It is Greece’s first significant defence equipment purchase since 2005, when it bought more than 300 Leopard tanks from Germany, and its first investment in a new combat aircraft since buying French Mirage 2000s in 1989.
Greece’s overall defence spending halved from 7.88bn euros in 2009 to 3.75bn euros in 2018, as an eight-year recession led to budget cuts. Greece is sharply increasing its defence spending by 43 percent this year, to 5.5bn euros ($6.7bn).
The reason is that Greece and Turkey have had their most acrimonious year since 1974, when Turkey invaded Cyprus in response to a Greek coup attempt, and a war in the Aegean was narrowly averted.
“I think we are at one minute to midnight as far as a conflict with Turkey is concerned,” Kostas Grivas, who teaches geopolitics and weapons systems at the Hellenic Army Academy, told Al Jazeera.
Covid-19 Greece – 873 new cases & 55 deaths on Thursday
Greece is in such a hurry to acquire the Rafale, it pressed France to deliver the first squadron by May, six months ahead of the original schedule. Its pilots will fly to France for training in the coming weeks.
Last September, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece will buy four new frigates and upgrade four existing ones, giving it a blue water navy capable of projecting power beyond the Aegean.
Read more: Al jazeera