There were six months of negotiations and dozens of visits of the American delegation to the defence ministry and the General Directorate of Defence Investments and Armaments.

There were countless telephone calls and diplomatic contacts to the last minute (as the deadline for Athens to respond was today).

All that was the backdrop for the US-Greece agreement for the upgrade of 85 Hellenic Air Force F-16 fighter jets to the Viper configuration.

The programme was formally approved by the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) on 28 April.

The 1.1 billion euro deal was sealed after the American side substantially adjusted its demands as regards the annual payment instalments, especially this year’s first instalment, which will be between 40-50 million euros.

Thus, until 2021, the annual instalment will be no more than 120 million euros, due to Athens’ fiscal commitments to its European creditors.

The KYSEA’s approval was welcomed by Greek military top brass, which saw the deal as necessary to ensure the battle-worthiness of the Air Force.

The first announcement of the deal was by US President Donald Trump himself, rather than the Greek government, when Tsipras visited the White House in mid-October.

Yet, it was only last week that the US side decided to meet Greek demands regarding the amounts of the instalments, and specifically that the first ones be a much lower amount.

A previous, marathon 23 April meeting of the KYSEA, which includes military top brass, had agreed that the payment issue was the final obstacle.

The deal was sealed on 27 April, and formally approved the next day by the KYSEA.

Pyatt welcomes deal

US Ambassador to Athens Geoffrey Pyatt welcomed the bilateral agreement in a tweet, noting that it was made possible after the PM’s trip to Washington.

New Democraψy shadow defence minister Vasilis Kikilias also welcomed the agreement, after the financial hurdles were passed.

The Hellenic Air Force is scheduled to receive the first Viper in 2020, and the last in 2028.
Two of the F-16 aircraft will be upgraded entirely in the US.

The aim thereafter is to complete part of the electronic systems upgrades in the US – including the installation of Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars – and the rest in Greece, with a production line to be created at the Hellenic Aerospace Industry.

Manos Charalambakis