NEWS

Armaments deals insufficient and way too expensive

Between 1998 and 2004, Greece signed defense contracts worth over $20 billion, one of the highest outlays on defense as a percentage of GDP by any country in the world. Yet these contracts signed by the PASOK governments have not provided fundamental parameters for the country’s defense, nor have they sufficiently provided it with the means to strengthen its position in the region. The list presented in the graph here, however, covers only a part of the waste of public funds; firstly, because it does not include all defense programs (for example, the C4I security systems program is not included). The list only includes those programs with an initial value of over 50 million euros, omitting a considerable number of smaller contracts. Secondly, these listed amounts concern the initial contracts signed, not supplementary contracts or the many «options» exercised after the initial contract was signed, nor many of the contracts for smaller items, mainly weapons. Thirdly, there is no comparative data showing how high a price was paid for these systems by Greece compared to other countries. Finally, there is no way of recording which vital areas of the nation’s defense have not been sufficiently covered due to the focus on useless systems that will eventually result in a need for additional spending. For example, there is an insufficiency of control and management systems for air defense and satellite communications (only 10 percent of the C4I system has been deployed). So it must be presumed that the initial estimate of over $20 billion is far short of the mark. According to initial estimates, it could even be as much as 50 percent more. Worst of all, a list such as this can give no indication of the business value of the systems, a value that in many cases is zero. In other words, a lot of this money has simply been wasted. It should also be noted that in comparison to Greece, the Turkish armed forces have had very few problems with their defense systems. Many of these programs, including some of the more important ones, have either not been delivered on schedule or have been found to be below the specifications set out in the contracts. Even where the specifications have been adhered to, the systems have sometimes proved to be unsuitable for the purpose for which they were destined. So even systems that have not been an arena for wasting public money or a source of slush funds are useless in practice and have left part of the country’s defense system exposed. The prime example is the anti-air defense and telecommunications systems: Although astronomical amounts have been spent on them, they have left strategic parts of the country exposed. The TPQ-37 American radar defense system (priced at $116.6 million) has failed in test runs. Those of the TOR-M1 Russian anti-aircraft systems (509.5 million euros) that do function are not incorporated into the air defense umbrella since this simply does not exist; nor are they likely to be linked to the NATO system. Naturally, the TOR, as all the other programs, have been referred to the courts and Parliament for investigation, as the money mentioned in the contracts is billions of euros shown to have been shifted between offshore companies around the world. The Swedish Eriye «flying radar» (531.6 million euros) is already two years past its delivery date and its future looks grim. The American Hawk missiles were «updated» at a cost of $140 million, although their actual operational life cycle has already long expired. Air force. Unfortunately, the same applies to the country’s air force capability, an area in which Greece has spent about 2 billion euros on 15 new French Mirage jets and an upgrade of 10 older ones, as well as on the purchase of their missiles. The aircraft have not been delivered, nor are they likely to be in the near future, at least under the specifications of the contract. These aircraft are «unprotected» and cannot be used in battle, but the defense minister told the parliamentary defense and foreign affairs committee a few days ago that these aircraft would in fact be delivered. In practical terms, the country’s air force capability is based almost exclusively on the F-16s, particularly on the 60 new aircraft in the Block 52+ category, the contract for which was signed along with that for the Mirage, at almost the same cost. The 25 Mirage aircraft have not arrived, while the 60 F-16s bought at the same cost have been flying over the Aegean for some time. Meanwhile, only half of the «European» NH 90s (699.1 million euros) have arrived, and at double the cost. Finally, updating the C-130 transport aircraft (114.6 million euros) is about two years late. Army. The case of the Leopard tanks (1,727.1 million euros) has become an international issue and the contract was renegotiated to benefit the Greek state by over 100 million euros (a similar renegotiation is now being undertaken for the TOR). However, the Leopards might be delivered bearing the Deto-Stop Explosion Prevention System that will make them essentially unreliable. A committee is attempting to resolve this serious issue. Navy. Another striking example is that of a tanker which cost the equivalent of three similar ships on the market (117.5 million euros). Meanwhile, the alleged updating of the 30-year-old gunboats (144.1 million euros) is considered certainly incapable of providing any operational benefits. No general plan More important general conclusions can be drawn from an examination of these contracts that indicate the deeper problems in the Greek defense structure. There is no comprehensive defense armaments plan. For example, Greece is buying a huge number of tanks, incommensurate with the threat from land, but it needs ways of confronting Turkish aggression from the air as well as the deployment of a large fleet, both to protect the Aegean and to play the role demanded of it in the eastern Mediterranean by NATO, which will be a major safeguard of its national interests. Secondly, there is not even a rudimentary plan regarding the compatibility of the systems. Almost nowhere has there been any consideration of the fact that the systems have a specific life cycle, resulting in astronomical costs because of the variety of types involved, many of which will become useless. Finally, the bulk of the contracts for Greece’s armaments programs has been shared out most inequitably, making the considerable political benefits impossible. Less than 30 percent of the programs ($5.7 billion) has gone to American weapons and systems, over 65 percent to European ($13.09 billion) and about 6 percent ($1.2 billion) to third countries. As for specifications such as prompt delivery, major American contracts are way behind the European ones. Nearly all major purchases made via mediators have proved problematic, compared to those made via inter-state agreements.