French aerospace and defence group Dassault Aviation on Wednesday delivered its first Rafale multirole fighter to the Hellenic (Greek) Air Force (HAF). The HAF has ordered a total of 18 Rafales, composed of 12 second hand ex-French Air and Space Force aircraft and six new-build examples.
The second batch of six second-hand examples will be upgraded to the latest Rafale F3R standard and the new ones will be built to that standard. The first six are reportedly being delivered in the F3-O4T standard (the one immediately prior to the F3R standard). All 18 aircraft will be delivered over the next two years. The deal is reportedly worth €2.3-billion.
The French Air and Space Force will receive 12 new Rafales to replace the dozen being transferred to Greece. The order for the new French aircraft was placed in January this year.
The delivery ceremony, held at the Dassault Aviation Flight Test Centre at Istres in France, was presided over by company chairperson and CEO Eric Trappier and Greek Defence Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos. The handing over of this first aircraft took place only six months after the contract was signed.
This first example, and the next five, will remain in France until the necessary number of HAF pilots and technicians are trained to operate and maintain the type. They will then be transferred to the HAF air base at Tanagra, near Thebes in central Greece, which is where all 18 Rafales will be based, reportedly assigned to 332 Squadron.
“Following the [Dassault] Mirage F1 in 1974, the Mirage 2000-5 in 2000, the Rafale is now proudly flying with [sic] the Hellenic Air Force colours,” highlighted Trappier. “The Rafale is a strategic game changer for the HAF. It will play an active role by securing Greece’s leadership as a major regional power. I would like to reaffirm our total commitment to the success of the Rafale in Greece.”
Greece is the fourth export order for the Rafale, the previous three being (in alphabetical order) Egypt, India and Qatar. In May, Croatia became the fifth export customer for the type, with an order for 12 ex-French Air and Space Force machines. Reportedly, to date, 336 Rafales have been ordered (180 for France) of which 191 have so far been delivered (152 to France). The French orders and deliveries include an aircraft carrier-based version for the French Navy.