Rafale Fighters, F-35 Stealth Jets ‘Make A Killing’ – Greece Orders More Dassault Jets; Israel Received Three New Warplanes

The US-made F-35 stealth jet and French-manufactured Rafale “omni-role” fighter plane continue to expand their global footprint. Amid the Russia-Ukraine war, Greece signed deals valued at 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) with France on March 24 for six additional Rafales and three naval frigates.

The deals were signed on the eve of Greece’s National Day celebrations, in the presence of its Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos and his French counterpart Florence Parly. The ceremony was held on a 112-year-old battleship that serves as a floating museum now. 

Athens is beefing up its combat capabilities in response to regional tensions with Turkey.

“It is with solidarity that we address the threats that face our nations and our interests,” Parly said. “This also demonstrates our will to partner with industry over the long term.”

Dassault Aviation will supply the Rafale fighter jets to Greece, with deliveries starting in the summer of 2024, expanding the Hellenic Air Force’s fleet to 24 Rafales, according to a statement from the French warplane manufacturer. 

“With this acquisition of frigates and fighter jets the firepower of Greece’s navy and air force will be strengthened,” Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said.

The three French frigates of the FDI class will be built at Lorient, western France, by defense contractor Naval Group, and will be delivered by 2026. An option to purchase a fourth frigate at a later date is included in the agreement.

Meanwhile, the Rafale M, the naval variant of the fighter jet, participated in an annual military parade in Athens to mark Greece’s National Day on March 25. Parly also attended the event. 

French Rafale jets from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle fly over Athens.

France had supported Athens’ claims during a heated naval standoff with Turkey over oil and gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in 2020. Last year, the leaders of Greece and France inked a security assistance pact in Paris that will see the two countries’ militaries work more closely together. 

The visit of Parly came at a time when NATO naval troops in the Mediterranean were being spruced up in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Following the agreement-signing ceremony, the two defense ministers paid a visit to the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is docked near Athens in the port of Piraeus. 

Israel Receives Three F-35s

The Israeli military says three more F-35 fighter jets have arrived at Israel’s Nevatim Air Base from the United States, taking the country’s total fleet to 33. They arrived at Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel, where F-35 squadrons are stationed. 

An additional 17 F-35 planes are expected to arrive in Israel by 2024, bringing the total number of planes to 50.

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said in a tweet, “Today (Thursday), three “mighty” F-35I planes landed at the Nevatim base in the south of the country. Two ‘mighty ones’ joined Squadron 116 (Southern Lions) and one Squadron 140 (Golden Eagle).”

“The absorption of the aircraft is a continuation of the intensification of the fifth-generation of aircraft, a process that strengthens the Air Force’s operational capability, in defense and attack, and in maintaining the security of the State of Israel,” it added.

Israel became the first country to choose the F-35 through the US government’s Foreign Military Sales process in October 2010 by signing an LOA (Letter of Agreement) agreement. The Israeli Air Force acquired the first F-35A Adir on June 22, 2016, during a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas. 

In December 2017, the IAF certified its F-35 fleet as operationally capable, completing an intensive integration and training exercise at Nevatim AFB in Israel. The F-35 was given the Hebrew nickname Adir by the Israeli Air Force, which means “Mighty One”.

Israeli F-35 ( via Twitter)

Israel’s F-35-I is a significantly modified version of the Lockheed Martin stealth fighter plane. This version is said to have a lot more features than American jets. 

The IAF can modify these jets externally, to incorporate conformal fuel tanks aimed at addressing the aircraft’s critical performance gaps of having a short-range. The range of an aircraft can be greatly increased when drop tanks are used. 

Accessibility to some parts of the F-35’s highly digital architecture, such as mission control hardware and software, communications systems, integration of its own weaponry, and an electronic warfare and surveillance suite, is another prominent aspect that Israel acquired from the Americans.

With its F-35Is, Israel seeks development and operational independence, as well as a challenging proposal to maintain the aircraft in-house for the duration of its service life.

Such an arrangement would also be helpful to keep the Israeli F-35 fleet safer, in the case of a massive cyberattack, which may compromise the advanced computer-based avionics of other F-35s around the globe.