The leftist led Greek government has signed its first major armament deal with the U.S. contractor Lockheed Martin for the modernization of five aged naval support jets. The deal, worth 500 million dollars, is the first major deal in the last 10 years and was signed after the recommendation of Defense Minister and coalition government junior partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos. The agreement was also signed by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Alternate Minister of Citizen Protection Giannis Panousis as well as Alternate Economy, Infrastructure, Maritime and Tourism Minister Thodoris Dritsas.
According to the Greek Sunday newspaper Proto Thema that published the story first, the SYRIZA-led government has already authorized a down payment of 45 million dollars to the U.S. colossal multinational company as a first installment so that the upgrade can begin. The deal comes at a time when state coffers are running low, while speculation over whether Greece will manage to pay its next installment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the coming Thursday, April 9, as well as pensions and public sector wages is topping Greek and international media.
The modernization plan is a 7-year program and includes the maintenance and support of five of the six P-3B Orion turbo-prop aircraft granted to Greece by the United States during 1991 and 1992. The Greek government hopes to extend their life span for another 15,000 flight hours. They had been in the service of the Hellenic Navy until 2009 but were withdrawn as their modernization had been considered too costly.
It should be noted that Mr. Dritsas, who is among those signing the agreement, was a fierce critic of weapons expenditures during the past years, when New Democracy and PASOK were in power. The deal has caused the reaction of opposition parties and especially of the centrist To Potami and its leader Stavros Theodorakis. “Two hundred million euros for dealing with the humanitarian crisis but 500 million dollars for arms,” Mr. Theodorakis is quoted as saying in regards to the contract. “It is the largest weapons program over the last years, at a time when the economic crisis is at its worst and state funds are literally empty,” he added, recalling the outrage that SYRIZA Maritime Minister Thodoris Dritsas showed when his party was in opposition, and when referring to defense related expenditures for the 2015 state budget.