DM: No leasing of French frigates, talks touched on possible building of new ones; F-16 upgrade cited

25 April 2018
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Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos on Wednesday clarified that the country was not discussing the prospect of leasing two Fremm-type frigates from France, saying instead that high-level talks referred to the possible construction of new warships in Greece.

A hastily called press conference was called by Kammenos on Wednesday morning after French Defence Minister Florence Parly this week made it clear that Paris was not considering any leasing of its specific class of warships to Greece.

The issue surfaced late last week after Greek Alternate Defense Minister Fotis Kouvelis claimed that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had recently agreed with French President Emmanuel Macron over the leasing of two French Navy frigates by the Hellenic Navy, with the ships ready to “patrol this summer in the Aegean”, as he said on a television current affairs program.

Kammenos said discussions between Tsipras and Macron included what he called the use of eight billion euros in profits that Greek bonds, held by the French state, have generated. Construction in Greek shipyards of French-designed frigates was one of the issues discussed by the two leaders, Kammenos told reporters.

In touching on another pricey defense contract that emerged during Tsipras’ official visit to the United States last year, Kammenos confirmed that a “hiccup” has surfaced in a plan to modernize Greece’s fleet of US-made F-16 fighter planes.

“Reports referring to a cost of 1.2 billion are valid, but there are always discounts, meaning that the final cost is roughly 1.1 billion,” the Greek defense minister said, without clarifying if he was referring to euros or US dollars.

One issue that has arisen, according to Kammenos, has to do with a prospective payment schedule for the planes’ modernization, saying it was unfeasible to plan a front-loaded defense program in Greece when the country has specific fiscal commitments – towards creditors – until 2021.

Conversely, he said a F-16 upgrading program will reach to 2028, with the first upgraded warplane ready in two years – if the program is implemented.

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