Greece said it will take delivery of 18 French-made Rafale fighter jets in 2021 as part of a major 11.5-billion-euro ($14.5-billion) drive to modernise its armed forces amid tension with neighbor Turkey. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the agreements would be finalised with the French government and defence contractor Dassault Aviation shortly. Annual spending on defence is being hiked by more than a third in 2021 to 5.4 billion euros ($6.5 billion) despite a deep recession triggered by the pandemic this year.
Greece and fellow NATO member Turkey remain at odds over boundaries and undersea natural gas rights in the eastern Mediterranean, a dispute that intensified this year and raised concerns among western allies of a potential military confrontation. Greece has forged closer military ties with traditional allies France and the United States and expanded collaboration with Israel, Egypt, and other countries in the region.
Details of Greece’s military overhaul were announced after the summer, a five-year programme that will include weapons upgrades for all three branches of the armed forces and the hiring of an additional 15,000 personnel. The program includes plans to purchase new frigates, anti-submarine warfare helicopters and drones, as well as an upgrade of Greece’s entire fleet of F-16 jets by 2027 in partnership with US defence firm Lockheed Martin. Military spending was cut back during a major financial crisis that started over a decade ago but Greece is again facing acute financial problems due to the pandemic.