Cyprus will acquire six French light attack H145M helicopters after the Defence Ministry signed a deal with manufacturer Airbus as it tries to phase out Russian MI35 choppers.
At Friday’s signing ceremony, Cypriot Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides said that the agreement underscored the growing military cooperation between France and Cyprus.
“The acquisition of H-145M attack helicopters deepens our defence partnership with France and opens a new chapter in our well-established and long-standing relationship in defence and security,” said Petrides.
“I want to convey my appreciation for France’s strong interest in the security of the Eastern Mediterranean region, especially through the regular naval presence of the French Navy,” he added.
He said the acquisition of the new Airbus attack helicopters would “positively contribute to the security and stability in the region”.
According to Cypriot media, the deal is worth 53 million euros.
There is also a provision for Cyprus to order the supply of another six helicopters of the same type.
The purchase of the French attack helicopters comes as the Cypriot National Guard is seeking more compatible European weapon systems as it tries to sell 11 ageing Russian MI 35s to Serbia.
The Russian attack helicopters were sidelined due to their high maintenance cost.
“Our unwavering goal is to upgrade and modernise the quality and capabilities of the National Guard…to be a reliable and robust defensive and deterrent force,” said Petrides.
He said Cyprus’ defence and national security were “non-negotiable” while Turkey maintained 35,000 troops on the northern part of the divided island.
“The ongoing Turkish military threat from the occupied part of Cyprus, combined with the increasing revisionist policies of Turkey, do not allow for any complacency.”
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar called the helicopter purchase a “provocation” that threatened regional stability.
He said the Turkish side is “keeping a close eye on the actions of the Republic with great discomfort and concern.
“We call once again on the Greek side to employ common sense. These initiatives do not serve peace”.
The new helicopters can operate day and night, strike targets accurately with mass firepower, and support ground operations in an information-gathering role.
Airbus Helicopters Executive Vice President Olivier Michalon was in Nicosia to sign the deal.