Greece Officially Confirms Intention To Buy 18 French Rafale Combat Aircraft

File photo of a French Air Force Rafale B in flight. (Photo: Dassault Aviation)

The aquisition program, which was first announced on Greek newspapers two weeks ago, will procure 18 Rafale fighter jets for the Hellenic Air Force.

The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced, during his annual speech on the state of the country’s economy on September 12, 2020, the acquisition of 18 Dassault Rafale fighter jets for the Hellenic Air Force (HAF). This news does not come as a surprise, as the Greek newspaper Parapolitika reported at the end of August that the Greek and French governments were in talks for the procurement of the Rafale.

The announcement from the Prime Minister and the press release from Dassault did not provide many details about the contract, however Parapolitika last month reported that the contract mentions ten newly built aircraft, which should correspond to the latest variant Rafale F3-R, while another eight should be second hand aircraft donated from the French Air Force. It is not clear if these older aircraft are will be upgraded to the F3-R standard.

On Sunday, the Greek PM specified, that the HAF would procure 6 new and 12 second-hand jets:

According to the French website Air&Cosmos, other options on the table to reduce to program’s cost are eight new aircraft and ten second hand or six new aircraft and twelve second hand. The aircraft are also reported to be in the F3-O4T standard, the one before the F3-R upgrade. Saturday’s announcement did not mention any of these details, so we do not know which ones are correct.

As this Author wrote in a previous article when the latest standard reached the Initial Operational Capability, the Rafale F3-R includes some major enhancements like the new Thales RBE2 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, the Spectra (Système de Protection et d’Évitement des Conduites de Tir du Rafale or, in English, Self-Protection Equipment Countering Threats to Rafale Aircraft) electronic warfare system, an Auto-GCAS (Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System) and the new laser-guided variant if the Sagem AASM “Hammer” (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire “Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range”). The Rafale F3-R will also receive the MBDA Meteor missile and the Thales Talios targeting pod.

File photo of a Mirage 2000-5 of the HAF fully armed with Mica IR, Mica EM and Storm Shadow/SCALP missiles in front of its Hardened Aircraft Shelter. (Photo: Hellenic Air Force)

Greek sources report that the new Rafale should replace the Mirage 2000 EG/BG in service with the HAF, some of which were upgraded to the Mirage 2000-5F Mk2 standard 15 years ago. The Rafale procurement also comes as tensions between Greece and Turkey continue to increase, with many suggesting that the Rafale could help Greece to get an edge over the Turkish Air Force in the eventuality of a conflict.

As mentioned also in Dassault’s press release, the HAF has been flying with the company’s aircraft for almost 50 year, beginning from the Mirage F1 ordered in 1974, then Mirage 2000 in 1985 and finally the Mirage 2000-5 in the year 2000, with the final contract also including the upgrade of some of the older aircraft with a large contribution from Greek industry.

The procurement of the Rafale is just one of the programs announced by the Prime Minister. The other programs are the procurement of four unspecified frigates, four naval helicopters (reportedly the MH-60R), upgrades for the AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, portable anti-tank missiles for the Army, torpedoes and the recruitment of 15’000 more units in the armed forces.

As for the other programs already announced, the HAF is upgrading 84 F-16s Block 52 to the new Block 70 configuration, which features also the APG-83 AESA radar. There were rumors about a possible extension of the upgrade also to the older Block 30 and Block 50 aircraft, but this was never confirmed. The upgrade is reportedly already in progress, with the first two upgraded aircraft that will fly to the United Stated by the end of the year for final tests and acceptance, with the local upgrade of the rest of the fleet scheduled to start by summer 2021.

Greece is also looking to acquire a squadron of 24 F-35A 5th generation aircraft possibly from 2024 or at the end of the deliveries of the Rafale and the upgrade of the F-16.

On a side note, two French Air Force Rafale fighter jets were recently deployed to Cyprus and participated in exercises with the Greece, Cyprus, France and Italy, while four F-16 Block 60 from the United Arab Emirates are currently deployed at Souda Bay for joint training with the HAF.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.