Athens wants to join F-35 program and lobbies against efforts to upgrade Turkey’s own fleet
Greece has confirmed its desire to buy a squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets from the United States, while lobbying against regional rival Turkey’s efforts to improve its air force.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis traveled to the White House and Congress this week to discuss the deal and announced that his country would go ahead with its bid to acquire 20 to 24 F-35 fighter jets by 2028.
“We will begin the process of acquiring a squadron of F-35 aircraft, and we hope to be able to add this great aircraft to the Greek Air Force before the end of this decade.” Mitsotakis told the White House that after previously noticing that Lockheed Martin, which makes jets, “Hellenic has officially expressed interest in investing in aerospace.”
Mitsotakis has also expressed concern about Turkey’s efforts to upgrade its F-16 fleet, accusing Ankara of endangering security in the eastern Mediterranean. In April, Greece and Turkey accused each other of violating airspace.
“The last thing NATO needs at a time when our focus is on helping to defeat Russian aggression is another source of instability in NATO’s southeast.” Mitsotakis told lawmakers in Congress on Monday. “I urge you to consider this when you decide to build a defense on the eastern Mediterranean.”
Turkey had earlier slapped sanctions on the US F-35 program after it decided to buy S-400 defense equipment from Russia, despite warnings from Washington not to do so. Since then, Ankara has been stuck with an old F-16 fleet that is now hoping to be upgraded and supplemented with new aircraft. Turkish officials are expected to visit Washington later this week to ask Congress to approve an estimated $ 400 million deal to upgrade Turkey’s air force.
Ankara is trying to bring Turkey back into the F-35 program by threatening to unilaterally include Finland and Sweden in NATO in the ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
After Helsinki and Stockholm formally announced their intention to join NATO, which requires the unanimous support of all member states, Bloomberg reports that Turkey has issued a list of demands to the bloc and its potential members, including the lifting of sanctions imposed on Ankara. Upon purchase of the S-400, the country’s re-inclusion in the F-35 program and approval for the purchase of dozens of F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits for its existing fleet.
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