Athens, July 19 (Reuters) – Greece has decided to buy 30 F-16 fighter jets from the United States after scrapping a 4.9 billion euro ($5.9 billion) deal with EADS for 60 Eurofighter planes, the country’s defense ministry said on Tuesday.
Greece’s centre-right government, which gained power in March 2004, said late last year that it would not be bound by the former socialist government’s decision to favour a purchase of Eurofighter jets.
Tuesday’s decision came after Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s official visit to Washington in May and his meeting with U.S. President George Bush.
Greece, one of the biggest defense spenders in Europe due to its traditional rivalry with Turkey, has in recent years trimmed its defence budget in a bid to improve ties with Ankara. the country spends about 5 percent of its annual output (GDP) on defense.
For the first time in more than 30 years, Greece scaled down the threat that Turkey poses to its security in its annual defense report in March.
Greece’s military council (KYSEA) on Tuesday decided to buy 3O F-16 Block 52+ jets from the U.S. government with an option for 10 more, as part of the country’s air defence needs for the next 15 years. Lockheed Martin builds F-16 planes. “As regards the required procurement of 60 fighter planes up to 2010, the military council (KYSEA) decided today the purchase of 30 F-16 Block 52+ planes from the U.S. government,” said Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos.
He said the order would cost an estimated 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) based on current prices. “On the remaining 30 fighters, the government will decide at the next KYSEA session.”
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A defense ministry spokesman told Reuters that Greece would be looking to buy fourth-generation fighters with its next order for 30 aircraft, meaning the Eurofighter consortium might still be in the game.
“Our next order for fourth-generation jets will be reviewed at another military council meeting. It does not exclude any company from Europe or the U.S.,” said defence ministry spokesman Stefanos Gikas.
EADS was expecting to land an order by the previous Greek government. But plans had to be delayed because of budget constraints related to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
“We recognise there is a requirement for a future fighter with the Hellenic Air Force. Eurofighter is well positioned to provide the optimum solution for the customer,” the aircraft maker said.
The Eurofighter Typhoon is built by a consortium including EADS, Britain’s BAE Systems and Alenia Aeronautica, which is part of Italy’s Finmeccanica. Spain, through EADS’s Spanish operations, rounds out the programme’s four founding nations. Greece’s military council also approved a bilateral agreement with the German government for the procurement of 333 tanks.
The defense spokesman said the order had to do with used German army Leopard-1 and Leopard-2 type tanks. “The cost of the tanks procurement is estimated at 270 million euros,” said spokesman Gikas.