Against the background of tensions with neighboring Turkey, the Mitsotakis government, despite the sharp rise in prices and inflation in the country, secured US consent to the sale of the latest F-35 aircraft worth several billion euros.
The new “purchase of the century” follows the Prime Minister’s official visit to the United States and his announcement of the acquisition of a squadron of F-35s, confirmed today by National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, who said Parliament should immediately decide to start the process of acquiring the fighters. As the minister added, the General Staffs will take the necessary actions as part of the ongoing process of purchasing defense equipment.
After 5 billion euros for Belharra frigates and about 3 billion for Rafale aircraft, there is another bill, which is estimated at 3.5 billion euros.
Earlier, the official opposition linked the F-35 purchase to Mr. Mitsotakis’s inability to block the sale of F-16 fighters to Ankara. “It is inconceivable that Mr. Mitsotakis, due to his failure to prevent the sale of F-16s from the United States to Turkey, would go in compensation for the purchase of F-35s for $4 billion,” they commented.
The Greek side has yet to send the required Letter of Request (LOR) and the Prime Minister has not specified the number of aircraft Greece will buy (since the question ranges from 18 to 24 aircraft). However, former Deputy Defense Minister Alkiviadis Stephanis spoke (ERT) of the maximum number, while Air Force officials speak of 20 aircraft.
With the cost of each F-35 currently being around $80 million (at the bare minimum!), while each flight hour costs the budget $35,000 (an F-16 flight hour costs $15,000), it becomes immediately obvious that It’s about the “deal of the century”. 20 F-35s, according to Pentagon sources, together with pilot training in the United States, will amount to 3.5 billion euros, which will form a new stone in the defense budget of the Mitsotakis government, along with 5 billion euros from the French Belharra and about 3 billion euros from the French Rafale.
The above is, in fact, expected without any profit for the Greek defense industry through the joint production of aircraft parts, since ADA currently does not have the capacity for such production, and until recently Lockheed Martin was not officially interested in investing. Hopes for this emerged from the same speech by the prime minister, where he said the company had expressed interest on Friday. Nevertheless, the situation around the joint production remains vague, and the arrival of the Pentagon delegation to the US headquarters is expected on Monday, May 23.
However, the first planes, if the agreement is “closed” soon, are not expected to arrive in Greece until 2027 at the earliest, with delivery dates in 2028 or even 2029 more likely. At the same time, the necessary work should begin on the Greek side to create the infrastructure that will house the F-35s, with the 115th Combat Aviation Regiment in Souda being the most likely location.
These aircraft, which are the only “functional” 5th generation, will be an important element that will change the balance in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean as they include important technologies (stealth, network warfare, Sensor Fusion) that make them superior weapons compared to other fighters, and have the ability to connect to the 4.5 generation Rafale and F-16 Viper, which Greece will start receiving in the coming months.
But such a change in the balance is unlikely to please neighboring Turkey, and how would Greece not find itself in a situation similar to Ukraine.