Four pilots of the Hellenic Air Force started their training in France to become accustomed to the Dassault Rafale fighter jet, recently acquired by Greece. Three of them were formerly flying the Dassault Mirage 2000 while one flew the General Dynamics F-16, according to the Greek media Pentapostagma.
The goal is for them to become instructors and help train the next batch of eight Rafale pilots. In addition to pilots, Greek technicians also began training with their French counterparts. The Hellenic Air Force hopes to have twelve Rafale fighter jets and their pilots of the 332nd “Falcon” Squadron operational by 2022. The squadron will be located in Tanagra, the home base of the 114th Combat Wing of the Hellenic Air Force. The wing is used to French-made aircraft: after flying the Mirage F1CG fighter from 1975 to 2003, it is currently equipped with the Mirage 2000-5.
A total of 18 Dassault Rafale fighter jets were ordered by the Hellenic Air Force in January 2021. The contract includes 12 used Rafale jets of the French Air Force and 6 new ones, all to the F3R standard, as well as an array of weapons that include Exocet anti-ship missiles and SCALP cruise missiles. The deduction of the fighter jets from the French Air Force fleet allowed a faster and cheaper procurement for Greece, which became the first European customer of the aircraft.
The F3R standard recently reached full operational capability. It comprises several upgrades that include the RBE2 AESA radar system, the METEOR long-range air-to-air missile, the TALIOS designation pod, and an update of the SPECTRA electronic warfare suite.
The first six fighters, taken from the inventory of the French Air Force, should arrive in Greece as early as July 2021. The rest of the order will be delivered in two installments of six in 2022 and 2023.
To ensure the French Air Force does not suffer from a capacity gap in the future, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces approved the order of an additional batch of 12 Rafale fighter jets on January 29, 2021. If all goes according to plan, the French Air Force should receive the 12 Rafales in 2025, thus meeting its objective of 129 jets by the middle of the decade, up from 102 currently.