The Greek Air Force on Monday took delivery of a first pair of upgraded F-16 military jets as part of a $1.5 billion program to upgrade its existing fighter fleet amid a growing tensions with neighboring Turkey.
The two F-16s displayed at Tanagra Air Base northwest of Athens are the first of 83 to be refitted with advanced electronics, radar and weapons capabilities by the end of 2027 by Greece’s Hellenic aerospace industry , in coordination with the American manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
The Chief of the Greek Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Constantinos Floros, said the successful and timely completion of the program was a matter of utmost national importance.
Any would-be aggressors will have to think twice or thrice before taking a chance once the upgrade is complete, he said at Monday’s presentation ceremony, adding that the new planes would increase the company’s footprint. Greece in NATO.
Relations with historic regional rival Turkey have hit a new low following repeated and thinly veiled threats from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that his country may invade Greece’s eastern Aegean islands.
Turkey claims the islands were illegally militarized.
Greece says it must defend them against a potential attack.
The two NATO allies are also at odds over offshore oil and gas rights, and their fighter jets routinely intercept or engage in mock dogfights over the Aegean Sea.
Asked by the Associated Press on Sunday whether the recent escalation in rhetoric from Turkey could be a prelude to armed conflict, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis answered in the negative.
I don’t believe that will ever happen,” he said.
“And if, God forbid, that happens, Turkey will receive an absolutely devastating response.
After years of forced savings during the 2010-2018 financial crisis, Greece embarked on a multi-billion dollar spending spree to bolster its armed forces and counter the Turkish threat.
It has purchased or ordered French Rafale fighter jets and FDI frigates, and plans to purchase F-35 fighters from the United States.
The F-16s, developed in the 1970s, are the workhorse of the Greek Air Force. She acquired a first batch of 40 in 1989, then 130 others over the years.
The latest upgrade will bring the 83 aircraft to the Block 72 variant, which is the most advanced version of the model in service in Europe.
It is an aircraft with enormous capabilities, especially in its electronic systems, Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos said.
Four more upgraded F-16s will be delivered by the end of this year, while the program is expected to end in late 2027.
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