Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced the acquisition of an additional six Rafales. This will put the total order for the French fighter jet by Greece at 24. The first airframe had been delivered in July.
During the Thessaloniki International Fair on Saturday, the 11th of September, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis revealed his plans to expand the order of fighter planes from France: “I announced the purchase of 18 Rafale. Soon there will be 24.” He also added that the first of these aircraft, which had previously been used by the French Space and Air Force (AAE), would fly Greek colours “before the end of the year.” This additional purchase was confirmed a day later in a tweet by French Defence Minister Florence Parly: “Excellent news: Greece has just announced its intention to acquire six additional Rafales. Together, we are working to build true European autonomy.”
At the beginning of this year, Greece had initially ordered 18 Rafales for its Hellenic Air Force (HAF) and signed a contract that also provided the associated logistical support. The contracts were signed in Athens on the 21st of January by Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, and Theodoros Lagios, Director General of Armament and Investments of the Greek Ministry of Defence, in the presence of Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Forces, and Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, Greek Minister of National Defence. Out of these 18, 12 Rafale were recently in service with the AAE, and six will be newly produced at the Dassault Aviation plants. To meet the urgent need of the Greek authorities, the deliveries of aircraft would begin in the summer of 2021 and be spread over two years. The logistic support contract supports the HAF Rafale’s air activity over four and a half years, maintaining the availability of equipment and systems.
As announced, the first Rafale was delivered to Greece on the 21st of July. The first group of HAF pilots had already been trained for several months by the AAE. With the delivery of the first aircraft, they were moved to the Dassault Aviation Conversion Training Center (CTC) in Mérignac, France. There, they were joined by 50 HAF technicians to be trained on the other Rafales that Greece would receive from the AAE. During the ceremony, attended Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos and Eric Trappier, the latter had this to say:
“Following the Mirage F1 in 1974, the Mirage 2000 in 1985, and the Mirage 2000-5 in 2000, the Rafale is now proudly flying with the Hellenic Air Force colours. The Rafale is a strategic game-changer for the HAF. It will play an active role by securing Greece’s leadership as a major regional power. I would like to reaffirm our total commitment to the success of the Rafale in Greece.”
In general, the summer of 2021 had been good for Dassault: At the beginning of May, Egypt had decided to purchase an additional 30 Rafales for its Air Force. Joining the 24 rafales Egypt had purchased in 2015, their fleet of now 54 Rafales would be second only to that of France herself. Similar to Greece, Egypt also had previous connections to Dassault, operating a fleet of up to 70 Mirage 5 attackers and up to 16 Mirage 2000 fighters since 1981. As a new customer, on the 28th of May Croatia had selected the Rafale, following an international call for tenders as part of its Multi Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) program. In Croatia’s biggest arms purchase since its independence, the government had purchased 12 aircraft which is expected to be delivered by 2024. Somewhat similar to the Greek purchase, all of the soon-to-be Croatian Rafales were pre-used by the AAE.
Other operators of the Rafale include France, which operates a total of 143, with another 136 ordered; India with a total order of 26, one of which had been delivered; and Qatar operating 15 with another 57 ordered. Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates also announced purchases that have not yet been finalised, however. The aircraft is also a contender in evaluations in Finland, Malaysia, and Switzerland.
The Greek contract with Dassault in January was valued at 2.5 billion euros, though it is unclear if the additional purchase is accounted for in this. In December of last year, the Greek government had decided to significantly increase its defence spending by 57% compared to its 2019 budget, reaching 5.5 billion euros. This also accounted for the acquisition of new frigates, helicopters, drones, upgrades to its F-16 fleet, and the recruitment of an additional 15,000 personnel. Back then Mitsotakis had this to say about the Rafale contract: "Never before has such a complex and important military program been carried out so quickly and efficiently."