A Greek F-35 Force Would Be a Game Changer For NATO

January 18, 2022 Topic: F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Greek MilitaryF-35European F-35sMiddle EastNATO

A Greek F-35 Force Would Be a Game Changer For NATO

Greek F-35s could help deter Russia and contribute to operations in the Middle East.

While the weeks leading up to Switzerland and Finland’s decisions to acquire the F-35 were filled with speculation and strategic thinking about NATO’s deterrence posture, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin were entirely silent.

This is because even if deliberations regarding potential F-35 customers are happening, the Pentagon is often deliberately silent on the topic.

Nonetheless, the pace of countries announcing plans to acquire F-35 fighters has taken even some F-35 advocates by surprise. This has fueled discussion of the jet becoming the stealth fighter of the “free world” and inspired further speculation over what country will purchase F-35s next.

What about Greece? The country has sent a formal request to the Pentagon to buy up to twenty-four F-35s. For several years now, the question of a Greek F-35 purchase has generated countless reports questioning if Greece can afford the jets or if Lockheed Martin currently has the production capacity to build them. A 2020 report in Air Force Magazine raised the possibility that Greece might be willing to buy used F-35s in order to get them faster or save money.

Regardless of how or when these issues are settled, the prospect of a fleet of Greek F-35s raises more interesting questions about NATO’s posture and capabilities. Recent developments, such as Finland’s choice to acquire its own F-35s, make a Greek F-35 force appear more likely. For instance, a networked force of Finnish, Polish, and Greek F-35s could form a defensive perimeter around eastern Europe to deter Russia. Greek F-35s could threaten Russia from the south, while Finnish and Polish F-35s could cover the north and the center. A southern F-35 force based in Greece could also reach the Black Sea and help defend key eastern allies such a Romania.

Another key variable for a potential Greek F-35 force is entirely separate from any need to deter Russia. Greek F-35s would be within striking reach of the Middle East and could assist in any operations in the region. With Turkey banned from the F-35 program, Greek F-35s could open up a 5th-generation attack corridor into the Middle East.

By mere proximity alone, Greek F-35s could threaten Iran and deter Iranian aggression. In addition, Greek F-35s could lend allied support to Israel’s F-35 force by providing additional 5th-generation “mass” to the IDF. Greece is uniquely suited to take advantage of the F-35’s capabilities.

Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters