Greece has awarded US defense company Lockheed Martin $280 million to upgrade the Hellenic Air Force’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets over the net seven years.
The modernisation contract was signed this week after finalizing details on Lockheed's use of a Greek subcontractor, Athens-Macedonia agency reported on Friday.
Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told the parliament earlier this month that 84 of Greece’s 150-strong F-16 fleet would be upgraded to the latest Viper standard by 2027. AP news agency has pegged the total value of the program to be nearly $1.5 billion, reports DW.
In October 2017, the US state department had approved a $2.4 billion project to upgrade Greek F-16s to the Block 70/72 Viper configuration which among other enhancements includes an APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar that significantly enhances the aircraft’s ability to identify and engage enemy aircraft. Lockheed had announced that it would begin upgrading the aircraft on September 17, 2018. The new contract appears to be allotment of additional funds.
The move may irk neighbouring Turkey which sparked anger in Washington over its Russian S-400 buy, and whose relations with Greece soured over the last few years.
Ankara is the only country to recognise the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, demands authority over and a share of revenue generating from the gas reserves for the Turkish Cypriots. On the other hand, Greece supports Republic of Cyprus, and insisted on Turkish Cypriots getting their share of the revenue only after the reunification of the island.
In addition, Athens blames Ankara for increase in the influx of undocumented migrants into its country, and is considering closing its border with Turkey to stem the migrants.