Greek National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos attended a handover ceremony in Paris on Wednesday for the first of 18 state-of-the-art Rafale fighter jets to be delivered to the Hellenic Air Force.
"The choice of buying the Rafale French fighter jets underlines the strategic character of Greek-French relations and France's undivided support of Greece, before challenges and threats," Panagiotopoulos said after the ceremony. "It confirms a long-term tradition of excellent relations of collaboration between our two countries, both on bilateral level and in the framework of regional and international organizations," he added.
Asked if the acquisition of Rafale jets has changed the balances of power, the defense minister said, "I believe it already has, otherwise our neighbors wouldn't rush to find ways of decoding, you could say, of the Rafale jet. We have heard a lot in mass media lately, but the essence is that Greece as of today has incorporated in its ranks the Rafale."
The ceremony took place at the 125 Istres-Le Tubé air base, where Dassault Aviation is based, and was also attended on the Greek side by Hellenic National Defense General Staff chief and general Constantine Floros and General Air Force Staff, air marshal Georgios Blioumis.
Commenting on the event, General Floros said that "this very powerful fighter jet with impressive options we all know it has, and the number of missions it can undertake, offers a clear strategic advantage to Greece and brings the Greek Armed Forces into a new era."
Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Tappier said that after Mirage 1 (in 1974), Mirage 2000 (1985) and Mirage 2000-5 (2000), "it's Rafale's turn to proudly wear the colors of the Hellenic Air Force." He said the aircraft will contribute to Greece retaining its leading position as regional power.
He said that this handover of the first Rafale is taking place just six months after the signing of the procurement for a total of 18 such jets.
France has been training the Greek pilots, who will also be joined by 50 technicians at the Rafale training center in Merignac. The jets will be stationed at the base in Tanagra.
While in France, Defense Minister Panagiotopoulos also met with Tappier and with his counterpart, French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly.
In a message on Twitter, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed the event and described the jet as "a superior aircraft, of a new generation, that multiplies our Air Force's deterrent power and boosts the country's defence opportunities."
Greek, French defense ministers meet in Paris
Greek National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and his French counterpart Florence Parly discussed strengthening bilateral defense cooperation, as reflected in the strategic relationship between Greece and France, during a meeting in Paris on Wednesday.
The two ministers talked about the earlier handover ceremony they attended of the first of 18 Rafale fighter jets to be delivered to the Hellenic Air Force. The event, attended by both ministers, was held at the air base of Istres, southern France.
Greece, France and the two country's peoples enjoy a strong, timeless friendship as well as cooperation and solidarity, a statement said.