Greece acquires French warships in multibillion-euro defense deal

The deal for the Belharra warships comes less than two weeks after Australia ditched France in a major submarine contract HO DCNS/AFP/File

France and Greece on Tuesday signed a multibillion-euro deal for Athens to buy three French frigates, in an accord hailed by President Emmanuel Macron as a major boost for the EU’s defense ambitions.

Standing next to French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace, Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday: “We have a common vision of an autonomous response capability to the challenges Europe faces.”

The $5bn deal will provide Athens with three state-of-the-art Belharra frigates and three Gowind corvettes, with an option for one more of each.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (left), shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron following a signing ceremony of a new defence deal at The Elysee Palace in Paris on September 28, 2021 [Ludovic Marin/various sources/AFP]

According to France24 news reports, the ships would be delivered by 2026, with the first frigate arriving as early as 2024.

Greece and France have been drawing closer in recent years, against the backdrop of their deteriorating relations with Turkey.

Last year, Greece and Turkey came to the brink of war when Ankara sent survey ships to look for undersea oil and gas in what Greece considers its maritime jurisdiction.

France sent naval forces to help Greece’s ageing fleet of 11 frigates patrol its maritime zones and the two countries have since held joint and multilateral air and sea exercises in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.

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The accord, part of a broader strategic military and defense cooperation pact, comes after Athens had already ordered some 24 Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets this year, making it the first European Union country to buy the fighter jet.

In 2018, Greece signed a $1.3bn deal with the US’s Lockheed Martin to upgrade 85 of its F-16 fighter jets to Viper level, installing advanced radar and weapons systems on board.

Both the Rafale and the Viper will outclass Turkey’s standing fleet of an estimated 236 ageing F-16s.

Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drones, which are weapons-capable, have turned the tide of wars in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh in the last year and could constitute a formidable threat in the Aegean.

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