As the UAE’s F-35 dream is coming closer to becoming a reality, experts speculate that Abu Dhabi could sell some of its older F-16 jets to Greece which is entangled in a bitter conflict with Turkey.
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The two countries have already seen increased defence cooperation in recent months when UAE dispatched four of its F-16s to Greece to undertake joint exercises with the Hellenic Air Force. Turkey was so infuriated that it threatened to shoot down any UAE fighter jet if it attempted to violate its airspace.
However, the recent UAE-Israel peace agreement has changed the equations in the Middle East. Recently, it was reported that a formal deal with the United States might be signed by December 2020, to acquire an estimated 12 F-35s.
Currently, the Arab nation’s air force operates around 80 F-16s, and according to speculations, Abu Dhabi might be reconsidering the amount of jets it can effectively put to use after the arrival of F-35s.
While it has given no indication so far about its F-16s to be put on sale, it may not need 80 of them following the American deal.
The UAE’s F-16s are one of the most advanced in the world, the Block 60 variant, which is just one step before its most advanced successor, the Block-70/72 “Viper” jets. It already comes with conformal fuel tanks, an APG-80 AESA radar, an integrated electronic warfare system and secure communication systems. Athens has already allocated a budget of $1.5 billion to upgrade 84 of its F-16s to Block-70/72 Viper standard.
It should be remembered that the Greek government has already recently secured a deal with France for 18 Rafale jets, also facilitating its naval expansion by acquiring 4 frigates and 4 naval helicopters. Under the expansion programme, it would increase the size of its armed forces by 15,000 more troops over the next 5 years.
While Greece has already signed an agreement with France for its Rafales, another deal with the UAE for F-16s could question the credibility of the Turkish Air Force.