Amid reports of Russia offering to mediate between Greece and Turkey to diffuse escalating tensions between the two Mediterranean neighbors, experts believe that once Athens lays hand on F-35s and Rafales jets, Turkey would stand no chance in an aerial skirmish.
Now, with the rising military activities by the likes of Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, France, and Italy pointing towards an uncertain conflict in the future, Greece’s decision to upgrade its Air Force’s inventory may pay them huge dividends in the future.
Unlike the scenario with Turkey, who was ousted from the F-35 Programme by the United States, the acquisition of US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters would help Athens to emerge as a dominant player in the region.
At the beginning of the year, following Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s visit to Washington, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos had said that the nation intends to seal a contract worth $3 billion to procure at least 24 stealthy fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighter jets from the US.
While the lengthy acquisition process is set to begin after 2024, Panagiotopoulos said that the F-35s, which are the most sought-after fighters in the world, will help them achieve “air superiority over Turkey” in the future.
The F-35 stealth fighters are considered the most advanced fifth-generation aircraft on the planet, and with the use of their advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, and advanced sustainment would provide Greece with a significant advantage over its neighbors.
According to Turkish journalist Haluk Özdalga, if the Hellenic Air Force indeed got their hands on the F-35s, the fighters would lead to “balances being turned upside down in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, including Cyprus”, and will enable Greece to convert the Aegean into a “Greek Lake”.
Turkey, which currently holds the fourth-generation US-built F-16 Fighting Falcons and older F-4 Phantom IIs in its ranks, was bound to get their hands on the stealthy fifth-generation F-35, but due to their refusal to plug out from the S-400 deal with Russia despite repeated warnings from the US, were suspended from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
Another promising addition to the HAL air fleet would be the acquisition of Dassault Rafale fighter jets from France. Athens is in negotiations with its Paris over future arms deals that might include the formidable 4.5-generation Rafale jets, which once possessed would pose a huge threat to Turkish jets.
A Greek official, while speaking to Reuters, had said that the country has held talks to enhance the country’s defense potential, which includes the purchase of the Rafales. He had stated – “We are in talks with France, and not only with France, in order to increase our country’s defense potential,”
As reported earlier by the EurAsian Times, media reports had circulated on the internet claiming that the nations had reached a deal for the sale of 18 Rafale jets, but none were confirmed by the officials.
The Dassault Rafale, a French twin-engine, canard-delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft equipped with a wide range of weapons, boasts the ability to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike, and nuclear deterrence missions.
Despite not being a stealth aircraft, the Rafale has been designed for a reduced radar cross-section (RCS) and infrared signature, which means it has some stealth features, which have neither been exaggerated nor been over-hyped.
If the additions of the aircraft are confirmed, the fighters would add tremendous air power in the hands of Greece, as they fight off Turkish forces to challenge for power in the Mediterranean region.
Both Greece and Turkey possess a massive fleet of F-16s, but with Athens holding over 150 F-16s in contrast to Turkey’s 245 F-16s, HAL feels the need to at least surpass or at least match their neighbor’s fleet.
In December of last year, Greek Defense Minister announced that as part of a $1.5 billion deal with US giants Lockheed Martin, the F-16s under HAL will be upgraded to the latest Viper standard by the year 2027.
Following the upgrade, a major portion of the HAL F-16s will have qualitative superiority over Ankara’s huge fleet of F-16s, which currently operate the Block 30, 40, and 50 variants of the fighters.
The deal, according to Lockheed Martin, will mean that the “HAL F-16Vs will be the most advanced F-16s in Europe”, making Greece’s air fleet to have an unassailable lead over Turkey, who are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain its large fleet of fourth-generation fighters.