Israel and Greece have signed their largest defence acquisition agreement ever, which according to Israel, would strengthen political and economic ties between the two countries, as the two countries’ air forces launched a joint exercise.
The agreement includes a $ 1.65 billion contract for the construction and operation of a training centre for the Hellenic Air Force by Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems over a 22-year period, the Israeli Ministry of Defense said on Sunday.
The training centre will be based on Israel’s own flight academy and will be equipped with 10 M-346 training aircraft manufactured by Italian Leonardo, the ministry said.
Elbit will provide kits to upgrade and steer Greece’s T-6 aircraft and also provide training, simulators and logistics support.
“I am confident that (this program) will improve the capabilities and strengthen the economies of Israel and Greece, thus deepening the partnership between our two countries on the defence, economic and political levels,” said Benny Gantz, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Defence said.
The announcement follows a meeting on Friday in Cyprus between the United Arab Emirates, Greek, Cypriot and Israeli foreign ministers, which agreed to deepen cooperation.
The Israeli and Greek air forces launched a joint exercise in Greece on Sunday, the Israeli army said.
In at least one previous exercise over Greece, Israeli fighter jets were training against an S-300 stationed on Crete. The Russian-made air defence system is also being deployed in Syria and Iran, Israel’s enemies.
A source in the Hellenic National Defense Command said the S-300 was not activated during the joint exercise that began Sunday.
Israel, Greece and Cyprus have taken several steps over the past few months to boost the tires, including plans to build a 2,000-megawatt submarine power cable and a 1,900-mile (1,300-mile) submarine gas pipeline move that would benefit local rival Turkey irritated.
Last month, the Israeli army said it was conducting a joint naval exercise with Greece and Cyprus.
Greece and Cyprus are embroiled in a dispute with Turkey, which has sent gas prospecting ships to waters claimed by Greece and drilled ships in an area where Cyprus claims exclusive rights.
Tensions brought NATO allies Greece and Turkey close to the open conflict last year, but tensions have eased since then.