Israel is the reason Greece’s Hellenic Air Force will receive upgrades to its training program—including establishing an International Flight Training Center—thanks to an approximately $5.4 billion deal in the largest defense contract ever signed between the two countries. The agreement, which spans 22 years and will engage Israel’s Elbit Systems in the plans, includes training, simulators, and aircraft upgrades. The flight training center, according to an Israeli Defense Ministry press release, will be “modeled after the Israel Air Force (IAF) flight academy.”
“The strategic partnership between the Israel Ministry of Defense and Hellenic Ministry of National Defense is further cemented today, via the signing of the most expansive and one of the most significant defense agreements to date,” Israeli Directorate for International Defense Cooperation (SIBAT) Director Brig. Gen. (res.) Yair Kulas said in the press release.
The press release said the deal not only includes multiple projects for Elbit Systems to enhance the Hellenic Air Force’s training program, it also noted that “in the future, the parties will also consider areas of cooperation between the Israeli flight academy and Hellenic Airforce Academy.”
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz was quoted as saying, “This cooperation agreement rests on the excellence of Israel’s defense industry and the strong relations between the defense establishments of Greece and Israel… I am certain that [this program] will upgrade the capabilities and strengthen the economies of Israel and Greece and thus the partnership between our two countries will deepen on the defense, economic and political levels.”
In addition to demonstrating the good relationship between Israel and Greece, the deal also highlights the security prowess of Israel’s Elbit Systems. “We are honored to have been awarded this contract to provide such an important capability to the Hellenic Air Force,” President and CEO of Elbit Systems,Bezhalel (Butzi) Machlis said in the press release.
“This contract award attests to the leading position we hold in the area of training, providing tested know-how and proven technologies that improve readiness while reducing costs.”
Gantz thanked Greek Minister of Defense Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos for “promoting the agreement”, which had previously been discussed in a trilateral meeting held in Cyprus.
The latest regional strategic meeting, which opened last Friday, also served as a warning to Iran. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release on its website that the formerly “trilateral meeting” involved not only Israel and Greece with host Cyprus, but the United Arab Emirates joined as well.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi was quoted in the meeting press release post as saying on Friday, “Iran and Hezbollah undermine the stability of the Middle East and the possibility of achieving regional peace… Iran is working towards acquiring nuclear weapons and continues to develop long-range missiles that will pose a critical threat to Israel and its neighbors.
“Israel is determined to defend itself against any attempt to harm its sovereignty or citizens, and will do whatever it takes to prevent this radical and antisemitic regime from acquiring nuclear weapons”.
Perhaps not coincidentally, just two days after Ashkenazi’s strong words, Israel and one of the partners from that meeting had reached a historic new defense deal.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, April 18, 2021)