© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
20 November, 1997
The Government Council for Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) yesterday endorsed proposals by National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos setting out a five-point plan on priorities of the armaments procurement program.
Recommendations included strengthening the existing air force fleet with third-generation aircraft, for which a final decision would be made in the first half of 1998. According to informed sources, the government is considering choosing between the Mirage 2000-5, Russian Sukhoi, EF-2000 and F-16 (Block 50), F-15E, F-18 and F-22.
The same sources say that there has also been discussion of purchasing another 10 to 20 Mirage 2000s and F-16s (Block 50). In addition, the purchase of airborne refueling aircraft and AWACS early warning aircraft was also going ahead.
It was also reported that anti-aircraft weapons Shorad would be purchased. The purchase of long-range anti-aircraft systems is also included in the program. The US-made Patriot system and the Russian-made S-300 system are up for consideration.
The third point of the plan regarded a final decision, to be taken next year, regarding new tanks for the army.
Exactly 170 Leopard 1 A5 are to be bought from Germany, a purchase which Mr. Tsohatzopoulos says was decided upon earlier and is not part of the current program.
The Leopard 1 A5s are ready for delivery and are reportedly destined for the Evros region to replace others which will be used for the defense of the islands.
With regard to procurements for the navy, it was announced that an S-type frigate is expected from The Netherlands on Dec. 13. The renovation of a third Glafkos-class submarine was completed at the Salamina naval base a few days ago, while work on another is to begin in March. In addition, an order for four gunboats is pending at the Skaramanga shipyards.
According to informed sources, decisions are to be taken in February with regard to the purchase of four submarines, either from Germany or Britain.
Finally, the sector of troop transport is to be strengthened with the immediate purchase of hovercraft capable of carrying 400-450 men, as well as smaller craft capable of holding 70-80 soldiers.
These craft are capable of speeds of 40-50 nautical miles per hour. Mr. Tsohatzopoulos is to brief the permanent parliamentary committee on the results of yesterday's decisions.
The defense minister said the first phase of the armed forces' procurements program is to be completed during the first half of 1999.
He said that 350 billion drachmas had already been spent on the program so far, while another 100 billion will be spent by the end of the year. Some 800 billion drachmas are projected for 1998, while funds totaling 1.1 trillion drachmas are to be made available as soon as the relevant studies, which are in their final phase, have been completed.
The Council also discussed issues related to the Western European Union (WEU), whose rotating presidency Greece assumes on January 1, 1998, and to NATO, according to government spokesman Dimitris Reppas. He said Greece's priorities in the WEU would be to promote the organization as the defense wing of the European Union, as well as the idea of NATO making its forces available to the WEU in operations the latter decides to undertake.
With regard to the NATO summit scheduled for December, Mr. Reppas said that in view of the fact that NATO's new structure will most likely be discussed there, Greece would be using the principle of unanimity at meetings of the political and military committee during the planning and execution of exercises when it considers its national interests are being harmed.
He also said that visiting Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) US Gen. Wesley Clark would not be discussing confidence-building measures in the Aegean with Greek officials, as this issue came under the jurisdiction of NATO Secretary General Javier Solana.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos and Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos also briefed KYSEA on the results of the recent WEU summit in Erfurt, Germany, as well as on developments in NATO in view of the impending summit.
The main opposition New Democracy party in a statement accused the government of delaying the armed forces' armaments program, saying that almost for two years, and from time to time, announcements regarding this program are repeated, without any con tracts signed to date, apart from that of the modernization of the F-4 "Phantom" aircraft.
Source: Athens News Agency