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Greece examining ‘free’ US tank offer

(AFP) / 7 December 2011

ATHENS — Cash-strapped Greece is considering a free offer of hundreds of redundant M1A1 Abrams tanks extended by the US government, the Greek army said on Wednesday.

“This is a free offer,” army spokesman Yiannis Sifakis told AFP.

“A delegation of officers has travelled to the United States to examine tanks in storage; we are departing on the premise of picking 400 of them,” he said.

“The only cost will be that of transport, which is estimated in the region of eight million euros ($11 million),” the spokesman added.

Ta Nea daily reported that the tanks, stored in Nevada, saw action in the 1990-1991 Gulf War and were first offered by the US government a year ago.

The state council on foreign policy and defence will have the final say on whether the offer is taken up, Sifakis said.

Greece is in the grip of a debt crisis that has forced the government to freeze procurement orders for tanks, frigates and fighter jets.

The country has traditionally been one of the world’s heaviest defence spenders per capita owing to decades of rivalry with neighbouring Turkey.

Greece has in the past bought tanks from Germany and there have been reports that Berlin has recently tried to sell updated versions of its Leopard model.

Next year, Athens has allocated more money to military equipment orders — one billion euros compared to 600 million euros a year earlier — but the defence ministry will cut its running budget by 1.4 percent.

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