The Hellenic Air Force (HAF) introduced its first batch of secondhand Dassault Rafale combat aircraft on January 19. Operated by its 332 Squadron, these Rafales landed at Tanagra air base for a service introduction ceremony attended by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Defense Minister Nikolas Panagiotopoulos following a flyover of the Acropolis. Delivery of the first unit – a two-seat Rafale B variant – occurred on July 21, 2021, at Dassault’s flight test center in Istres.
Watch: Six new Rafale fighter jets land in Athens, the first planes purchased under a defense deal with #France that has further stirred tensions with #Greece’s historic rival and NATO partner #Turkey.https://t.co/0gJ7xAk1Qh pic.twitter.com/l8XvktyL4Z
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) January 20, 2022
Greece is acquiring 18 of the French-built twin-engine multirole Rafales as part of a modernization initiative aimed at bolstering the HAF’s combat aircraft fleet. The Rafales will replace the older, non-modernized Mirage 2000s purchased by Greece back in 1985.
The Rafale procurement involves six new-build models and 12 secondhand units (F3-O4T variants delivered to the French Air Force between 2012 and 2018), with the latter intended to defray some of the overall cost.
The estimated EUR1.92 billion ($2.35 billion) deal became official on January 25, 2021, with another EUR400 million allocated for the procurement of MDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs) to equip the fighters, as well as Scalp cruise missiles and Exocet anti-ship missiles to upgrade the HAF inventory.
In addition, Greece intends to acquire six additional Rafales, per a statement by Prime Minister Mitsotakis on September 11, 2021.
Athens is also eyeing a procurement of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters, with Greek publication Proto Thema reporting that an official Letter of Request (LoR) from the Hellenic Ministry of Defense was sent to the U.S. government on November 6, 2020. Any acquisition will be undertaken through an elongated process, though the Hellenic Armed Forces’ latest force structure plan (2020-2025) calls for 48 new-generation fighters, which would appear to preclude the addition of Rafale aircraft under the “new-generation” nomenclature.