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Greece Is Putting Its Older F-16s And Mirage 2000s Up For Sale, But Will Any Country Buy Them?

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A Mirage 2000 – 5 lands on the tarmac of the military airport of Tanagra, some 100 kilometers north … [+] of Athens, 23 November 2007. Greece incorporated 15 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets into its airforce in a ceremony officiated over by Greek Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and his French counterpart Herve Morin. The jets had been commissioned from French contractor Dassault in 2000 at a price of 1.6 billion euros. AFP PHOTO / Aris Messinis (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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It is official. As part of its extensive overhaul of its armed forces, Greece will offer some of its older, used fighter jets for sale. But will any countries want these ex-Hellenic Air Force aircraft?

“We have a cartload of different types of aircraft. We have F-4s, Mirage 2000-5s, Block 30 F-16s, Block 50 F-16s, Block 52 F-16s, Viper F-16s and Rafales. We cannot carry on this way. The F-4s need to be retired and, if possible, sold. The Mirage 2000-5 is an exceptionally capable plane and can be sold. The Block 30 F-16s need to be sold. And I think we will be able to sell the [Mirage 2000-5 and Block 30 F-16s],” Defense Minister Nikos Dendias said on Mar. 25 in an interview for Greek television.

George Tzogopoulos, a senior fellow at the Centre International de Formation Européenne, a French policy research institute, noted that Greece’s ongoing modernization of its armed forces is the context within the decision to sell these older aircraft should be seen.

“Defense Minister Nikos Dendias has announced this indeed, so it is the official policy,” he told me.

Dendias’s comments followed a report in Greek media in early February revealing the HAF General Staff is looking to sell 18 Mirage 2000EGM/BGM fighters that had previously served the 332 Hawk Squadron for 30 years. It’s reportedly ready to finalize a sale to India. India has operated Mirage 2000s since acquiring 51 in 1982-85 and may well be interested in acquiring the used Greek airframes to cannibalize for spare parts to keep its fleet operational.

Four Mirage 2000-5 fly over the military airport of Tanagra, some 100 kilometers north of Athens, 23 … [+] November 2007. Greece incorporated 15 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets into its airforce in a ceremony officiated over by Greek Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and his French counterpart Herve Morin. The jets had been commissioned from French contractor Dassault in 2000 at a price of 1.6 billion euros. AFP PHOTO / Aris Messinis / AFP / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

While many countries have sought second-hand fighter jets in recent years, there may be limited interest in these older airframes. Even though Greece’s F-4 Phantom IIs have received upgrades over the years, there is likely little interest in them considering their advanced age, which is why Dendias admitted they need to be retired if Athens cannot sell them. Turkey is keeping its modernized F-4s in service until the end of this decade, but Ankara is doing so out of necessity.

Indonesia announced in February that it had scrapped a plan to buy 12 second-hand Mirage 2000-5 fighters from Qatar for $790 million. Jakarta had envisioned the fighters serving as a stopgap solution until it acquired Rafales later in the decade.

It’s unclear if any country will want Greece’s Block 30 F-16s, a model Athens has operated since the late 1980s. Interestingly, Greece canceled a deal for 20 ex-U.S. Air Force Block 30 F-16s reached in August 1998.

A Hellenic Air Force F-16 takes part at the annual military parade in the northern Greek port city … [+] of Thessaloniki, Oct. 28, 2016. The parade is held to celebrate Greece’s refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. Thessaloniki also celebrates the day of it’s independance on 26 of October in 1912.(Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto via Getty Images
Ukraine would doubtlessly welcome the acquisition of former HAF F-16s and Mirage 2000s since Kyiv needs any system it can acquire. In addition to acquiring second-hand F-16s from European air forces, Kyiv has shown interest in potentially acquiring used Mirage 2000Ds from France.

Tzogopoulos believes it’s “theoretically” possible that Ukraine could get these ex-HAF jets.

“Although Greece does not belong to the countries which have already decided to send F-16s to Ukraine, its pilots are reportedly already training Ukrainian ones,” he said.

Nevertheless, he stressed that Greek-Russian political relations are now at their lowest point.

“Perhaps it will not be in the interest of the Greek government to open new fronts of hostility with Moscow,” he said. “The issue of sending S-300s to Ukraine is already on the public agenda.”

Tzogopoulos also sees India as a leading contender for buying the Mirage 2000s, pointing to reports in Greek media and Prime Minister Mitsotakis’s recent successful visit to India.

“However, we currently lack some basic information to provide accurate comments on potential sales,” he said. “Potential re-sales of Mirage 2000s depend on clauses in the initial contract signed with Dassault Aviation (which sold French fighters to Greece).”

“Additionally, we are not well-informed about the current technical status of planes, the specific type of Mirage 2000s Greece will finally sell, maintenance costs, and costs for future technological advancement,” he added.

India’s neighbor and rival Pakistan has sought old, second-hand Mirages from Egypt and has a reputation for being “thrifty” when it comes to keeping older, vintage aircraft in service for as long as possible. Therefore, it’s not inconceivable that Islamabad would be interested in Greece’s used Mirages.

However, any potential sale to Pakistan is highly unlikely, mainly for political reasons.

“I find it difficult to consider taking into account that Greek-Pakistani relations are not strategic but rather cover basic themes (migration, some trade, etc.),” Tzogopoulos said. “As opposed to other countries mentioned, I would not consider Pakistan a potential buyer.”

There was an unconfirmed rumor in recent years that Greece planned on possibly selling Cyprus its Mirage 2000s, which would be significant considering the island nation has never operated fighter jets.

“I would not exclude options, but history demonstrates the complicated nature of that type of scenario,” Tzogopoulos said of a potential Cypriot sale. “Again, I would say that Dassault Aviation and the French government would possibly have a say on the matter. So, this is not necessarily a bilateral issue between Greece and the Republic of Cyprus but involves others.”

“The discussion is thus rather affecting the new military status of the Republic of Cyprus, which is not a NATO member state but is slowly approaching the West and endorsing its strategic priorities,” he added.

Greece, Cyprus, and Armenia have recently increased military cooperation. In light of this, Armenia, which has sought to diversify its military procurement, could be a possible contender for these aircraft.

Yerevan previously bought four brand new Su-30SM Flanker fighter jets from Russia in 2019. However, these jets played no role in the 2020 war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

It’s unclear if Armenia might seek to match Azerbaijan’s reported acquisition of JF-17 Thunder fighters from Pakistan with these ex-HAF jets, especially if it could get them at an affordable price.

“Greece and Armenia have enjoyed a high level of defense collaboration for decades,” Tzogopoulos said.

“If Dassault Aviation and the French government have no objection, Armenia shows an interest and has the capacity to cover expenses, it will arguably be a potential client.”

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