More arms spending

Greece will spend over 22 billion euros in arms procurements over the next 10 years, with just over a third going toward the acquisition of new frigates and next-generation fighter aircraft, the Ministry of Defense has decided. The new Integrated Medium-Term Development and Modernization Program (EMPAE), worth 22.64 billion euros, was approved by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis after the various staffs submitted their recommendations. It contains 498 procurement items, the most significant of which involve the acquisition of fourth-generation fighter aircraft «to counter the threat from the planned acquisition of JSF aircraft from the Turkish air force» (4.75 billion euros), the further acquisition of fighter aircraft «to make up for losses and for the replacement of second-generation aircraft» (2.81 billion), the building of six new frigates (2.2 billion) and the procurement of 291 battle tanks (1.7 billion). The army gets the largest share of the new procurements program (8.15 billion euros or 36.93 percent), followed by the air force (32.93 percent), the navy (27.27 percent) and the Joint Staff (2.85 percent). A sizable part of the program, about 7 billion euros, will be spent on maintenance and upgrading of existing weapons systems. The politically most important program involves the acquisition of the new generation aircraft. There are, at present, three available models: the Eurofighter, developed by a European consortium of companies, the US's F-22 Raptor and France's Rafale. The US is also developing the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) which Turkey has already decided to acquire. The Defense Ministry sees this acquisition, given the aircraft's stealth properties that make it nearly undetectable by radar, as a major threat and wants to counter. The big question is whether Greece will order the Eurofighter or whether it will, once again, prefer an American fighter. France's Rafale, not yet ordered by any other air force, seems out of contention. A battle over the procurement of these aircraft has already begun, with several interests, from the military to publishers, backing one or the other solution and apparently ready to turn this into a hot political issue for the years to come.