Greece may buy U.S. F-35 jets to reclaim air superiority over Turkey

Greece may buy U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets to help regain air superiority over neighbouring Turkey, Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said.

The purchase of the F-35s, which may be completed in the coming years, would be in addition to an upgrade to the Greek air force’s F-16 aircraft to Viper class, which will begin shortly, Panagiotopoulos told Skai TV, according to Kathimerini newspaper.

Greece is seeking to bolster its defences and improve cooperation with NATO partner the United States after political and military tensions with Turkey intensified over territorial rights in the Aegean Sea and oil and gas exploration off Cyprus. Panagiotopoulos spoke after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with President Donald Trump at the White House this week.

The United States has barred NATO member Turkey from a programme to manufacture and purchase F-35s after it bought S-400 air defence missiles from Russia last year. Turkey also has F-16s in its military arsenal and boasts the second-largest standing army in NATO after the United States.

The United States has pledged to take steps to diffuse tensions between Athens and Ankara, Panagiotopoulos said, referring to discussions in Washington this week.