Greece has wrapped up a €2.5bn deal with France to buy 18 Rafale fighter jets as part of a new weapons procurement programme after years of reduced defence spending during the country’s financial crisis.
Monday’s agreement covers the purchase of six new and 12 used Rafale aircraft to be delivered over the next two years, starting in July.
Greece would be the first European country to acquire Dassault’s advanced fighter, said Florence Parly, France’s defence minister, during a visit to Athens to finalise the agreement.
The new warplanes will replace a squadron of French-made Mirage aircraft purchased by Greece almost 30 years ago.
Greece is planning to upgrade about 80 General Dynamics F-16 fighter jets over the next five years at a cost of €1.5bn but does not plan to buy more US-made aircraft, according to defence ministry officials.
The Athens government this month announced a €1.5bn long-term agreement with Elbit, an Israeli company, to set up and operate a training school for Greek air force pilots in southern Greece.
Ms Parly said France would shortly come up with “new proposals” to renew Greece’s ageing frigate fleet. Athens is seeking to buy four new frigates that could be built at a Greek shipyard.
The right-of-centre government of prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a €6bn accelerated procurement programme in September following weeks of tension with its Nato ally Turkey over oil exploration rights in the Aegean Sea. In July, a Greek frigate collided with a Turkish frigate escorting a survey ship in a disputed area near the island of Kastellorizo.
Earlier on Monday, Greek and Turkish diplomats met in Istanbul for what Greek officials called “exploratory talks”, the first meeting since regular discussions of bilateral disputes lapsed in 2016. A Greek official said another meeting would be held in February or March.