Rising Price Raises Opposition Ire
The number was $1.3 billion back in
July. Now the digits have changed places, and it's $3.1 billion.
But Greek Defence Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos (say that three
times fast) still thinks it's a good deal.
"The $3.1 billion is a logical price for the 40 jets offering
this level of technology," the Greek newspaper Ekathimerini quoted
Spiliotopoulos, last Saturday.
Opposition politicians don't want to spend that kind of money --
instead, they would rather spend less money, more of which would be
spent at home in Greece. But nobody is offering the Greeks the
chance to manufacture such advanced aircraft.
And the change from $1.3 billion to $3.1 is not exactly
comparing apples to apples. In July Spiliotopoulos said that the
first 30 aircraft would cost $1.3 billion; the $3.1 billion is an
estimate for 40, including some support charges that were not part
of the July estimate. For example, maintenance support for not only
the new F-16s but Greece's existing large fleet of the type is
Nonetheless, the change in numbers was greeted with dismay and
distress by opposition politicians.
The government is finishing up negotiations for the advanced
Block 50/52+ F-16s, even more modern than the latest ones used by
the USAF. The Hellenic Air Force already operates 60 Block 50/52+
strike fighters, and a number of Block 30 aircraft with a primary
day fighter mission.
The new jets, like Greece's earlier Block 50/52+ planes, are
AMRAAM capable and are equipped with conformal fuel tanks that add
450 gallons with very little impact on combat performance (top
speed is slightly reduced, compared to the older, less high-tech
and shorter-legged Block 30 F-16s that the Royal Hellenic Air Force
The minister evaded questions, this week, about how the
government plans to pay for the jets in a time of budget
belt-tightening. EU-imposed economic controls have cause the
government to make cuts that have distressed the powerful trade
unions -- as reported in Aero-News, even the air traffic
controllers struck recently, causing a one-day shutdown of Athens's
airport -- and Olympic Airlines.
Here in the United States, the order is important to Lockheed
Martin. If the Greek order goes the way of the Pakistani order,
which was canceled because of earthquake-induced austerity
measures, it might have to close the F-16 production line in the
former General Dynamics (and former Convair) plant in Fort Worth,
and idle the workers.