Greece talking with France about Belh@rra frigates, Mirage 2000 support

Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos sent a message that due to the preparedness and trustworthiness of the Armed Forces, it is not in anyone’s interest to think of any offense against the country’s sovereign rights, while addressing the House. He warned that anyone attempting to consult our sovereign rights would have greater costs than benefits.

“The Ministry intensively reinforces defense diplomacy with the aim of strengthening the country’s deterrent power. Because of the readiness and trustworthiness of the Armed Forces, it is not in anyone’s interest to think of any offense against our sovereign rights. The cost will be greater than the benefit it seeks to reap,” reported.

Specifically on Greek-Turkish relations, he announced that he would speak with Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, in Brussels on the sidelines of NATO’s Council of Defense Ministers in late October. He stressed that in their recent telephone conversation they agreed to open communication channels of the two countries, even in times of tension.

He reiterated Greece’s position that the Cyprus issue is a top political issue. As for the defense upgrade, he revealed that in addition to upgrading the F-16s to the Viper class by Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) and supporting the existing Mirage 2000 fleet, the Ministry is negotiating the purchase of Belh@rra class frigate(s) from France equipped with an anti-aircraft defense system based on advanced electronics.

The minister considered it to be “a weapon that greatly enhances our capabilities in the Aegean”. He also announced a bill to upgrade the national guard and referred to the draft plan for the National Defense University which will merge military academies.

Concerning upgrades and equipment, Panagiotopoulos said:
“These three great programs as we rank them are:

a) Upgrading of the F-16s to the Viper class that is the most up-to-date on the 4th generation aircraft towards the 5th generation. This huge program it operational and efficient, but will certainly enable it in the future to attract other such upgrades, especially aircraft from other countries.

A prerequisite for such a development is the F-16 upgrade program. To do this we are now working on the offset package, we used to call it offsets, and the characteristic of this package relates to the subprograms that mainly come and strengthen the ODA infrastructure through the substation. More will be said when the time comes to analyze this program in great detail and very thoroughly.

b) Supporting the existing Mirage fleet. To this end an agreement has already been reached with the three French companies involved. There have been many problems in the past, not necessarily with the responsibility of the Greek side, they seem to be on a path to resolution.

Of course, we also want the Mirage aircraft in the best possible operational readiness because it is a weapon that really enhances our capabilities in the Aegean.

(c) The acquisition of two new Belh@rra frigates. Greek interest has been expressed in acquiring a new frigate that will now provide the advantage of an area defense zone with a comprehensive anti-aircraft cover system, based on very advanced electronic means and technologies. The French side has of course accepted.

There is the issue of funding, which is being resolved, but it is not the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense. Of course, the question of the requirements of the Greek side also comes to the question of financing. We will not, just, take what the French give us, we will take what we want the French can give us according to the requirements of our Armed Forces.

Therefore, a series of intensive contacts have been initiated between working groups of the two States, the Navy and the Directorate General of Defense Equipment on our part and the Directorate of Defense of the French in order to understand exactly what we want from this ship.

We are at an early stage now, but if we agree on exactly what we are asking for and the French agree on what they can provide, then there is scope for this acquisition of a very important weapon system, which will dramatically upgrade, I would say, Fleet capabilities. and modernize it as our frigate age is quite old.