Turk­ish F35 or­der un­der­lines Greek con­straints

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Ankara’s re­cent de­ci­sion to or­der 24 Lock­heed Martin F-35 air­craft has brought to the fore a dis­cus­sion that has been tak­ing place for some years within the Greek armed forces about how Greece can main­tain its de­ter­rent ca­pa­bil­i­ties vis a vis Turkey with­out en­ter­ing into an arms race with its neigh­bor.

The neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence from the ex­ces­sive spend­ing on de­fense be­tween 1996 and 2005 and the fis­cal pres­sure on Athens, which is be­ing asked to slash mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture by 400 mil­lion eu­ros next year, means that only the ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary tasks are be­ing taken care of.

Turkey will not take de­liv­ery of the F-35s it has or­dered for some time. Ini­tially, Turk­ish pi­lots will travel to the US to un­dergo train­ing into how to fly the air­craft but it is ex­pected that the first F-35s, which will be ini­tially de­liv­ered in batches of four, will not be fully op­er­a­tional be­fore 2021 at the ear­li­est.

Al­though De­fense Min­is­ter Panos Kam­menos sug­gested on Septem­ber 14 that Greece would like to ob­tain the lat­est mil­i­tary air­craft, it is thought that it will have to make do with up­grad­ing its ex­ist­ing ones for the time be­ing. It cur­rently costs around 100,000 dol­lars to pur­chase an F-35 sin­gle-en­gine fighter, mean­ing that Athens would need 2 bil­lion eu­ros to build a squadron of 20 air­planes.

In­stead, though, Greek au­thor­i­ties have cho­sen to up­grade the ex­ist­ing fleet of F-16s for a lower cost.

Athens is also look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity of ob­tain­ing from the US a de­com­mis­sioned Ar­leigh Burke class guided mis­sile de­stroyer. Sources said that Wash­ing­ton is keen to help Athens in the sup­ply of mil­i­tary equip­ment, as it is keen for Greece to be able to have strong de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties dur­ing a pe­riod of un­rest in the wider re­gion.

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