Presence of the Minister of Defense Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos at the celebration of the Patron Saint of the Air Force Archangel Michael at the Icaron School in Dekelia

Presence of the Minister of Defense Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos at the celebration of the Patron Saint of the Air Force Archangel Michael at the Icaron School in Dekelia

The Minister of National Defense Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos attended today, Tuesday, November 8, 2022, the official celebration of the Patron Saint of the Air Force Archangel Michael, held at the Icaron School, in Dekelia.

Present at the event was the GES Chief Lieutenant General Charalambos Lalousisthe Chief General Vice Admiral Stylianos Petrakis PN and the Chief of the General Staff Vice Admiral (I) Themistocles Bourolias. Members of Parliament, Defense Attaches of foreign countries, retired chiefs and Air Force officers also attended.

After the ceremony, the Minister of National Defense made the following statements to the military editors:

JOURNALIST: Yesterday you saw what happened to the Greek frigates. We are interested, from what we have learned, in the corvette program. How is the country progressing in terms of equipment?

NIKOLAOS PANAGIOTOPOULOS: We have declared in every tone in all directions: The intensive effort to further strengthen the Armed Forces by means will not stop. So in the context of this effort and today – during the Air Force holiday – they flew two new “Rafale”, the two that belong to the second six that, as you know, are currently under delivery to the Air Force. They just came from France. They were picked up by another “Rafale” that took off from its base in Tanagra.

I wish, I would say, that at every celebration of the Air Force we have one or more new vehicles appearing in the Greek skies. You understand that symbolism is powerful. The next four Rafales from the second six will be delivered in the near future, at a rate of about one per month. And it goes on and on.

As I told you, the future of the Air Force is set bright since the “Rafale” are already included, the modernization of the eighty-three is progressing rapidly F-16 in the “Viper” version, the most advanced version in the world today. The decision has been made to modernize and F-16 Block 50. Greece has entered the F-35 program, in a few months we are waiting for the answer to LOR which we have sent in order for this process to evolve as well and it will continue.

More interdisciplinarity, more network centricity since in the modern, digital age, the speed of information transmission to the operator and from the operator to other media and other Branches, is of useful importance that helps him to perform his mission better. And so the Air Force also enters this era.

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Since I am talking about the digital age, yesterday in France at the “Group Naval” Shipyards, in Lorient, in the north-west of France, he attended the launching ceremony of the first “Belh@” frigate.rra” FDI, on behalf of the French Navy – the first ship of this type to be launched these days – in the presence of course (and upon invitation) of my counterpart, the French Minister of Defense Sébastien Lecorny.

A big day for the French Armed Forces, for the French Navy, but of course with importance for the Greek Armed Forces as well, since the second ship that will be on behalf of the Navy follows. So the second frigate is already being built there at the “Group Naval” Shipyards, at a rapid pace. The program is ahead of schedule in terms of delivery. As you know, the two ships will be delivered to the Navy, beginning and end of 2025. So we are on schedule, at a very fast pace and I had the opportunity to see up close the construction work, the capabilities of this very large ship, the digital ones in particular capabilities that it has, since in essence it too is transformed into a digital center for transmission and processing of all information which, as is understandable, creates new possibilities in the tactical environment, the navy and not only, as well as the great possibilities it has in terms of equipment.

I had the opportunity to tour with the people of the company, with the personnel who will man the ship, since the Governor and the crew have already been selected, but also to exchange views with the Navy Echelon, that is, the Navy officers who are already here and for some time in Lorient and closely monitor the whole process, they connect the manufacturing company with companies of the Greek Defense Industry. Contracts have already been signed to participate in this program which takes place in France, but also involves Greek companies.

The strategic relationship with France is evolving. It turns out in these programs that are running fast and I think the big benefit is that the Armed Forces are being strengthened with the best means, the most modern means, in the air and at sea and at a rapid pace.

JOURNALIST: What about corvettes?

NIKOLAOS PANAGIOTOPOULOS: The issue of corvettes is a decision that will concern us in the immediate future. We are currently awaiting the final proposals from the French and Italians, who will be in the final selection phase.

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These proposals also have to do with finance, the repayment plan, which we would like to be as favorable as possible, so that we can cover it in our financial planning. They have to do with the delivery schedules and of course with the issue of shipbuilding in a Greek or Greek Shipyards.

As long as adequate, satisfactory answers are given to these questions, they will of course be evaluated by the Navy. I think we are close to making a decision, certainly before the end of the year on this issue as well. And of course there is the exercise of it option, of the alternative, that is, for a fourth frigate depending on how the final proposals that will come from the “finalists”, if you will, and for this program, will be evaluated. We are close I would say in terms of decisions.

JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, with your bond, did you also send a message for a common front between Greece and France again in the face of revisionism, in the face of challenges? Does the alliance with France remain strong?

NIKOLAOS PANAGIOTOPOULOS: Of course, in the discussion that took place between the Greek and French delegations, headed by my counterpart, French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecorny, these issues were also discussed. Once again, we confirmed our common will to cooperate, so that those who desire peace, security and stability in Southeast Europe prevail.

This is very important. They all understand the differences we have, the tension that exists, the challenges, but also the insults. I also talked about insults on an almost daily basis from the neighbors. We would all like to reach a better level of understanding, but to do that, the rhetoric will have to change and the tones will have to be lowered.

Our allies are close to us and the French, I would say, are closer to us, at the level of the European Union, allies who have always understood our arguments and have been by our side, I think both at the level of policy, but also at the level of actions. All these equipments that we are doing to France, the agreement that we have signed, the mutual defense assistance clause that is in this agreement and they have expressed their opinion to be implemented, if required, I think best of all demonstrate the quality and the depth of this alliance.


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