Modernization Of Greece's F-16 Fighter Jet Fleet
Pressure from Hellenic Air Force chiefs has Greece looking at modernizing and adding to its fighter jet capability by upgrading its existing F-16 fleet, with dreams of investing in 20 fifth generation F-35’s from American aerospace company Lockheed Martin. The decision is partly fuelled by Turkey’s plan to order 24 Lockheed Martin F-35s to replace its F-16 fleet.
The move undoubtedly unsettled Greece and in September 2016 during the Thessaloniki International Fair Greek Defence Minister, Panos Kammenos, stressed the need for Greece to update its fighter jet capability to answer to Turkey’s modernization of its fleet. Kammenos told Greek newspaper Kathimerini that this would allow Greece to restore a sense of balance with regards to military capabilities in the Aegean.
A Letter of Request (LOR) has been sent by Greece to the U.S. to upgrade its F-16 Block 52 and Block 52+ to F-16 Block 60s, with an expected time frame of 7 years and an estimated cost of several billion dollars. The LOR further explored the possibility of Greece participating in the F-35 programme. It is clear that Greece is aiming to sustain the numbers and quality of its fighter aircraft to be able to compete with Turkey who is expecting to receive 100 F-35s from 2018 to 2025.
F-35’s are pricey coming in bare bones at an estimated $109,88 million each (in FY2016). Compared to F-16s, which are tailored for maneuverability in combat situations, the F-35 is specifically designed for taking out advanced Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS) such as the Russian S-300 and S-400. The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, and advanced sustainment. Three variants of the F-35 will replace legacy fighters for the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, and 10 other countries around the world.
Greece currently has a total of 155 F-16C and F-16D fighter aircraft. Apart from the fighter jet modernization, Greece wants to maintain its S-300 missiles, which will cost around $9.5 million as an upgrade to S-400 cannot be done due to European economic sanctions on Russia. Greece is also looking to invest in drones, weapons maintenance, training, and more with a plan that if executed could easily cost $10 billion.
Hellenic Air Force’s Current F-16 Fleet
F-16C/D Block 30, 50 Fighting Falcon
Single-seat, single-engine, multirole fighter designed for all weather operations and capable of carrying a variety of weapon systems. Greece has in its air arsenal about 70 F-16s – Block 30 and Block 50.
In 1989, Greece purchased 40 Block 30s under the Arms Programme Peace Xenia I. In 1997, an additional 40 Block 50s were delivered as part of Peace Xenia II.
The Hellenic F-16s Block 30 and Block 50 are based at Larissa Air Force Base (110 Combat Wing – 346 Squadron Iason) and New Anchialos Air Force Base (111 Combat Wing – 330 Thunder, 341 Arrow, and 347 Perseas Squadrons).
All the Hellenic F-16s wear the Aegean Ghost camouflage.
F-16C/D Block 52+ Fighting Falcon
The Hellenic Air Force is the first Air Force in the world to operate this advanced F-16 type. The aircraft is the improved version of the Block 50 with advanced electronics and upgraded engine. The Hellenic Air Force’s Block 52+ are based at Souda Air Force Base (115 Combat Wing – 340 Fox and 343 Star Squadrons).
F-16C/D Block 52+adv Fighting Falcon
Improved version of the Block 52 with advanced electronics. The Hellenic Air Force’s Block 52+ Adv are based at Araxos Air Force Base (116 Combat Wing – 335 Squadron Tiger).
Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA