Greece will receive the first batch of upgraded F-16s (Vipers) from the United States in 2019, Alternate National Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas told Sto Kokkino FM radio.
In comments to the radio station, Vitsas said that the fighter aircraft will arrive in batches of about 20 a year, and 30% of the upgrades - costing Greece 1.1 billion euros - will be carried out by Hellenic Aerospace Industry and other Greek companies.
"One or two aircraft will be overhauled in the US to be used as models, and then a series of electronic systems will be manufactured in the US, will arrive in Greece, be assembled, and the remaining manufacturing and modifications will be done (here)," Vitsas said.
The minister also played down criticism that Greek labor would not be used, attributing the criticism to ignorance.
In terms of cost, he said that the Greek side requested that American manufacturers consider three alternatives for the number of aircraft to be upgraded. The costliest one includes an upgrade for 123 aircraft, and carries a price tag of 2.4 billion dollars. "This is the absolute ceiling, the program cannot exceed this expenditure," he said.
The most recent purchase of F-16s occurred during the government of Costas Karamanlis, he said, when the US Congress received a contract for 3 billion euros, but the final expenditure ended up being 1.9 billion euros. There's a distinction between the "absolute ceiling" and what it really ends up costing, Vitsas commented.
Asked to explain the 2.4-billion-euro cost, the minister said that it includes the upgrading for 123 fighter planes, taxes, and other fees, as well as following support.
"The way we have planned (the upgrade), it wouldn't exceed 1.1 billion euros," Vitsas said. "The exact number (of airplanes) remains to be determined. (...) Will they be 150? Our proposal mentioned 123. Our basic thought was, nearly 100 fighter planes. The rest will be upgraded, but in different ways. What will change will be the radars, the electronic systems, the weapons systems they can carry," he said.