Greek Parliament Green-Lights Arms Deals with France

Greece’s parliament has cleared the way for two military procurement programs involving French-produced frigates and combat aircraft. Following approval on February 15, the Ministry of Defense may now finalize pending agreements for the purchase of three Belharra class frigates (with an option for a fourth) and six additional Rafale fighters to complement an existing 18-unit order.

The parliamentary approval follows the earlier bilateral defense cooperation agreement signed by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron on September 28, 2021, which effectively launched negotiations on the Greek procurement of three Belharra class “Fregate de Defense et d’Intervention” (FDI) medium-sized frigates.

Under the terms of the EUR3 billion ($3.5 billion) agreement, French naval prime Naval Group will deliver the first two frigates in 2025, followed by the third in 2026, and if Greece picks up the option, then the fourth will arrive in 2027.

For its near- and medium-term procurement plans, Greece intends to procure 12-13 major surface vessels. These will come in the form of new frigates and/or corvettes, as per a statement Prime Minister Mitsotakis made to parliament on October 7, 2021.

Prior to the country’s sovereign debt crisis that erupted in 2009-2010, Greece had outlined a requirement for four to six new multimission frigates (a firm order for four new ships, plus an option for two more).

The sought-after frigates – ostensibly the FREMM design from Naval Group – were slated as a replacement for the Hellenic Navy’s Elli class frigates, originally commissioned in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

However, the economic and financial fallout  Greece suffered during the sovereign debt crisis made this targeted acquisition impractical.

Meanwhile, the additional Rafales will add to the current 18-unit order involving six new-build units and twelve secondhand French Air Force models ordered on January 25, 2021, in a EUR1.92 billion ($2.35 billion) deal.

Delivery of the first secondhand Rafale occurred on July 21, 2021, at Dassault’s flight test center in Istres, followed by five more used models across the ensuing five months. The first new-build units are to arrive over the first half of 2022. The remaining six used Rafales will follow in early 2023.

Greece is also undertaking a fleetwide upgrade of the Hellenic Air Force’s F-16s to the F-16V Viper (Block 70/72) variant and has outlined an intent to purchase of 48 “new-generation” fighters, ostensibly Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs, in which it has expressed interest to Washington.

The recent uptick in Greek defense spending and military procurement follows a decade of budgetary and planned equipment cutbacks, which led to the atrophying of Hellenic armed forces assets and air-sea capability. With Turkey undergoing a two-decade military modernization push and aggressive posture in the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea, the Greek government has shifted gears and opted to jump-start the recapitalization process.

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is a senior analyst covering both the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions for Forecast International's International Military Markets group.

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