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Greece makes its market in France (but no Rafale?)

The Greek government has decided to give a
a boost to the renewal of its military equipment: armored vehicles, helicopters, fighter and maritime patrol aircraft, weapons systems, maritime frigates, etc. the market is large.
Announcements, calls for tenders, contracts follow one another for a total amount of nearly 6 billion euros (according to the socialist opposition - which criticizes this expenditure while the country is suffering a serious
economic and social crisis). (*)

“French” frigates and helicopters. The National Defense Council has just given the green light to a contract negotiated “over the counter” with France. In the Greek hood, the purchase of
six modern FREMM type frigates (Franco-Italian program set up by Occar – the Joint Organization for Cooperation in Armaments). A necessity. The Greek naval park is
aging: most of the ships, often bought second-hand from the Dutch or Germans, are 20 or 30 years old or even more (see list of greek fleet). And some renewals are necessary if Greece wants to maintain the level of its navy which has always been the
strength of the country. Another purchase: 15 or 17 helicopters – Super Puma search and rescue. The arrival of helicopters of this type, notably Swiss, during the forest fires in 2007 had
particularly noted and appreciated. Amount of the bill, according to the Greek media: 2,2 billion euros for FREMM-type frigates (with a “small” discussion to find out if the
frigates could be manufactured in Greek shipyards), 275 million euros for helicopters (with a small “uncertainty” of the order of a few million euros for both
latest helicopters). Without counting weapon systems like Scalp Naval missiles.

A purchase… very diplomatic? Is this a fair return to the loud and solid support given by the French President of the Republic to Greece in the dispute between it and
the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom), on the name of the latter? Anyway, it looks damn similar. And the Greek Defense Minister, Meimarakis, made barely a hint
veiled in this French support, to justify this decision, during a presentation to the press. But this argument must not be the only one. Greece has often bought “French” (planes,
anti-missile boats built in Cherbourg…) and, above all, it has always taken care to diversify its suppliers, so as not to depend on just one. Strategic necessity in relation to its
traditional Turkish enemy.

Russian weapons. Thus a good part of its anti-aircraft defense system is of Russian design. And faithful to this supplier, Greece concluded a purchase contract at the end of 2007
BMP-3 armored infantry vehicles. Around 415 vehicles, at a cost of around 1,2 billion euros, according to the Greek press. Choice which is about to be finalized. And is also justified
economically: a Russian armored vehicle is 25% cheaper, apparently, than one of its competitors.

And an American plane to replace the “Mirage”? Likewise, the Greeks still need to replace their fleet of fighter planes, notably the “Mirage”. And Greece – irritated by
Turkey's “provocations” in its airspace – is willing to equip itself with modern aircraft, but at a reasonable cost. Replacement by the French “Rafale” would no longer really have
the rating, according to our Greek colleagues. And eyes are turning, currently, rather to the other side of the Atlantic. A good American offer would be a double blow: financially but also
diplomatic – towards the turbulent neighbor Turkey.

Last element of the renewal of Greek military equipment, maritime patrol aircraft. A call for tenders will have to be launched for five planes in the coming weeks.

(*) Note that Greece is one of the only member states of the European Union – with France and the United Kingdom – to currently exceed the level of 2%
arms expenditure (figure recommended by both NATO and the EU, at least to access the permanent enhanced cooperation of the Lisbon Treaty).

Update : another evaluation of the cost of the operation was published in the daily Kathimerini: 4 billion for the purchase of Fremm frigates with
500 million for the modernization of existing frigates, 600 million euros for Super helicopters
Puma, 250 million euros for maritime patrol aircraft, 400 million euros for cargo munitions,.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).