Yesterday, Israel and Greece agreed on a $1.68 billion deal between the two countries. Part of this largest defence agreement, the Hellenic Air Force purchases 10 M-346 aircraft and the Israeli company Elbit System not only establishes a flight school in Greece, but will also maintain the training aircraft.
Next to these core parts of the 20-year deal, Israel will also provide the required training, simulators and logistical support. The defence deal is part of a series of agreements between the two countries to strengthen their close relationship. At an earlier stage Greece singed a lease contract to use Israeli drones.
The Israeli Minister of Defence Benny Grantz was delightedly welcomed the deal: “It is a long-term partnership that will serve the interests of both Israel and Greece, create hundreds of jobs in both countries and promote stability in the Mediterranean”. Grantz said the deal was an example of “recent strengthening of defence relations between our countries” and noted that “my expectation [is] that these will deepen further.”
The Israeli Directorate for International Defence Cooperation, known as SIBAT, sings the deal along with Elbit Systems. The Israeli flight school will serve as a blueprint for the Greek academy. The Italian aircraft manufacturer Leonardo will provide the M-346 trainers. The trainers entered service with the Israeli Air Force in 2012.
The strengthening of the Greek-Israeli ties is a clear message to Turkey; Greece’s long term adversary. Recent moves from Turkey to restore more healthy relations with Israel occurred parallel to increased tensions in the Greek-Turkish dispute. The Jerusalem post notes that singing the defence deal is a clear signal to Ankara: ‘regardless [of] how Turkish-Israeli relations may develop, the Israeli-Greek alliance, in fact the Israeli-Greek-Cypriot alliance, is here to stay’.