Fighter seeks buyer

Armaments procurements are essentially political decisions, often overriding technical concerns. As one of the biggest per capita spenders in the world, Greece has always drawn the attention of the armaments industry and competition for procurements is hot. As far as the air force is concerned, Greece has acquired the bulk of its fighters and bombers either from the United States (the F-16 fighter) or France (Dassault’s Mirage planes). In recent years, Greece has considered buying the Eurofighter, an advanced aircraft that, although being developed since 1988, only recently joined the fleets of co-producers Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), formed in 2000 through a merger between France’s Aerospatiale Matra, Germany’s Daimler Chrysler Aerospace and Spain’s CASA, plays a major role in the development and production of the Eurofighter, along with the UK’s BAE systems and Italy’s Alenia. So far, there have been orders for 620 aircraft from the air forces of the four partner states (232 from the UK, 180 from Germany, 121 from Italy and 87 from Spain) plus 18 planes from Austria. The delivery, in three tranches, will take place until 2017. EADS says the Eurofighter’s lifespan will reach 40 years. By opting out of the Eurofighter, so far, Greece has missed out on an opportunity to become a co-producer and thus integrate its armaments industry with that of other EU member states. In July, the government decided to buy 30 F-16 planes, with an option for another 10. The F-16 is to be replaced, starting next decade, by more advanced models. The Eurofighter is more advanced but, as Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos told a parliamentary committee in July, the decision had little to do with the modernization of the fleet and more to do with the replacement of lost (in accidents) and aging planes. «Our fiscal problems are too great,» he said in defense of the government’s procurement option. Still, the expenditure of 1.4 billion euros on the F-16s is far from negligible. EADS representatives yesterday claimed that their offer is far more complete, whereas the F-16 offer requires the acquisition of many extra parts and equipment from other sources. «We are in constant contact with the Ministry of Defense… we have not abandoned hope that Greece will, at some point, choose to order the Eurofighter,» Theodor Benien, head of communications for EADS Military Aircraft told Kathimerini. Three Eurofighters, all single-seater models, will display their capabilities at an air show at the Tanagra air force base next week.