Greece to Buy F-16 Block 52s

GREEK DEFENCE Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos announced on July 19 that the Greek Government is to place a 1.1 billion euro order for 30 Lockheed Martin 1-16 Block 52 fighters, with options on a further ten aircraft. The announcement followed a meeting earlier that day of the Greek National Security Council (the KYSEA) to discuss its four-year arms procurement programme up to 2010. The aircraft will be ordered in a government-to-government deal with Washington, with the precise final cost still to be determined. Provision of maintenance support will be requested as part of an offset deal still to be negotiated. The aircraft will be delivered by 2009.

They are being acquired partly to act as attrition replacements but primarily to fulfil an interim need for a third-generation fighter aircraft. The Greek Defence Minister had visited the US in April this year, followed by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in May, and there was speculation in the Greek press at the time that details of the F-16 purchase had been discussed during these visits. The direct purchase, without any competition, is exactly the type of deal for which Greece’s current Conservative Government had attacked the previous Socialist Government, citing a lack of transparency.

For the longer term, it was also decided at the July 19 meeting that the agenda for one of the next KYSEA meetings later this year will include the procurement of a fourth-generation combat aircraft, of which a similar number will be acquired — 30 firm orders and ten options. Greece had already previously selected the Eurofighter Typhoon for this requirement, but deferred placing an order to fund the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Subsequent changes of Government led to plans being revised and last November Greece said it would abandon its plans to acquire up to 60 Eurofighter Typhoons for the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) and re-open its fighter competition. Later, however, in April 2005, the new Government said it would re-examine the Eurofighter deal. Following the announcement of the new F-16 deal, EADS issued a statement on the same day saying that it believes it is still the front-runner for the second contract for a latest-generation fighter.

The HAF has already taken delivery of 140 earlier model F-16C/Ds, comprising 34 F-16Cs and six F-16Ds, under the Peace Xenia I programme, followed by 32 F-16C.S and eight F-16Ds (Peace Xenia II) and, most recently, 40 F-16Cs and 20 F-16Ds (Peace Xenia III). Once agreed, the new F-16 deal will presumably become Peace Xenia IV.

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