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Budgetary crisis hampers Greek fighter, trainer deals

Continued budgetary pressures and the weak political standing of the Greek government have contributed to a continued lack of progress on its air force's leading two procurement needs.

Industry sources say the defence ministry finished writing its user requirements document for a new multirole fighter in the third quarter of this year, but believe a request for proposals in unlikely to be released until the second half of next year.

The air force has an urgent requirement for around 70-80 aircraft to begin replacing its McDonnell Douglas F-4 and Vought A-7 Corsair fighters between 2010 and 2012, but speculation that the Greek government could call an early general election in mid-2009 could further delay its plans.

The defence ministry previously announced the selection of 60 Eurofighter Typhoons, but the deal failed to progress to a contract signature as a result of political and financial factors. But in anticipation of a future contest, likely bidders including Boeing, Dassault, Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin and Saab were in high-profile attendance at the Defendory exhibition held in Athens from 7-11 October.

Despite the air force having an urgent need to replace its Rockwell T-2 Buckeyes with a next-generation advanced jet trainer, the Greek defence ministry has confirmed that the project has slipped further down its priorities list.

The news comes as a blow to potential bidders including BAE Systems and Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed, which promoted their Hawk 128 and T-50 trainers at the show.

Athens' continued support for the slow-moving Advanced European Jet Pilot Training initiative has contributed to its failure to move on the AJT project since the 2006 Defendory event. As the candidate airframe for the nine-nation initiative, also referred to as Eurotraining, Alenia Aermacchi's M-346 remains the clear favourite to meet the Greek air force's long-term training requirements.

However, BAE's senior vice-president Hawk International, Michael Christie, argues: "The Hawk 128 performs in our view appropriately - it's still the optimum choice for fighter pilots and has been designed for the future."

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