Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly signed a contract today for Athens’ purchase of 18 Rafale fighter jets.

The addition of the French war planes to the Greek Air Force fleet has been touted as giving the Greek Air Force a strategic boost in its deterrent force at a time of heightened tensions with Turkey.

The procurement was approved on 14 January approved by the overwhelming majority of MPs in the Greek Parliament, with only the Greek Communist Party and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’ small MeRa 25 party voting it down.

Greece has agreed to purchase six new Rafales and twelve used ones at a total cost of 1.92 billion euros without deductions.

The cost of arming the jets with remote-control Meteor missiles and upgrading existing ones (Mica, Scalp and Exocet) amounts to 400 million euros without deductions.

The delivery of the six used war planes to Greece will start in July 2021, with one delivered per month.

The new fighter jets will be delivered in Spring 2022 and the rest of the used ones in early 2023.

The Hellenic Air Force pilots and mechanics to be trained on them will depart for France shortly.

Panagiotopoulos said that the deal was concluded in record time.

It is viewed a deepening of Greece’s defence cooperation with France, which was most notably evidenced last September when Emmanuel Macron sent the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the French Navy’s flagship vessel, to the Eastern Mediterranean at a time of heightened Greek-Turkish tensions in the region.

Tensions also ran high last year between France and Turkey mainly over Ankara’s moves in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone where France has purchased oil and gas exploration concessions.

France has also sent Rafale war planes to the Andreas Papandreou Air Force base in Cyprus, where it hopes to establish a more permanent presence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year repeatedly blasted Macron who more recently, however, has made overtures to improve bilateral ties with Ankara.

«The advanced electronic systems […] of the jets, in conjunction with their strategic weapons make them a significant factor of dominance in the air,» Panagiotopoulos said.

«The agreement confirms a long-standing tradition of excellent collaboration between our countries both on the bilateral level and in the framework of regional and international organisations.»

Parly noted that Greece was the first European country to purchase Rafales (when in 1985 then PM Andreas Papndreou ordered forty).

She also announced that France will participate in the «Skyros» and «Iniochos» defense exercises with 8 jets of the same type.