Greece decides on F-16 warplane upgrade: Official

Greece decides on F-16 warplane upgrade: Official

ATHENS
Greece decides on F-16 warplane upgrade: Official

Greece has announced an upgrade for part of its U.S.-made F-16 warplane fleet, a program pending over the past six months owing to cost concerns, Agence France-Presse reported.

An emergency meeting by the government council of foreign affairs and defense chaired by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras approved the decision, the PM’s office said on April 28.

“The council unanimously approved the implementation of the 85-plane upgrade program,” Tsipras’ office said.

It added that the decision was based on “preliminary approval” by the U.S. of a “revised Greek proposal taking into account the country’s fiscal obligations over the coming years.”

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said the planes would be upgraded to F-16 Viper level.

No details on the cost or delivery dates of the program were given.

Greece operates a fleet of some 150 F-16s in all.

The deal had originally been announced in October during a visit by Tsipras to Washington.

But the government came under immediate criticism over the price tag, estimated at $2.4 billion at the time over 10 years.

Athens had insisted the cost would not exceed $1.3 billion and would not destabilise its precarious budget.

Ta Nea daily said on April 28 the program runs to 2028, with annual payments until 2021 set at a maximum of 120 million euros owing to Greece’s bailout obligations.

The first plane will be delivered by 2020 at the earliest, with most of the work undertaken by Greek state defense contractor EAV, Ta Nea said.

Tsipras has said the planes, some of them dating from 1989, risked being rendered inoperable without the upgrade.

Greece spends two percent of its budget on defense, one of only five NATO members to meet this alliance target.

Greek fighter planes see extensive action in the Aegean Sea and are regularly scrambled to intercept Turkish jets, occasionally engaging in mock dogfights.

The move comes amid increased tension with NATO ally Turkey.

Greek authorities released from custody on April 27 one of the eight former Turkish servicemen who fled to the country in a military helicopter seeking asylum, just after Turkey’s failed military coup in 2016.

Separately, The Foreign Ministry rejected ON Aplir 26 “hypocritical” statements by European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker regarding two detained Greek soldiers in Turkey.

A court in northwestern Turkey on April 25 ordered the continued detention of the Greek soldiers, who “inadvertently” strayed across Turkey’s border last month.

Panos Kammenos, Greece, Greek, F-16, fighter jets, scramble, Turkey, NATO, defense spending, defense, Aegean Sea