Greece Hellenic Navy reveals its surface fleet modernization plan


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Hellenic Navy Reveals Its Surface Fleet Modernization Plan​

A Greek naval officer presented the overall surface fleet modernization plan of the Hellenic Navy at the Combined Naval Event (CNE) 2024, in Farnborough, UK, the Premier Event for the Naval Community and the largest annual naval event in Europe.​

Dimitris Mitsopoulos 26 May 2024

On May 23, 2024, at CNE 2024, a Navy Leaders Conference, Commodore Panagiotis Karavas, Deputy Director of the Armaments Directorate for the Hellenic Navy (HN), revealed new details for the imminent modernization of the Hellenic Navy’s surface fleet. Note that the Greek Commodore was, until recently, the surface program director, so he was very closely involved in the Greek surface fleet programs. Naval News attended his briefing, here is what we learned:

The Commodore mentioned that the biggest challenge faced by the HN was the lack of a surface modernization plan for the large ships, specifically the frigates, for several years. Therefore, the primary objective is to complete this modernization. This is expected to be achieved by 2030 or shortly thereafter, in alignment with the Greek Defense Minister’s announcements. The main aim is to maximize commonalities and sustain availability. As a medium-sized navy, Karavas explained that the HN cannot afford to maintain numerous ship types with different and costly maintenance requirements.

Therefore, the HN is focused on standardizing its fleet. Modularity is also crucial, enabling the HN to undertake various missions. To achieve its goals, the HN is pursuing multiple strategies: purchasing new ships from abroad, upgrading existing ones, and building new ones locally. This is a very ambitious program.

Six projects for the Hellenic Navy​

The Commodore divided the objectives of the Fleet’s renewal into the following six parts: FDI Frigates, Corvettes, Constellation-class frigates, Hydra (MEKO 200HN) upgrade program, fast attack missile craft (FACM), patrol boats, and special operations craft (SOC).

FDI HN Frigates​

Hellenic Navy Kimon FDI Lorient May 2024
The lead ship of FDI HN frigates, Kimon(F601), seen here at fitting out stage at the Naval Group shipyard in Lorient, in May 2024. Naval News picture.

The Greek Commodore described the FDI program as progressing very satisfactorily and provided detailed information about the equipment the new frigates will carry. He emphasized that this program is one the Hellenic Navy is most proud of, highlighting its great significance. The new frigates will displace 4,550 tons, considerably larger than the current ships, which are around 3,500 tons. The ASTER 30 SAM marks a new era for HN the Commodore said, as it introduces a missile system with capabilities beyond point defense, a significant advancement for the Navy. The Navy is particularly proud of this cutting-edge weapon system. He noted that there is a separate program in progress to procure a number of Camcopter S-100 UAS from Schiebel, which will be deployed on the FDI frigates, as we have already reported.

He also mentioned that the FDI program is divided into separate contracts and that this approach represents a new concept for the HN. The first contract is for the construction of the frigates with Naval Group. The second covers the acquisition of ASTER 30 and EXOCET MM40 Block 3C guided missiles from MBDA. The third is a follow-on support (FOS) contract with Naval Group.

New corvettes​

Commodore Panagiotis Karavas reiterated that Greece is considering the acquisition of 3+1 corvettes and is evaluating several types for this purpose. He mentioned the GOWIND from Naval Group, the FCX30 from Fincantieri, and the SIGMA (10514) from Damen. Unlike previous programs, Greece aims to have a significant number of these corvettes, at least two he said, constructed in Greek shipyards, such as Elefsis (ONEX Shipyards) or Skaramangas Shipyards (Hellenic Shipyards) or similar ones. He noted that HN faces significant challenges in defining its requirements due to rapidly changing circumstances. Recent operations in the region, and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Israel, and the Red Sea, have provided many lessons and highlighted the need to counter new threats effectively.

Consequently, the Hellenic Navy is actively working to develop its requirements. They are in close cooperation with the mentioned companies, as well as others, to finalize these requirements and obtain quotes. They hope this process will materialize soon. Additionally, he noted that Greece is a full member of the PESCO project for the European Patrol Corvette (EPC).

Constellation-class Frigates​

Constellation-class frigate bearing the Greek flag. US DoD image modified by Dimitris Mitsopoulos.

Regarding the Constellation class, the HN has expressed a long-term goal of pursuing this type of frigate, with the intention of not just procuring them, but co-producing them in Greece for not just the needs of the Navy but also for other possible customers of the design in the region. To this end, Commodore said that Greece is developing a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) planning case in order to define what it takes to produce the ships in Greece (capability of shipyards) and how the design will be reconfigured to meet the Greek needs.

Commodore noted that this is one of the greatest procurement challenges the HN has undertaken in its recent history. Once successfully completed, it will produce highly capable ships which will constitute the bulk of HN’s modern high-end capabilities. Although this transformation will take time, the HN anticipates that Greece will be able to produce these ships by around mid-2030 if everything goes according to the plan.

Upon successful completion, it will result in highly capable ships, elevating the Hellenic Navy to an entirely new level of capability the Commodore noted. Commodore Panagiotis Karavas believes that the inclusion of the Constellation-class will empower the HN to become equal partners within task groups in the area, integrating seamlessly as members of these groups.

The Constellation-class frigates, in particular, will enhance HN’s interoperability with United States Navy (USN) ships operating in the region. This capability will significantly bolster HN’s capacity to operate alongside task groups from the USN, Royal Navy, Marine Nationale, and other allies, ensuring greater efficiency and interoperability in joint operations.

Hydra MLU Program​

Concerning the Hydra-class upgrade program, the Commodore said that the objective of the modernization is to extend the service life of these four 30-year old multi-role frigates by at least 15 years. This will be achieved through the upgrade or installation of new equipment, addressing any obsolescence issues with the systems on board. The discussion on this program with TKMS and Thales consortium is ongoing. Commodore believes that it will take up to four (4) years from the moment the contract will have been signed, before the first modernized ship starts its trials. The Greek officer provided extensive details of this long overdue modernization project, which we will cover in a separate article.

Fast Attack Craft​

Karathanasis (P78), one of the latest Roussen-class FACM. The last pair is equipped with more modern equipment that the previous five vessels.

The Commodore emphasized the necessity of a Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) for the Roussen (Super Vita) class FACMs, noting that the first vessel entered service in 2005 but its equipment was designed in the late ’90s (with the exception of the last pair of vessels). He clarified that the MLU study is currently under approval, with plans to equip the boats with state-of-the-art sensors and systems in order to achieve maximum operational capability and address obsolescence issues.
Additionally, the Navy is considering procuring up to nine new FACMs to gradually replace the four (4) aging but modernized Laskos-classs (Combattante IIIA) and Kavaloudis-class (Combattante IIIB) FACM. Commodore clarified that this is not however a very mature program but the operational requirements study has been approved.

Patrol Boats​

Georgios Galanis(P198), an Island-class coastal patrol vessel under refurbishment and modernization at Salamis Shipyards. Photo by Salamis Shipyards.

Regarding the patrol (coastal) boats, an FMS case is currently in the execution phase, with four (4) Island-class vessels already undergoing repair and upgrade in Greek shipyards (Salamis Shipyards). Additionally, FMS cases for the procurement of three (3) Protector-class and two (2) additional Island-class vessels are in development and thus replacing all the old coastal patrol vessels. The Commodore emphasized the Hellenic Navy’s commitment to operating no fewer than eight (8) coastal patrol vessels, comprising the aforementioned types. All the vessels will receive modern equipment including weapon systems, such as LIONFISH 20 RWS on Island class, new communications and electro-optical sensors from Miltech Hellas.

Agenor SOC​

Finally, he proudly showcased the Agenor SOC, an 18-meter boat designed and constructed in Greece to meet HN specifications. These ships fulfill HN’s special operations requirements, and Greeks take great pride in their ability to achieve this domestically. Additionally, the Navy has proposed that the Agenor design could be adapted into an unmanned surface vehicle (USV).

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