ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek lawmakers are scheduled to vote Thursday on a defense procurement program to purchase 18 French-made Rafale fighter planes, part of an armaments plan announced by the government in September.
Greece has earmarked 11.5 billion euros ($14 billion) for the modernization of its armed forces over the next five years, a move which comes at a time of increased tension with neighboring Turkey. Relations between the two NATO members, often strained, deteriorated sharply last year, with warships facing off in the eastern Mediterranean in a dispute over maritime boundaries and energy rights.
Delivery of the 18 Rafale jets - 12 of them currently in service and six new planes to be built by Dassault Aviation - is scheduled to begin mid-year and to be completed over two years. The jets and the purchase of compatible air-to-air Meteor missiles are expected to cost 2.3 billion euros ($3.4 billion).
Greek government spokesman Christos Tarantilis said the program was part of the government’s actions “for the immediate reinforcement of the deterrent capabilities of our armed forces.”
Greece's overall modernization drive for the country's armed forces includes upgrades for the army, navy and air force, and the hiring of 15,000 personnel.
The program features plans to purchase warships, anti-submarine warfare helicopters and drones, and an upgrade of Greece’s F-16 fighter jet fleet by 2027.