Air force upgrade ongoing, F-35 interest strong
by Vassilis Nedos
In addition to the self-evident value of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) signed between Greece and the US, Athens is reportedly proceeding with a series of sub-programs by the American defense industry.
The first F-16 Vipers will be delivered to the Hellenic Air Force by the end of the year while developments are expected at the end of month regarding the F-16 Block 50. Athens and Washington are still discussing three MQ-9 drones, amphibious armored vehicles and a number of smaller projects.
What’s more no one at the Defense Ministry is denying Greece’s intention to proceed, when fiscally possible, with the procurement of F-35 fighter jets. The debate over the F-35s has been heating up from time to time for the past two years, but without any necessary steps taken.
The supply of fifth-generation F-35 fighters mainly requires the air force to send a letter of request as well as a letter of offer and acceptance to the US authorities.
On May 23, a delegation from the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office will arrive in Athens for a visit – scheduled before the finalization of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ trip to the US – to have contacts with the Hellenic Air Force and the Defense Ministry.
The main purpose of the visit is to update the information on the price and availability of Lockheed Martin F-35s. At this stage, each F-35 is estimated to cost about $80 million. If all the necessary steps are followed, the first F-35 will not land in Greece before 2027, with more probable dates, however, being 2028 or even 2029. In the meantime, the necessary investments will have to be made to create infrastructure for the F-35.
Meanwhile, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin expressed hope on Monday that his country will receive the approval of the US Congress for the supply of F-16s. In an interview with Reuters, Kalin stated that the Biden government has taken some concrete positive steps to move forward. “We now hope it will receive congressional approval,” he said.