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F-35
Φωτο: Athens Flying Week

F-35s come with... gifts from the US, closing gaps in armaments

New data for the country's arms programmes after the release of the F-35 by Washington along with a number of weapons systems that will be given to Greece free of charge. What will happen to the MEKO frigates.

Greece is entering a new era of armaments after the mammoth package from the US that was announced on Saturday morning in a letter from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The provision of significant arms assistance from the US comes to "tie in" with the new strategy and philosophy of National Defence Minister Nikos Dendias for the Armed Forces and the defence industry, as everything is essentially starting from scratch.

The US package strengthens all three branches of the Armed Forces and comes to essentially seal the strong bilateral relationship and is a testament to the enduring ties between Greece and the US.

At the same time, the Biden administration has approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey following the Turkish government's ratification of Sweden's NATO membership.

The State Department informed Congress of the approval of the $23 billion sale of F-16s to Turkey, along with the $8.6 billion sale of F-35s to Greece. The move came hours after Turkey submitted its "ratification document" for Sweden's NATO membership to Washington, which is the custodian of the alliance's documents, and after several key members of Congress voiced their objections.

The sale to Turkey includes 40 new F-16s and equipment to modernize 79 of the existing F-16 fleet. The sale to Greece includes 40 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and related equipment.

NATO ally Turkey has long sought to upgrade its F-16 fleet and had made Sweden's membership ratification conditional on approval of the sale of the new aircraft. The Biden administration had supported the sale, but several lawmakers had voiced objections due to human rights concerns.

Those objections, including from President Ben Cardin and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Reese, among others, have now been overcome, according to US media reports.

The F-35 and other weapons systems

The US State Department has approved the sale of up to 40 F-35A fighter jets to Greece for 8.6 billion, along with a package of armaments, including transport aircraft, frigates and armored vehicles to be provided at minimal cost to Greece. The response letter from the US on the F-35 is expected to reach Nikos Dendias' office today. 

Regarding the free military equipment package is given by the US as EDA (Excess Defence Articles), i.e. from the defence stockpile. The State Department has already informed Congress of the following proposed transfers of Excess Defence Articles (EDA) grants to Greece:

  • Two EDA C-130H aircraft,
  • Ten EDA engines for P-3 aircraft; and
  • 60 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles as EDA (Excess Defence Articles).

Similarly, it notes that the following will be submitted for notification to Congress for transfer to Greece in addition to the F-35:

  • Three Protector class ships as EDAs; and
  • Various trucks and trailers as EDAs.

The letter also refers to forwarding a request to Congress to authorize the acquisition by Greece of "up to four" Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).

It also notes that it will make the release of MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles a priority and will consider Greek needs to acquire KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft when they become available. He also informs that procedures are currently underway for the release and cost of C-130J transport aircraft.

It is noted that the US continues to be interested in defence capabilities that Greece could transfer or sell to Ukraine. If these capabilities are of interest to Ukraine, and pending a review of the situation and their relative value by the U.S. government, the letter emphasizes, we can explore opportunities for possible additional FMF of up to $200 million for Greece.

Developments for the MEKOs

Another issue that is "urgent" is the program of upgrading the MEKO frigates as the Navy is waiting for the final decisions regarding its needs, which are more than urgent and, according to senior Navy officials, should have been covered ...yesterday. 

And while Nikos Dendias may have spoken in an interview with a radio station about upgrading "a number of frigates" leaving it vague whether it will be four or fewer, an announcement a few days ago on the website of the German company Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) about the formation of a joint venture with the Dutch Thales Nederland to carry out the programme came to renew hopes that eventually all of them may be upgraded.

As stated on the company's website, "Thales and thyssenkrupp Marine Systems have now joined forces to form a joint venture for the planned modernisation programme. The joint venture agreement was signed by the two partners on 12 December 2023." 

It also reports that the agreement is for four frigates, while Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems will subcontract the ship platform modifications to a local Greek shipyard. The consortium will be the exclusive contact for the Greek Navy. It is expected that the order will be received in 2024.

However, according to well-informed sources, the "dark spot" is the amount of the upgrade, which has far exceeded €600 million and has reportedly reached €800 million.


 

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