NEWS

Fighter jets soar above $3 bln

The government hinted yesterday that the price tag on its recent order of 40 military jets is likely to reach $3.1 billion (2.6 billion euros), more than double the amount it had previously put aside to spend on the aircraft. Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos told Parliament that $3.1 billion for the purchase of 40 F-16 fighter jets from the United States is a fair deal. In July, the minister announced that the acquisition of 30 F-16 fighter jets, with an option to buy another 10, will set back Greece $1.3 billion (1.1 billion euros) but that the exact amount would be determined after further negotiations. «The $3.1 billion is a logical price for the 40 jets offering this level of technology,» Spiliotopoulos explained yesterday. The government has come under fire over the arms deal, with opposition parties arguing that the public has been misled in a purchase that only suits the state’s own political interests rather than those of the defense sector. Spiliotopoulos insisted yesterday that negotiations on the final price are still being held. «Tough negotiations are currently being held,» he said, adding that a final announcement on the issue will be made in the next few days. The matter, however, looks to be solved. Last month, the United States Department of Defense announced that the value of the deal, including the optional 10 aircraft, would reach $3.1 billion. The minister dodged questions yesterday about how the government intends to pay for the fighter jets at a time when it is slashing spending across ministries to bring its budget deficit down to below the 3 percent limit imposed by the EU.