Finally ! Almost twenty years after its commissioning in France, the Rafale was bought by another European country. The Greece announced on Saturday September 12 its intention to acquire eighteen aircraft and their armaments: enough to make life difficult for the aging Turkish air force. In the context of exacerbated tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, Athens wants to go quickly: twelve second-hand aircraft will therefore be taken from the French Air Force and should be delivered from mid-2021, while six other new ones will be delivered from by 2022, possibly with the more modern F3R standard capable of implementing Meteor long-range missiles.
By modernizing its aviation, Greece is striking a blow where it hurts for the Turkey. Indeed, if the Turkish Navy and Army are indisputably superior to their Greek counterparts, it is not necessarily the same in the skies. Turkish planes are old: ancient F-4 fighter bombers from the Vietnam side by side with F-16 fighters certainly modernized, but which keep the limits of an aircraft developed in the 1970s. To make matters worse, the Turkish Air Force has still not recovered from the massive purges in its ranks , which followed the failed coup attempt in 2016: seasoned pilots are no longer legion.
Complete the Mirage 2000-5
Opposite, Greece also aligns F-4 and F-16, in smaller quantities. But it has a few dozen Mirage 2000s, including 24 at the 2000-5 standard, capable of knocking down opponents at greater distance. With the addition of the Rafale, which will replace the older Mirage 2000s, Athens offers itself a state-of-the-art air-to-air capability, and strengthens its deep strike capability against land or naval targets. Enough to guarantee Turkey major damage in the event of conflict, and rebalance the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean.
To modernize its aviation, Turkey relied on the new American F-35 stealth fighter. But after months of procrastination, the Pentagon has finally vetoed the deployment of the device in an army that also uses the Russian anti-aircraft system S-400. Donald Trump therefore blocked the contract in the summer of 2019, and Ankara turned to Moscow to negotiate the purchase of fifth-generation fighters: a move that could be accelerated by Greek announcements.
15,000 additional soldiers
This new order is a breath of fresh air for Dassault Aviation, which demanded during the summer the anticipation of French deliveries to save its production lines. Even if some planes will be taken from the French armies, it will be for Dassault to manufacture eighteen additional new aircraft, because it will quickly replace the French Rafale sold used.
During the summer, at the height of tensions between Greece and Cyprus on one side, and Turkey on the other, and against the backdrop of Turkish incursions into European territorial waters, France had deployed a frigate and two Rafale in the eastern Mediterranean, to support its European partners. The aircraft belonged to the strategic air forces, the very ones responsible for nuclear deterrence: a way of supporting the message a little more in Ankara?
The purchase of the Rafale is part of a rearmament program announced by the Greek Prime Minister on Saturday, September 12, which also includes the acquisition of four frigates, via an upcoming call for tenders, as well as the recruitment of 15,000 soldiers additional. For the country, which is barely emerging from the water after an apocalyptic financial crisis, the effort is enormous.