The first batch of six Rafale aircraft for the Hellenic Air Force has been ferried to their new home, with the rest following at the end of 2022.
The Hellenic Air Force welcomed in Greece the first batch of six Rafale F3-R fighter jets, ferried from Istres to Tanagra Air Base on Jan. 19, 2022, after their official handover in July 2021. The aircraft were escorted by Greek Mirage 2000s over Athens, before reaching their new home to be assigned to the 332 MPK (Mira Pantos Kerou or All Weather Squadron) “Geraki” (Hawk). The unit currently flies the Mirage 2000, but they should be retired in the next months and replaced by the Rafale.
The aircraft, four single-seat C-models and two double-seat B-models, were greeted by a water salute and a ceremony attended by the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, accompanied by the Minister of National Defense Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos and other Greek authorities, as well as Dassault’s CEO Éric Trappier. The delivery to Tanagra happened just a year after the signing of the contract, with another batch of aircraft arriving by the end of 2022 and the remaining ones in 2023.
Ιστορική μέρα για τις #Ένοπλες_Δυνάμεις και για την @HAFspokesman. Τα πρώτα έξι “#Rafale” με τα Ελληνικά χρώματα 🇬🇷 στα φτερά τους και Έλληνες χειριστές στα πιλοτήρια ήρθαν να εγκατασταθούν εδώ, στην 114 Πτέρυγα Μάχης.#Rafale #114_Πτέρυγα_Μάχης 🇬🇷🇫🇷https://t.co/T6armvxv6K pic.twitter.com/L8DwBtAOKb
— N Panagiotopoulos (@npanagioto) January 19, 2022
Με υπερηφάνεια σήμερα η Πατρίδα μας υποδέχεται τα νέα αποκτήματα της Πολεμικής μας Αεροπορίας, τα πρώτα 6 από τα συνολικά 24 υπερσύγχρονα #Rafale. Έναν πολλαπλασιαστή ισχύος που αναβαθμίζει τη χώρα μας σε επίπεδο επιχειρησιακό, τεχνολογικό, αλλά και γεωπολιτικό. pic.twitter.com/rSl6rF1O9a
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) January 19, 2022
“The mastery with which the Hellenic Air Force carried out this first ferry flight is a testimony to the excellence of our cooperation and the strength of our historical relationship with Greece for more than 45 years. Thanks to our mobilization, we were able to meet the expectations of the Greek authorities in record time, who now have the Rafale on national territory to reinforce the protection and sovereignty of the country. It also attests to the outstanding quality of our aircraft, confirmed by its export success. Lastly, it reflects our total commitment to meeting the needs of the HAF and to participating in Greece’s strategic ambitions,” declared Éric Trappier at the end of the ceremony.
The Greek government announced the intention to acquire the Rafale in 2020, working to a deal that was signed in January 2021 that involved 18 aircraft, 12 of which are second-hand aircraft from the French Air and Space Force and the remaining ones are newly built. In September 2021, French and Greek authorities announced the intention to add to the order six other new aircraft, bringing the total to 24 Rafales. The timeline for the delivery of these six aircraft has not been disclosed as the new order might not have been signed yet, since Dassault only mentioned 18 aircraft in the press release.
Contrary to initial reports, which said the HAF would operate a mixed fleet of F3-O4T and F3-R aircraft, it seems now that all Greek Rafale will be in the F3-R standard. This standard 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.
— AegeanDeltas331® (@AegeanDeltas331) January 19, 2022
— Stavros Ioannidis (@st_ioannidis) January 19, 2022
The HAF has some major renovations in progress, one of which is the Rafale. In 2020 the government also asked for an urgent purchase of 24 F-35A 5th gen aircraft from 2024, after the completion of the delivery of the French fighters. In the Letter of Request, the government even considered the option to buy second-hand F-35, if that could help to reduce the costs and speed up the delivery. It is not clear which aircraft will be replaced by the Lightning II, but the F-4 Phantom might be a candidate.
Another program is the F-16 Block 72 upgrade, with the first upgraded Viper currently in the United States after its maiden flight last year at Tanagra Air Base, where the Hellenic Aerospace Industries (HAI) have been working on the program, with the support of Lockheed Martin, since January 2020. The upgrade works will continue until 2027, bringing 82 F-16s to the new configuration. The HAF also opted to perform a subsequent in-house upgrade of the F-16C/Ds Block 50 by using equipment removed during the Block 72 upgrade from the other aircraft.
The latest program announced by the HAF is the creation of a new flight school by Elbit Systems at Kalamata Air Base, home of the 120th Air Training Wing, with the subsequent procurement of 10 Leonardo M-346 Master advanced trainer aircraft and the maintenance of the T-6A Texan II fleet. A timeline for the contract has not been disclosed yet, however the support for the Greek T-2E Buckeye fleet is set to end in 2023, so it is likely that the new flight school aims to begin operations with the new M-346 by that timeframe.