Greece could usurp Turkey’s role as leading NATO air power in East Med - RCD

Greece could take over Turkey’s role as the NATO alliance’s leading air power in the eastern Mediterranean, Pentagon-linked military news website RealClearDefense (RCD) said on Thursday.

Greece's acquisition of the U.S.-produced F-35 stealth fighter jet, combined with its existing air force of over a hundred F-16 fighters, will make it a bulwark of NATO’s southern flank, RCD said.

Athens had struck a deal with Washington to procure the fifth-generation advanced fighter jet and has already received six originally intended for sale to Turkey.

The United States had removed NATO ally Turkey from its F-35 production and procurement programme in 2019 in retaliation for taking delivery of a Russian-made missile defence system. The NATO alliance has said the S-400, which Turkey tested in October, threaten the security of its defence network.

The F-35 has become a key feature of the military alliance’s plans to deter Russian aggression, RCD said. The plane's advanced survivability and versatility provide warfighting advantages that Russia cannot match, and its adoption by many NATO members assures that diverse air forces will synch effectively in combat, it said.

Turkey’s warmer relations with Russia and disagreements with the European Union makes Greece an increasingly appealing candidate to step in, RCD said, adding that the United States was already eyeing the Iraklion Air Base in Crete to replace Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base as the country’s air force station in the Middle East.