Athens diving in air race against Ankara

Despite Greece committing less than two months ago to spend more than 1 billion euros on buying new fighter jets, the aerial power of the country’s air force will be half that of Turkey’s in five years time, according to forecasts seen by Sunday’s Kathimerini. The Greek air force projections estimate a drop of almost 30 percent by 2010 in the ratio of fighter jets between Athens and Ankara. Currently, Greece has 7.8 aircraft for each of Turkey’s 10. In five years’ time, Greece will have 5.1 to every 10. This is despite the fact that in July Athens approved the purchase of 30 F-16 Block 52 fighter aircraft, to be delivered by 2009, with an option to obtain 10 more aircraft, for some 1.1 billion euros. Greece currently has about 140 F-16s and also flies 34 French-made Mirage 2000s. However, sources indicate there will be another purchase next year to keep pace with Turkey, which is expecting delivery of 140 JSF stealth planes by 2015. But Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday that, though military expenditures would remain high until disputes with Turkey were settled, spending would be cut from 4.1 percent of GDP between 1999 and 2003 to 2.9 percent in 2005 to 2006.