Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Israel To Get Billion Dollar Contract To Train Hellenic Air Force Pilots Amid Rising Greece-Turkey Tensions

Greece and Israel will be signing a $1.68-billion deal, under which the latter will set up a flight academy for the training of Hellenic Air Force (HAF) pilots and provide them with trainer jets.

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According to the deal, which is yet to be signed, Israeli aerospace and defense company Elbit Systems will set up and operate the training school for the HAF pilots.

The Greek government approved a $1.68 billion agreement for the purchase of training aircraft from Israel and for the setting up of a flight school for the HAF, the Israeli Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

According to the deal, which is yet to be signed, Israeli aerospace and defense company Elbit Systems will set up and operate a training school for the Greek Air Force pilots.

Reports suggest the HAF flight school will be located at Kalamata on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. The curriculum of the new academy is expected to be based on the one followed by the Israeli Air Force (IAF).

fighter-jet
Lockheed Martin F-16CJ Fighting Falcon – Greece Air Force Wikimedia Commons

Under the agreement, Greece will also procure 10 new M-346 advanced jet trainers called ‘Lavi’. According to the Defence Ministry, the 20-year deal is “the largest defense procurement agreement between the two countries to date”.

The ministry stated that the Greek government’s decision “enables the parties to move forward in the negotiations” before the inking of the contract.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a statement, in which he said, “This agreement reflects the excellent and developing relations we have with Greece. It is a long-term partnership that will serve the interests of both Israel and Greece, create hundreds of jobs in both countries, and promote stability in the Mediterranean.”

“In the phone call that I received after the agreement was approved, I thanked my friend, the Greek Minister of Defense, Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, and expressed my appreciation for his personal involvement in advancing this project.”

The whopping $1.68 billion defense deal includes the maintenance and upgrade of Greece’s T-6 Texan II turboprop trainer aircraft.

It will also involve the provision of simulators, training aids, and logistic support, for a period of 20 years, which are aimed at overhauling the flight training capabilities of the nation.

According to reports, both the M-346s and the modernized T-6s will be equipped with Elbit avionics. However, it is not clear whether Greece will immediately procure the M-346s or if Elbit will be provided on a contractor-owned, contractor-operated basis.

The M-346 jet trainer is a popular advanced jet trainer that is already in service with the likes of Italy, Poland, and Singapore, apart from Israel, which had bought 30 aircraft.

The new jet trainers will come at a time when Greece has been in dire need of replacing its old fleet of T-2 Buckeye aircraft.

The HAF was one of the two export customers for the T-2, which was originally designed for the United States Navy as a carrier-capable trainer. In 2015, Washington chose on retiring the very last of its T-2s and replaced it with T-45 Goshawks.

The new deal is a significant step towards increasing military cooperation between Greece.

Last year in November, Defense Minister Grantz had inked a deal with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts in order to boost military cooperation between the three nations.

All three have developed close relations amid the regional tension in the Eastern Mediterranean over offshore gas exploration rights. The nations are also partners in a project to bring gas from fields in Israeli and potentially other nations’ waters through an undersea pipeline to the mainland of Europe.

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