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09 December, 1997
Replying to questions regarding the US decision to allow the demonstration of the F-15 fighter jet in Greece, State Department Spokesman Jim Foley said here yesterday that the decision was not related to a final decision to the selling of the ultra-modern jets to Greece, but was simply a preliminary phase of the procedure.
The American official said, "It is only a preliminary decision. The State Department gave permission last week to the F-15 manufacturing company to go ahead with demonstration flights in Greece, as part of its effort to compete in the proposed purchasing by Greece of advanced fighter jets".
Mr. Foley said it was understood that other European-made aircraft were to be also considered by Greece, and that the decision was carefully examined by top State Department officials wishing to make sure that "such a decision would be in line with the
US interests in supporting a legitimate modernization of NATO allies, promoting the US industry and securing stability in southern Europe".
He further observed that "should the Greek government decide to purchase the American-made fighter jets, then the State Department should have to decide whether it will grant permission for the sale", adding that "we have to weigh the consequences in the Aegean, to contribute to stability, not the opposite".
Meanwhile, reports from Washington said the delay in releasing the US-built F-15 aircraft was due to a difference in views between relevant US State Department officials.
The F-15 will now be one of the candidate aircraft whose purchase Athens will decide in the framework of modernizing the Greek Air Force. According to indications, the candidate aircraft will be five: the US-built F-15 and F-16s, the French Mirage-2000, the Russian Sukhoi-27 and the Eurofighter built by a consortium composed of Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
According to US diplomatic sources, the release on the part of the United States was the result of coordinated action by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Mark Grossman and the new US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns. The same diplomatic sources termed Washington's final decision as being "symbolic" of the intentions of the US concerning the equipping of the Greek Armed Forces and bilateral defense cooperation in the future.
In the event Greece chooses to purchase the F-15 aircraft, it will be one of few countries in the world in possession of these ultra-modern US warplanes. According to relevant officials in Washington, apart from the US, the F-15 is only possessed by Saudi Arabia, Israel and Japan. The Turkish Air Force does not possess such aircraft.
An important factor contributing to this is the high economic cost of the specific fighter. The F-15 costs about 50 million dollars compared to the much cheaper F-16 (costing about 35 million dollars).
The difference in price has its explanation. According to military sources in the US capital, the F-15 is superior to the F-16 in that it has a longer radius of action, a much more advanced electronic system and its radar is almost double the radius.
TsohatzopoulosIn Athens, Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said during a press conference yesterday that within the next three weeks the Hellenic Air Force will conduct an evaluation of the F-15 fighter jet.
The list of aircraft which will be evaluated also includes the US F-16 fighter, the Russian Sukhoi, the European EF-2000 and the French Mirage 2000-5. The decision on which type will be picked is expected next year.
Source: Athens News Agency