Several Greek newspapers and blogs have commented on figures recently released by the Hellenic Air Force General Staff regarding the cost of interception of Turkish military aircraft over the Aegean. The figures more or less show that, on average, Greece spends €20 million per year on intercepting Turkish aircraft. Also, the figures show the hourly operating cost to be €10,000 for an F-16 and €11,000 for a Mirage 2000. These “operating costs” include fuel and man-hours and some spare parts. They do NOT however include the acquisition of the actual fighter aircraft (or their write-off), training, infrastructure or other acquisitions to make the interceptions possible (radar stations, communications equipment, AEW aircraft etc.).
The reality is that the €20 million cost incurred per year on average is totally misleading. As written before in this forum, Greece must order an average of 10 fighter aircraft per year to be able to keep up its required combat strength to face the Turkish threat. 10 fighter aircraft nowadays can cost anywhere between €500 million and €1.5 billion, depending on type, inclusion of spares, support, weapons etc. This is for the acquisition alone.
With the world trying to drag itself out of recession the Greek and international press is filled with stories about Greece potentially going bankrupt. The European Union is imposing severe measures on the Greek economy in order to reduce the budget deficit. Unfortunately Greece’s European partners do not take into consideration the fact that if it was not for Greece’s defence spending Greece would have the potential to have one of Europe’s healthiest economies. Greece has one of the highest per capita spending on arms in the world. Greece has one of the strongest militaries in the world, when compared to the size of its population, in order to combat an ever growing threat from Turkey.
At this moment in time Greece is being forced to cut its spending across the board and the government has already announced cuts in defence spending. Many European partners are lining up in order to win lucrative defence contracts from the Greek government and are at the same time arming Turkey and giving political support to Turkey’s expansionist policies. In this situation there is no shred of European solidarity to be found.
Unfortunately the situation today is the result of great errors in judgement on the side of Greek policy making. Turkey has been allowed to draw more and more Greek sovereign rights into question, use violence unpunished and in general create a pre-war atmosphere in order to gain ever growing concessions from Greece. This cannot lead to a positive outcome.
When all is said and done, any Greek government will continue to spend heavily on defence despite the announced austerity measures. Nobody wants to be responsible for leaving the country’s defences in a weak state and thereby invite an armed conflict with Turkey. Our allies will continue receiving huge defence contracts and then chastise the Greek government for its spending habits. In the end the Greek taxpayer will have to foot the bill.