France has handed over the first Rafale fighter jet to Greece’s Hellenic Air Force under a deal signed earlier this year, French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation announced on Wednesday.
The handover ceremony took place at the Dassault Flight Test Center in the Istres commune in southern France. Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos attended the event.
The Rafale fighter will be transferred to the Greek airbase Tanagra on the Attic peninsula after the pilots and technicians of the Greek Air Force complete their training in France.
The Rafale will provide the HAF with the latest-generation multirole fighter, enabling the Hellenic Republic to ensure its geostrategic stance in full sovereignty. The delivery of the first Rafale is a clear demonstration of France’s determination to meet the government of the Hellenic Republic expectations and to participate actively to the sovereignty of the country, the Press Kit from Dassault read.
“Following the Mirage F1 in 1974, the Mirage 2000 in 1985 and the Mirage 2000-5 in 2000, the Rafale is now proudly flying with the Hellenic Air Force colors. The Rafale is a Strategic Game-Changer for the HAF. It will play an active role by securing Greece’s leadership as a major regional power. I would like to reaffirm our total commitment to the success of the Rafale in Greece,” said Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.
In January, France signed a deal with Greece for eighteen French-made Rafale fighters, including twelve used aircraft and six new. The first six used aircraft were set to begin arriving in Greece six months after the contract was signed. The total cost of the squadron of 18 aircraft is 1.92 billion euros ($2.26 billion).
“Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, today a contract for the sale of 12 Rafale aircraft with Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Forces. These aircraft will replace the 12 Rafales of the French Air and Space Force (FASF) sold to the Hellenic Air Force [Greek military air forces],” the company’s statement read in January.
It noted that the deal was signed during the minister’s visit to a company production plant in the southeastern French Haute-Savoie department.
The signing ceremony was attended by French Defense Minister Florence Parly who also met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in his residence.
“We welcome the French defense minister to Greece at a truly historic moment of signing of the agreement for the purchase of 18 Rafale aircraft, which will become a new squadron of the Hellenic Air Force and launch a weapon upgrade program in the three branches of the armed forces,” Mitsotakis had stated said during the meeting earlier.
The prime minister added that a new chapter is opening in the long history of military cooperation between Paris and Athens, while the Greek defense industry will see new opportunities. According to Parly, the deal on the purchase of fighter jets will further strengthen the cooperation between French and Greek military forces.