Greece is reportedly preparing to order 6 Rafale additional

"A combat squadron has 18 planes, but a good combat squadron has 24 planes." This is how a Greek military source specific to the case presented Greece's upcoming intention to order 6 Rafale additional to France for the 332nd Hellenic Fighter Squadron, which has already sent 6 pilots to Mont-de-Marsan to begin their transformation on the French plane. Based on the current contract for the acquisition of 18 Rafale to the F3R standard, including 6 new aircraft and 12 taken from the Air and Space Force fleet, Athens estimates the amount of the transaction at €800 million, in order to give the Hellenic air forces a substantial advantage and lasting over its long-standing adversary, the Turkish air forces.

The hypothesis of one or more additional commands of Rafale very quickly appeared in Greek military, political and industrial circles, once the first order was ratified. As efficient in Air-Air missions, notably thanks to the Meteor and Mica NG missiles, as in air-ground and air-surface strikes, the arrival of Rafale appears as a “Game Changer” in the tensions between Athens and Ankara in the Aegean Sea. But for now, the Greek authorities must carefully invest their budget for the acquisition of annual defense equipment, while the country plans to acquire 4 new frigates and modernize its Meko 200HN corvettes for € 5 billion, which it has already purchased MH-60 Romeo anti-submarine warfare helicopters and is modernizing part of its F16 fleet to the Block 70+ Viper standard. In addition, the Hellenic Army is due to modernize its medium armored fleet soon, with an estimated need of more than 2000 vehicles.

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Le Rafale appears in the eyes of the Hellenic Air Forces as a “Game Changer” in the competition between it and the Turkish Air Forces.

But the probable acquisition of 6 new Rafale shows the confidence that the Hellenic air forces, but also the authorities of Athens, have, both in their new aircraft and in the very solid defense partnership which unites France and Greece, in particular in the face of repeated beatings by President RT Erdogan in recent months. And it is very possible that in the years to come, Athens will undertake to order new batches of Rafale, whether new or modernized, both to keep up with some 300 Turkish F16s, F4s and F5s, and to consolidate interoperability with the French air and naval forces. The determination shown by Paris to support Greece in recent months is a powerful parameter in this desire.

It cannot be ruled out, however, that this is also a form of "compensation" offered to France if Athens were to choose an offer competing with that of Naval Group in the Hellenic frigate program. Indeed, several offers are considered very attractive by the country's authorities, in particular that of Damen, which offers 4 Sigma10515 heavily armed frigates on very short notice, for a little over € 3,2 billion. This one represents a serious competitor of the French FDI, in particular thanks to its 4 VLS Mk41 allowing to embark in its 32 silos long-range missiles SM2 as well as missiles with medium range ESSM to 4 per cell, there or the 4 Sylver 50 of the FDI only allow the use of 32 Aster missiles, admittedly more efficient than the SM2 or ESSM, but significantly fewer in number. And the free transfer of the Jean Bart and Latouche Treville frigates of the French Navy in a stand-by solution does not seem to be a decisive argument for Athens, the Netherlands offering its 2 Karel Doorman class frigates, also considered to be efficient.

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Although unquestionably more successful in almost all areas, the Naval Group FDI is strongly contested in the Hellenic frigate program by the Dutch, British and American tenders.

The British offer on the basis of Type 31 frigates also appears attractive for Athens despite its more limited operational capacities, especially because of its unit price of less than € 500m without armament, with the open hope of the Hellenic Navy. to be able to negotiate the transfer of the 2 Type 23 frigates which are to be withdrawn from service by the Royal Navy in the coming years in accordance with the directives of the new Integrated Strategic Review. Finally, the American offer, on the basis of light frigate MMSC, if it remains very behind from an operational point of view, has strong diplomatic support from Washington, while Athens continues to hope that the White House takes its side more firmly against Ankara amid Turkish-American tensions and sanctions. To sum up the situation, the French offer is undoubtedly the best performing in a majority of operational aspects among the 4 proposals which seem to have the favors of Athens, but it is also the most expensive, and the limitations of the Sylver vertical launch system clearly work against it.

However, decisions to acquire weapons are not limited to a simple comparison of price and performance on an Excel sheet. The involvement of the French forces alongside the Hellenic forces these last months facing Ankara will undoubtedly play a decisive role in the arbitrations which will be carried out, while the call for proposals concerning the Hellenic frigate program remain in the form of bilateral state-to-state negotiations, and not in the form of 'a call for tenders. The very strong French presence during the Iniochos 2021 exercise, with no less than 11 Rafale and 5 Mirage 2000D dispatched by the Air Force and the National Navy, shows Paris' desire to build a de facto alliance with Athens, while at the same time, contacts between the French and Hellenic defense industry are multiplying to study synergies and possibilities for cooperation.

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