The government of Greece made its long-awaited decision for new fighter aircraft last week - choosing 50 Lockheed Martin F-16s and 15 Dassault Mirage 2000-5s.
The fighter jets won over several tough competitors, including the Boeing F-15H and the Sukhoi Su-27. The F-15H was the leading competitor among Greek military test pilots and would have given the country the advantage against territorial threats, but the F-15s were considerably more expensive - at around $70 million each - than the F-16s. Some US lawmakers were also opposing the sale of F-15s to Greece, saying it would threaten stability in the region.
Lockheed says the sale will help extend the production of the F-16 into the early part of the next century. Greece, which already operates the F-16, likely chose the Lockheed fighter for uniformity reasons in addition to the price considerations.
The total transaction is worth $2 billion to various suppliers and about $1.4 billion to Lockheed Martin in current-year dollars. The deal includes the aircraft, mission equipment and a support package.
The F-16s are designated as Block 50+, which means the configuration includes the latest core avionics and color displays, conformal fuel tanks for extended range and other advanced capabilities.
The Greek purchase is an "extremely significant win for the F-16 industry team," said Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems president Dain M. Hancock.
"This was a hard-fought competition against the leading fighters available today on the world market, and the selection comes as a result of one of the most thorough, intense evaluations we have witnessed," Hancock said.
The purchase by Greece should also encourage other customers currently considering the F-16 to buy the fighter, said Hancock.
Deliveries of the new F-16s will begin two years after the contract is signed, which is expected to occur later this year after US Congressional approval. Greece has already taken delivery of 80 F-16s bought under previous orders.
The Mirage 2000-5 purchase is valued at around $825 million for Dassault. The Greek order win is a welcome news because Dassault is wrapping up deliveries of 60 Mirage jets to Taiwan. The last major order announcement for the Mirage was the $3.2 billion contract to provide 30 Mirage 2000-9s to the United Arab Emirates last November. (See related story) Greece also plans to upgrade 10 of the 40 Mirage 2000s it currently operates with new radar capability and weapons systems.
The Mirage order will also benefit electronics maker Thomson-CSF and engine-maker Snecma.
The announcement from Greece is a blow to Boeing, which was counting on an F-15 order to prevent the shutdown of the F-15 production line in St Louis. The only major buyer left for the dwindling F-15 line is Israel. The program generates around $1 billion in revenues for Boeing annually.