AFP | Greece is one of only five NATO members meeting their alliance spending commitments
ATHENS – 19 October 2017: Greece on Thursday defended its decision to upgrade its fleet of US-made F-16 warplanes, arguing that the multi-million cost will not destabilise its precarious budget.
"We are discussing the upgrade of (around 90) aircraft at a maximum cost of 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) over a period of ten years," government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters.
"I do not judge the fiscal cost excessive...it's about 110 million euros per year, this does not affect fiscal targets at almost any point," he said.
The programme would start running after 2018, when the country is scheduled to exit its current European economic bailout, the spokesman said.
He said it was "logical" that European creditors may have questions on the issue and Athens is prepared to provide details "if formally asked".
"The (upgrade) has not been concluded, we are in advanced talks," Tzanakopoulos said, adding: "(We) do not intend to repeat the mistakes of the past when defence spending was inordinately inflated."
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who rubber-stamped the upgrade during an official visit to Washington this week, has said the planes risked being rendered inoperable without the upgrade.
Speaking at the Brookings Institute, Tsipras -- who took a surprise flight aboard an F-16 just before the Washington visit -- said Greece is obliged to keep up defence spending because of its geographic proximity to volatile areas.
Greece spends two percent of its budget on defence, one of only five NATO members to meet this alliance requirement.
The F-16 upgrade falls within this threshold, Tzanakopoulos said.