Greece’s government will pay 2.32 billion euros (£2 billion) for French-made Rafale fighter jets and an upgrade of compatible missiles under a major military overhaul amid tensions with neighbouring Turkey.
Delivery of the 18 jets will begin in mid-2021 and be completed over two years, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.
Greece has earmarked 11.5 billion euro (£10.3 billion) to modernise its armed forces over five years amid deteriorating relations with Nato ally Turkey over offshore energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Rafale jets will include 12 aircraft currently in service with the French military and six new planes to be built by Dassault Aviation.
“This action will shift the balance of forces in the air,” Mr Petsas said, without making any direct reference to Turkey.
As part of the air force upgrade, Greece will also purchase Meteor air-to-air missiles compatible with the Rafale jets.
Turkey outspends its much neighbour by about five to one in defence but has a smaller advantage in fighter jet capability than in other areas of the military.
Greek defence officials argue the Rafale acquisition will narrow the gap following a decision by the US last year to expel Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet programme in response to Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system.
The Trump administration followed up with sanctions against Turkey, announced earlier this week.
Visiting Athens on Thursday, US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said he had received renewed assurances from Greece’s government that Athens remains committed to resolving the dispute with Turkey through negotiations and at an international court if required.
“It is important that countries resolve these matters in a court of law, not with military might,” he told reporters on a conference call after talks with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“So we’re going to continue to urge all parties to work this out favourably, using the courts and not bullets to resolve these things.”