Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Greece is expected to decide shortly which route to take on its planned short-term and long-term fighter purchases. A key ministerial meeting planned for earlier in April, but delayed by the Kosovo crisis and NATO's 50th anniversary summit, is expected by the end of April.

The country has selected the Eurofighter Typhoon as its long-term fighter choice, but is still weighing two near-term options: a follow-on order for more Dassault Mirage 2000s or Lockheed Martin F-16s, or an interim purchase of Boeing F-15s.

The choice of short-term fighter is expected to influence the number of Typhoons the Greeks buy and how soon they are required. Eurofighter is offering to deliver aircraft from 2004 (Flight International, 14-20 April).

Selection of the F-15 could push back the long-term fighter requirement, however. Boeing is offering to deliver 20-60 F-15Hs (based on the F-15E) beginning in May next year. The F-15E line is to close at the end of year unless Boeing receives an order from Greece or Israel, which has been offered a second batch of 25 F-15Is. A decision is expected in May or June.

Lockheed Martin is hoping for an order from Greece for between 30 and 80 F-16C/Ds, and from Israel for up to 110 aircraft, to help close the gap in production that has resulted from delays in signing the 80-aircraft Block 60 F-16 deal with the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt is to purchase a sixth batch of 24 Block 40 F-16C/Ds, for delivery in 2001-2, but Lockheed Martin's projected 2002-4 production levels hinge on winning the Greek and Israeli contests, and an order for 20-30 from Norway.

Eurofighter is also competing for the Norwegian contract, which calls for deliveries as early as 2003. This is too early for the European consortium, but it believes budget problems could yet delay the programme, although it expects the Norwegians to stick to the current schedule which calls for a fighter decision by year-end.

Greece and Norway are being offered partnerships in both Eurofighter and NETMA, the NATO agency which acts as customer for the Typhoon. This would give the countries complete visibility into all pricing and performance data and a say in the future development of the aircraft.

NETMA says that Norway is being offered full partnership in the Eurofighter, despite requiring only 20-30 aircraft, as a way of attracting the other European F-16 operators beginning to look at replacement options.

Source: Flight International