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18 May, 2022 12:03

Greece wants new firepower from the US

Athens wants to join the F-35 program and is lobbying against Turkey’s moves to upgrade its own air fleet
Greece wants new firepower from the US

Greece has confirmed its intention to purchase a squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets from the US, while lobbying against its regional rival Turkey’s attempts to upgrade its air force.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the White House and Congress this week to discuss the deal and announced that his country would move forward with acquiring 20 to 24 F-35 fighter jets after 2028.

“We will launch the process for the acquisition of a squadron of F-35 aircraft, and we do hope to be able to add this fantastic plane to the Greek Air Force before the end of this decade,” Mitsotakis said at the White House, after previously noting that Lockheed Martin, which produces the jets, “officially expressed its interest in investing in Hellenic aerospace.”

Mitsotakis also expressed concern over Turkey’s attempts to upgrade its F-16 fleet, accusing Ankara of endangering security in the eastern Mediterranean. Back in April, Greece and Turkey accused each other of airspace violations. 

“The last thing that NATO needs at a time when our focus is helping defeat Russian aggression is another source of instability on NATO’s southeastern flank,” Mitsotakis told lawmakers in Congress on Monday. “I ask you to take this into account when you make defense procurement decisions concerning the eastern Mediterranean.”

Turkey had previously been slapped with sanctions and excluded from the US F-35 program after purchasing S-400 defense systems from Russia, despite Washington’s warnings not to do so. Since then, Ankara has been stuck with an aging F-16 fleet it now hopes to upgrade and supplement with new aircraft. Turkish officials are reportedly expected to visit Washington later this week to ask Congress to approve a $400 million deal to upgrade Turkey’s air force.

Ankara has also lobbied for readmission to the F-35 program by threatening to unilaterally block the inclusion of Finland and Sweden into NATO amid the ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. 

After Helsenki and Stockholm officially announced their intention to join NATO, requiring unanimous support from all member states, Bloomberg reported that Turkey issued a list of demands including removal of sanctions imposed on Ankara over the S-400 purchase, readmission to the F-35 program and approval for the purchase of dozens of F-16 warplanes and upgrade kits for its existing fleet.