US State Department approved a $2.4 billion program in October 2017 to upgrade Greek F-16s to the Viper configuration, which improves them significantly. Lockheed Martin has commenced work on upgrading 84 Hellenic Air Force Fighting Falcon F-16 Block 52 fighter jets to the F-16 Block 70/72 Viper configuration as part of the program. On January 17, 2021, the first of 84 Greek F-16 fighters upgraded to the F-16V Viper standard took off for the first time.

The first Rafale aircraft delivered to Greece in July of last year / From the official website of the Greek Ministry of National Defense

In addition to the F-16s, Greece signed a contract with France on January 25, 2021 for 18 Rafale fighter jets. Greece later increased its order to 24 aircraft, with an additional order of 6 Rafale fighters. In January 2022, Greece officially received the first batch of Rafale fighter jets. The newly delivered aircraft were then assigned to Tanagra Air Base.