A new era for the Hellenic Air Force with the acquisition of French Rafales

It’s finally done! The Greek authorities officially signed the order of 18 Rafale fighter jets in F3R standard, as well as a large batch of ammunition and parts, all for an amount of € 2,5 billion. The signing of this contract was long awaited, and enshrines the partnership between Paris and Athens around Defense issues, a partnership which has shown its solidity. During the crisis between Greece and Turkey on hydrocarbon exploitation issues in the Aegean Sea last fall. But beyond this bilateral defense relationship, the arrival of the Rafale within the Hellenic Air Force, which will run between 2021 and 2022 in particular due to the postponement of Rafale deliveries intended for the French Air and Space Force in the middle of next year to respond to the Greek emergency, will significantly change the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean, in particular vis-à-vis Turkey, a country with which Athens maintains strained relations.

Today, the Hellenic armed forces are constantly evolving under the threat of an adversary with a more than significant numerical advantage, with 3 times as many soldiers, twice as many armored vehicles, and one and a half times as many ships and fighter jets.

Such a balance of power is very unfavorable for Athens, especially since Turkey has a much larger demographic pool, and the area to be defended for Athens is particularly vast, stretching from Cyprus to Eastern Thrace, and incorporates a large number of populated islands in the Aegean Sea.

In these conditions, the Hellenic General Staff must count, in addition to the training and determination of its soldiers, a solid political and popular support, and a technological advantage capable of compensating for its numerical weakness. It is in this context that Athens decided in summer 2020 to start negotiations with Paris to acquire a squadron of Rafale aircraft, on short notice.

The French-made aircraft indeed have unique capabilities capable of giving the Hellenic air forces decisive tactical options against their Turkish counterparts, whose air forces consist of nearly 250 American F-16 C / D fighters at Block 52 standard, and around fifty F4E Phantom 2s, supported by 4 E-7A wedgetail early warning aircraft, and 7 KC-135 Stratotanker tankers.

In addition, the Turkish anti-aircraft defense has put into service a battalion equipped with the Russian long-range system S-400, specially acquired to counter the NATO air forces according to the statements of Binali Yıldırım, the President of the National Assembly of Turkey and former AKP leader, also very close to President RT Erdogan.

In the first place, the Greek Rafales will be formidable air superiority platforms, in particular thanks to the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile, capable of shooting down a target 150 km away. These aircraft will therefore represent a critical threat to the Turkish support aircraft fleet, in particular its aerial watch planes and refuellers, depriving the air force of the benefit of numbers.

In addition, the Hellenic forces will be able, for their part, to benefit from the support of their 4 Embraer R-99 early warning aircraft, Turkey having no system comparable to the Rafale-Meteor pair to date.

In the air-to-air version, the Rafale carries 2 long-range Meteor missiles (150 km), 2 MICA medium-range radar guided missiles (80 km) and 2 MICA short-range infrared guided missiles (30 km), as well as 3 cans of 1250 liters of profiled fuel for supersonic flight.

Air superiority is not the Rafale’s only asset for the Hellenic Air Force. Indeed, the devices will be delivered with the SCALP EG missile, a highly efficient stealth cruise missile capable of hitting targets with metric precision at over 550 km while flying at very low altitude, and carrying 450 kg of explosive charge in tandem to overcome enemy bunkers.

This missile has largely proved its worth in combat, in particular during Operation Hamilton, when the French Rafale, which left Saint Dizier, destroyed a Syrian chemical complex with these munitions. By the very admission of the Russian soldiers present there, the detection systems of the S-300 and S-400 batteries deployed in the area were not able to detect French missiles.

The Rafale-SCALP pair therefore constitutes a formidable pair to overcome the S-400 systems acquired by Ankara, and which could threaten the Hellenic F-16 and Mirage 2000, less radio-electrically discreet than the French fighter. READ MORE HERE