Greece have signed a Letter of Request (LoR) for the purchase of 20 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jets with options for another 20, the country’s prime minister said on Jun. 30, 2022.
According to Reuters, NATO member Greece spends more than 2% of its gross domestic product on defence spending. It has beefed up its military purchases in recent years as tensions with its neighbour, historic rival and NATO ally Turkey, have resurfaced.
“Our intention is to acquire an F-35 squadron with a possible option for a second one. Sending a Letter of Request (LoR) which has happened in the past few days is part of this process,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters after a NATO summit.
Mitsotakis explained that sending a request is the first step in a multi-stage process adding that the government expected deliveries of the jets would begin in 2027-2028.
“It is a long process and I am saying this because it means we have the fiscal space allowing us to make such a purchase,” he pointed out.
Greece and Turkey have been at odds for decades over a series of issues ranging from overflights in the Aegean and the extent of their continental shelves and maritime boundaries to energy resources and ethnically-split Cyprus.
Athens is moving fast to acquire F-35 stealth fighters because the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system procured by Turkey can create problems for the current aircraft in service with the Hellenic Air Force (HAF).
Mitsotakis first referred to the purchase of F-35 jets during a visit in May to the United States.
The F-35 order follows the country’s purchase of 24 Rafale omnirole aircraft for the HAF announced on Sep. 12, 2020. The Rafales will replace the Mirage 2000-5 currently in service with the HAF.
Moreover, according to state ERT TV, the defence ministry also wants to proceed with the upgrade of 38 F-16 fighter jets.
On Jun. 29, the US supported the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, a day after Ankara lifted a veto of NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, saying that strong Turkish defence capabilities would reinforce NATO’s defences.
Photo credit: Airwolfhound from Hertfordshire, UK via Wikipedia
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