Greece could be granted up to a decade to pay the US for the upgrading of the Hellenic Air Force fleet of F-16 fighter jets, it emerged on Thursday.
Diplomatic sources said that US President Donald Trump himself paved the way by informing the US Pentagon to facilitate Greece in its repayment for the upgrade.
Washington’s moves were reportedly dictated by Greece’s financial crisis and the country’s need to modernize its defense capabilities.
The same sources said that the cost of the deal will be slightly above $1 billion and clarified that anything above this amount will require the approval of Congress.
In his joint press conference with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday, Trump had said the upgrade would cost $2.4 billion, prompting critics at home to slam the government for negotiating an “expensive” deal.
The deal also reportedly raised eyebrows in Brussels, as creditors were not consulted on the funding of the project.
In a bid to justify the hefty price tag cited by Trump, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said on Twitter that the “budget ceiling for the upgrade of the F-16s will be 1.1 billion euros and the rest of the amount relates to subsidy packages and offsets.”
However, Greek government and US sources insisted there will be no offsets and that the deal will cost no more than $1.1 billion.
The Hellenic Armed Forces General Staff (GEETHA) sought to clarify the situation on Thursday, saying that the deal pertains to an upgrade of part, rather than the entirety, of Greece’s F-16 fleet, and confirmed that the cost will be no more than $1.1 billion. A full upgrade, it said, will cost $2.4 billion.
“At the present stage and with the information available, a part of the fleet will be upgraded… at a cost of no more than 1.1 billion,” GEETHA said in a statement, adding, however, that the final cost of the project will be determined during negotiations between the two sides.
According to GEETHA sources, the $1.1 billion price tag will be enough to cover the cost of upgrading 55 of the most modern F-16s in the Greek fleet.