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AEROSPACE
Greece defends F-16 warplane upgrade amid cost criticism
by Staff Writers
Athens (AFP) Oct 19, 2017


Greece to upgrade F-16 fleet to block 5 configuration
Washington (UPI) Oct 18, 2017 - State Department officials announced Tuesday the possible sale of more than 120 upgrade kits from Lockheed Martin to the Greek government for their F-16 fighter fleet. The deal, if approved by Congress, is worth more than $2 billion.

The deal would upgrade the Hellenic Air Force's F-16 fighter jets to the F-16 Block 5 configuration, which offers significant upgrades to the fighter's capabilities and will allow Greece's fleet to continue to be interoperable with both the United States and NATO during operations.

The announcement came as President Donald Trump met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Washington, D.C., where he applauded Greece for meeting the goal of dedicating two percent of its gross domestic product on their military -- and highlighted the F-16 upgrade plans announced later in the day by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

"My administration has also informed Congress of a potential sale to Greece to upgrade its F-16 aircraft," Trump said. "This agreement to strengthen the Hellenic Air Force is worth up to $2.4 billion and would generate thousands of American jobs. They're upgrading their fleets of airplanes -- the F-16 plane, which is a terrific plane."

The proposed deal calls for upgrades to 123 F-16C and D fighter jets in order to shift the Hellenic Air Force to the more advanced block 5 standard, which includes advanced radar scanners and Identification Friend or Foe transponders, upgraded mission computers, enhanced tactical radios, multifunction displays among technical support, and spare parts.

DSCA said the proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the military balance in the region.

Greece on Thursday defended its decision to upgrade its fleet of US-made F-16 warplanes, arguing that the multi-million cost will not destabilise its precarious budget.

"We are discussing the upgrade of (around 90) aircraft at a maximum cost of 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) over a period of ten years," government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters.

"I do not judge the fiscal cost excessive...it's about 110 million euros per year, this does not affect fiscal targets at almost any point," he said.

The programme would start running after 2018, when the country is scheduled to exit its current European economic bailout, the spokesman said.

He said it was "logical" that European creditors may have questions on the issue and Athens is prepared to provide details "if formally asked".

"The (upgrade) has not been concluded, we are in advanced talks," Tzanakopoulos said, adding: "(We) do not intend to repeat the mistakes of the past when defence spending was inordinately inflated."

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who rubber-stamped the upgrade during an official visit to Washington this week, has said the planes risked being rendered inoperable without the upgrade.

Speaking at the Brookings Institute, Tsipras -- who took a surprise flight aboard an F-16 just before the Washington visit -- said Greece is obliged to keep up defence spending because of its geographic proximity to volatile areas.

Greece spends two percent of its budget on defence, one of only five NATO members to meet this alliance requirement.

The F-16 upgrade falls within this threshold, Tzanakopoulos said.

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After a 14-year battle to vindicate two U.S. Marine Corps aviators who were killed and subsequently blamed for crashing of a MV-22 Osprey claimed the lives of 17 other Marines, a Republican Congressman wants information as to why the pilots were incorrectly faulted for the crash itself. During a joint press conference in Washington, D.C., Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., along with Trisha Bro ... read more

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