United States ready to sell F-35s to Greece, says ambassador

U.S. Ambassador to Athens Geoffrey Pyatt said the United States was ready to sell F-35 fighter jets to Greece, news website Protothema reported on Thursday.

Pyatt mentioned the fighter jets after responding to a question on Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean, saying Washington supported measures taken by Greece against what Greek officials have called “provocations”, during a talk with Greek journalists, according to Protothema.

“We are ready to sell F-35s whenever Greece is ready,” Pyatt said, adding that Washington was looking forward to cooperating when Athens “decides to make this investment”.

F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin will still need up to five years to develop the required infrastructure in Greece, Pyatt added, according to news website Hellas Journal.

Following its purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems, the United States removed Turkey from the fifth generation F-35 fighter jet programme in 2019, citing security risks to NATO weapons architecture.

On Nov. 30 last year, Pyatt issued a statement to clear rumours, saying:

“The United States, at the highest levels, has welcomed Greece’s interest in acquiring the F-35 for the Hellenic Air Force.  We have signalled our support for procurement and are working closely together on a future acquisition program.”

Ankara has been working to get back into the program, hiring lobbyists in Washington, according to reports in February, while remaining at loggerheads with Athens over rights to natural resources and territorial waters in the Mediterranean and Aegean.

Turkey had been planning to buy 100 F-35s, but the United States has refused to deliver the four completed jets after the country’s expulsion from the program. On Feb. 27, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar criticised Washington, saying, “Our friends, allies, and those who know as friends, are somehow insisting on not giving us the supply we have paid for.”

Since Turkey’s expulsion, the Pentagon has been exploring options to include other countries in the program.