Plan for extra F-16s grounded

The government turned down yesterday an option to buy 10 more F-16 fighter jets from American defense giant Lockheed Martin and hinted that it might order its planes from a European manufacturer in the future. Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis said that a Government Council on Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) meeting unanimously decided against the option. «With respect to the taxpayers’ money and with a sense of responsibility so as to not disturb the balance of power… KYSEA decided not to proceed with the acquisition,» the minister said. Meimarakis’s reference to the balance of power has fueled speculation that Greece may prefer the European-made Eurofighter. In December last year, the conservative government agreed with the United States to buy 30 F-16 aircraft from Lockheed Martin for 1.6 billion euros. Meimarakis specified yesterday that the order of the fourth-generation F-16 planes will go ahead, indicating that the deal will be completed via a direct acquisition rather than in a tender process.