March 15, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Greek government announced Wednesday it had turned down an option to buy 10 additional F-16 aircraft from Lockheed Martin. Instead, they will probably buy another 30 fourth-generation fighter jets in 2006.
Two Greek Block 52 Plus aircraft, F-16C #501 and F-16D #601, showing the Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) on both models, and the dorsal spine on the D model [LMTAS
Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis said the decision was taken "out of great respect for the money of the Greek tax payer, and with a sense of responsibility not to upset the balance of forces."
That remark was by some analists seen as an indication Greece
might consider an order from a rival European manufacturer.
Last year, the State Council of Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) approved the purchase of 30 F-16s in a deal valued at the time at 1.1 billion euros ($1.32 billion), with an option of 10 more from the United States, changing original plans to buy the European-made Eurofighter.
The initial deal for the 30 planes last July had caused considerable controversy as the conservative government decided to scrap their agreement with the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) to buy 60 Eurofighter jets.
The Greek defense minister at the time of the purchase, Spilios Spiliotopoulos, had come under fire for what critics said was a vague deal which did not make clear what weapons, worth millions of euros, the planes would carry.
In October, the U.S. Defense Department approved the sale to Greece of 40 F-16C/D fighter jets and associated equipment.