Minister outlines 'very ambitious' national defense upgrade plan

Minister outlines 'very ambitious' national defense upgrade plan

The Greek national defense upgrade plan "is very ambitious and extends into the future," National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the main news program of Alpha TV, the minister said that Greece plans to purchase 40 fighter airplanes in total, including the 18 recently agreed Rafale from France.

"Sooner or later, a purchase of F-35s will be discussed," he said, underlining that "at some point we will move to fifth-generation aircraft, and the main aircraft within NATO at such level is the F-35."

He also spoke of the ongoing upgrading of Greek F-16s into Vipers, "the most updated version of F-16s in the world," and added that the first such Greek airplane would fly to the United States. "In the next seven years, we will be developing between 8 to 12 F-16s into Vipers per year," Panagiotopoulos revealed.

Turkey, he said, "understands that Greece is being strengthened quickly and decisively. The acquisition of Rafale aircraft will change the balance of power in favor of the Greek side." The strategic arms the aircraft carry "the other side does not have," he added, but expressed the hope that they will not have to be used.

Speaking of the possibility of acquiring the Belharra French frigates, he said the decision "will be made in the first half of this year." He clarified that French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly did not bring a proposal for frigates during Monday's visit to Greece, "but she assured us that this proposal is forthcoming." Proposals are also expected from Germany, Spain, the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, he said.

"We want a package deal," the minister clarified. "Besides the shipbuilding of the four ships - the new types of frigates - we want to guarantee that some of these will be built at Greek shipbuilding yards, with the involvement of local industry." As the building will take an average of six to seven years, the winning bidders "will provide an intermediate solution, with two used ships in a good state, possibly upgraded. We are waiting for specific proposals," he said.

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