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1 Mar 02. As expected, the Greek Defence Ministry confirmed yesterday that it will buy 170 Leopard II tanks made by Germany’s Krauss-Maffei, preferred over the Challenger 2 made by Vickers Defence Systems, a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce, in the UK, the French Giat LeClerc and the American M1A2 made by General Dynamics, the Russian Federation had also offered a T-80U and Ukraine the T-84.

The tanks procurement is part of a four-year defence programme worth $1.9bn, which ended in 2001.

Initially Greece was seeking 246 new tanks, 24 recovery vehicles, 12

bridge-laying vehicles and 12 driver-trainer vehicles. The competition calls for

25 percent co-production in Greece to boost the local defence industry.

“We will buy 170 instead of 246 within the framework of economising we must do,” Defence Minister Yannos Papandoniou told reporters.

In spite of continuing bullish noises coming from Vickers and the UK Government, when Prime Minister, Tony Blair, once again put his personal stamp on contract negotiations with a number of bullish statements and visits supporting Vickers, the writing was on the wall when the German Government gave Greece a number of second-hand Leopard 1s which had been in storage. It then became unthinkable that Greece would split its fleet type. The UK retaliated with what some sources in the DTI and Greek Trade Department saw was a sound move for local manufacture in offering to supply the vast part of the Leeds Challenger 1 factory for Greek industry.

The various PR flops which Vickers have become famous for, in part seen in some quarters as arrogance, were not helped by the failure of the Challenger 2 tanks in Operation Saaf Sereea, where the failure to provide sand filters costing £15 led to the breakdown of the whole fleet and a bill reputed to be £10m!

This must surely be the swansong of Vickers as a separate entity and lead to the swift completion of talks with Rolls-Royce to merge Vickers Defence with Alvis. Vickers is bidding for the FCLV contract in the UK and the inclusion of the company within Alvis may strengthen the bid which some observers suggested was going to a close finish between the INSYS/ACMAT team and the much favoured, in some quarters, Iveco vehicle.

The inclusion of Vickers within Alvis will stengthen Alvis and bring the Alvis stamp to Vickers. But it may not end there, as BATTLESPACE reported alst week, this may be the first stage in the final dual between the revitalized UDLP and General Dynamics for control of a large segment of the European Armoured Vehicle industry.

Greece also said on Friday that it had decided to buy 12 to 15 transport planes from an Alenia -Lockheed consortium. It will also buy a fighter jet self-protection system from a Raytheon, BAE SYSTEMS, Northrop Grumman consortium.

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