Opposition New Democracy’s shadow defense minister Vassilis Kikilias said on Friday that although the upgrade of the Hellenic Air Force fleet is indeed “imperative,” the parliamentary defense committee must convene to examine the leftist-led government’s recent deal with Washington to bring the country’s F-16 fighter jets up to standard.
The deal was announced during a joint press conference on Tuesday at the White House by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and US President Donald Trump, but no details were presented, while it was unclear what the exact price tag would be.
Kikilias slammed the government for dealing with such a serious issue in such a haphazard manner, adding that it was a cause for concern. He said that lawmakers and the public must be informed of the details – namely the deal’s cost and what it will entail.
Kikilias’s comments that the upgrade of the country’s F-16s is nonetheless imperative were at odds with New Democracy MEP Giorgos Kyrtsos, who submitted a question to the European Commission yesterday saying that Brussels should intervene to scrap the agreement.
He took the Commission to task for remaining silent over the deal at a time when Greece is struggling under a huge debt burden and European institutions are demanding fiscal discipline. ND sources said the party had distanced itself from Kyrtsos’s question, and that any comments veering away from Kikilias’s statements yesterday were “personal views that do not express those of the party.”
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos claimed on Friday that the US Congress may decide to upgrade part of Greece’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets for free or a part of the agreed sum. Speaking on ANT1 TV, the leader of the junior coalition partner, Independent Greeks, said that Congress was to convene late yesterday (US time) and might approve the upgrading of a number of the Greek jets as “assistance” to Greece.
He said the deal announced on Tuesday stipulated a cost of no more than $1.1 billion and added that the $2.4 billion price tag referred to by Trump concerned a possible upgrade of the entire F-16 fleet. “We do not want all jets to be upgraded, but just some of them, unless the Congress committee... decides that this translates into free assistance for Greece and they want to upgrade all 123 jets,” added Kammenos.