The first six Rafale fighters of the Hellenic Air Force were ferried to their new home base in Tanagra, near Athens, on January 19, 2021.
Two twin-seat Rafale B and four Rafale C fighters took off from the Dassault Aviation site in Istres, with the first eight Greek pilots trained by the French Air Force in the cockpit.
The Rafales will join the 114th Combat Wing of the HAF, located in Tanagra near Athens. The Wing is accustomed to French-made aircraft: after flying the Mirage F1CG fighter from 1975 to 2003, it is currently equipped with the Mirage 2000-5, which should continue to operate alongside the Rafales.
“The mastery with which the Hellenic Air Force carried out this first ferry flight is a testimony to the excellence of our cooperation and the strength of our historical relationship with Greece for more than 45 years,” declared Éric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. “Thanks to our mobilization, we were able to meet the expectations of the Greek authorities in record time, who now have the Rafale on their national territory to reinforce the protection and sovereignty of the country.”
In January 2021, as the country faced heightened territorial tensions with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece placed an order for 12 used Rafale jets from the French Air Force and six new ones, all to the F3R standard, as well as an array of weapons, including Exocet anti-ship missiles and SCALP cruise missiles.
“It is truly a day when I am entitled to feel both proud and excited, but not satisfied because more needs to be done,” commented the Greek Minister of National Defense Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos during the delivery ceremony. “The effort to shield Greece through the reinforcement of the Armed Forces continues and there is no room at all to rest.”
Deducting the fighter jets from the French Air Force allowed for faster and cheaper procurement. While the first six fighters are all second-hand, the next six will be new. The last batch of six will also be taken from the French fleet in 2023.
On September 12, 2021, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced during the Thessaloniki International Fair that an additional order would be placed for six more Dassault Rafale fighter jets, though the final contract has yet to be signed.