Greece has received delivery the first pair of upgraded F-16 military jets from the United States as part of a $1.5 billion program to modernize its fighter fleet, with four more expected by year's end.
In total the deal is for 83 F-16s to be modernized with advanced radar, weapons and electronics systems by 2027.
The US-approved Lockheed Martin deal with Athens has angered Turkey, while head of Greece's military Gen. Constantinos Floros hailed success in this "issue of the highest national importance." At a moment tensions are boiling with Turkey over Anakara's claims that Greek islands are being illegally 'militarized' in contravention of historic treaties, the top Greek general warned that "Any potential aggressor will have to think twice or thrice before trying their luck."
Last May, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited Washington and spoke to Congress. He appeared to actively lobby US lawmakers against Turkey's request for its own F-16 modernization kits. This infuriated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who subsequently said Mitsotakis "no longer exists for him" - given that Congress subsequently blocked Turkish F-16 modernization.
Without doubt, Tuesday's handover ceremony of the newly outfitted Greek F-16s at the Tanagra air base northwest of Athens is a hugely symbolic poke in the eye to Ankara.
The past days have seen tensions rise after Erdogan over a week ago issued a thinly veiled threat of military action. PM Kyriakos was asked over the weekend about the possibility of direct clashes over the eastern Mediterranean, to which he responded:
Asked Sunday by The Associated Press whether the recent escalation in rhetoric from Turkey could be the prelude to an armed conflict, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis replied negatively.
"I don’t believe this will ever happen," he said. "And if, God forbid, it happened, Turkey would receive an absolutely devastating response."
Greece has of late dramatically increased defense spending, given especially it has also been in a years-long standoff with Turkey over maritime rights. Turkey has consistently claimed oil and gas exploration and drilling rights surrounding Cyprus and in waters which fall under Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
As the AP notes, "Following years of forced savings during the 2010-2018 financial crisis, Greece has embarked on a multibillion-dollar spending spree to boost its armed forces. It has bought or ordered French Rafale fighter jets and FDI frigates, and plans to purchase F-35 fighters from the U.S."
At the same time, Turkey had been expelled from the F-35 program following the Pastor Brunson detention affair, and as relations with Washington progressively worsened, especially given the Russian S-400 transfer from Russia, which the US had warned against.
You can read this article as it originally appears at Zero Hedge here.
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