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Sunday 29 March 2015

Elli class frigates of the Hellenic Navy

Written by D-Mitch

Hellenic Navy Elli class frigates in formation
The Elli class of Hellenic Navy (Πολεμικό Ναυτικό) is a class of nine (9) general-purpose frigates. These are ex-Royal Netherlands Navy (Koninklijke Marine) Kortenaer-class frigates which are also known as Standard or S-class frigates. The name "Standard" came from the idea to pursue standardization within NATO fleet. Ten ships were built by the former Royal Schelde Dockyard (now Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding) and two by the former Wilton-Fijenoord (it has been acquired by Damen Shiprepair) between 1978 and 1983. A total of twelve S-frigates were built, two for Greece (frigates n.6 and n.7 during construction were sold to Greece, L-frigates replaced them) and ten for the Netherlands. Ultimately, of these ten Dutch ships, eight were sold to Greece and two to the United Arab Emirates. The Iranian Navy ordered eight modified ships from Royal Schelde but the contract was canceled after the Iranian Revolution. Together with the Jacob van Heemeskerck class (also known as L-class), an AAW variant of the Standard frigates, it was the largest Dutch naval shipbuilding project of the 20th century. Once, these frigates were the workhorses of the Royal Netherlands Navy, today they are the workhorses of the naval force of Greece.

Four Elli / Kortenaer class frigates of Hellenic Navy in formation.
The photo was taken from frigate Psara (F454)
Greece signed a contract with the Netherlands on September 1980 for the purchase of one Kortenaer class frigate that was under construction for the Royal Netherlands Navy. The option for a second frigate of the class was activated on June 1981. These were frigates Elli and Limnos, the most modern warships of Hellenic Navy that time. These ships were a valuable addition to the naval force of Greece due to their advanced electronics and weapon systems. On November 22, 1992, a second contract was signed with Netherlands for the transfer of three frigates that were in service with the Royal Netherlands Navy. The frigates Aegeon, Adrias and Navarino entered in service with Hellenic Navy the period 1993-1995 (see table for exact days). Kountouriotis was acquired in 1997 while the last four ships Bouboulina, Kanaris, Nikiforos Fokas and Themistocles entered in service with Hellenic Navy the period 2001-2003.

The ten Elli/Kortenaer class frigates in service with Hellenic Navy
The general characteristics of the class is a displacement of approximately 3,800tons at full load, length of 130.5m, beam of 14.6m, maximum speed of 30 knots and a range of 4,700n.m. with the speed of 16 knots. The crew is about 180 while the total capacity is 200 passengers. The propulsion is Combined Gas Or Gas (COGOG). It takes less than a minute to start the gas turbines, and within two minutes the ship is at full speed. The ships carry one medium helicopter which can be accommodated in a hangar.

Modified photo of an Elli/Kortenaer (Batch I) class frigate. For a high resolution image click here.
L-class frigate of Chilean Navy.
Photo: Damien Horvath
One of the two Phalanx systems that
equip Limnos and Elli. Below of it,
the twin torpedo launchers.
In 1992, the Netherlands offered the two L-class frigates to the Hellenic Navy but the proposal was rejected due to the high cost of this sale according to the Greek side. In 2005 the two ships were sold to Chile which served until today. This class of frigates is analyzed thoroughly in another article, the Jacob van Heemskerck class frigates of the Chilean Navy. This class is considered an evolution of the modified design that was order by the Imperial Iranian Navy. The Imperial Iranian Navy had ordered eight modified ships from Royal Schelde but the contract was canceled after the Iranian Revolution. The Iranian Kortenaer class FFG would have been armed with an Mk13 launcher for SM-1 SAM, one Mk45 127mm gun, 2 Phalanx CIWS (in a similar arrangement to Elli and Limnos) and the standard Harpoon anti-ship launchers and torpedo launchers.

The Iranian variant of the Kortenaer class. The L-class was the evolution of this concept.
In the beginning of 2000, a discussion began on a possible modernization and upgrade of some of the ships of the class. Thales Nederland and Raytheon proposed the installation of a Raytheon 16-cell Mk48 Mod 1 Guided Missile Vertical Launching System (GMVLS) for 16 RIM-162C ESSM Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) to one side of the hangar, a similar configuration with Karel Doorman class frigates. However, it was clear that the ship under this configuration could not guide many missiles against multiple missiles or to take advantage of the longer range of ESSM.  Thus, in the proposition was also included an option for a second Thales STIR 1.8 tracking and illumination radar system. Another option was to replace WM25 combined surface search/fire control radar and STIR 1.8 with a new APAR (Active Phased Array Radar) radar, the SEAPAR from Thales Nederland. However, the system was under development that time; besides the total cost of the new system and ESSM was very high and thus it was prohibiting the upgrade of more than two ships of the class. Thales Nederland proposed also to replace the front OTO Melara 76mm gun with two Mk41 modules (16 cells) for SM-2MR and ESSM missiles. In order to guide the SM-2MR the STIR 1.8 would had been upgraded to increase performance. The removed gun would had been installed atop of the hangar similarly with Batch II frigates and the Phalanx CIWS would had been installed where the Mk29 Sea Sparrow launcher is located. An option for a variant of SPY-3 was also proposed. All these proposals were rejected as they were considered very expensive.

Modified photo of an Elli/Kortenaer (Batch II) class frigate. For a high resolution image click here.

Frigate Navarinon prior the modernization.
Photo: Hellenic Navy
Finally, on February 12th, 2003, a contract of 381,575,580 was signed between General Directorate for Defense Investment and Armaments and Hellenic Shipyards (ENAE) for the mid-life modernization and overhaul of the six frigates of the Batch I and II. Thales Nederland was the main subcontractor and responsible for the total combat system integration, the delivery of new combat system equipment for the ships and sensors. The program began in July 2004 with frigate Kountouriotis which was returned back to the Navy in 2006; the sixth and last modernized frigate was delivered in 2010. The modernization emphasized on the electronic equipment and combat management system and left unchanged the weapon systems of the ships except for the addition of two Mk137 decoy launchers soft-kill weapon systems part of the BAE Systems SRBOC on Batch I frigates. That time, Batch I frigates were equipped with two units, similarly with frigates of the Batch III (Batch II frigates had already four launchers). Unfortunately, the significant upgrade of the Mk29 launcher to Mk29 Mod 4 in order to allow the launcher to launch the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) was cancelled. The whole modernization program aimed to extend the frigates' service lives by 20 years. In summary, the modernization of the electronic equipment included the following:
  • Addition of MIRADOR optronic observation and weapon control system (see extensive description of the sensors' capabilities in next paragraphs)
  • Addition of  SCOUT Mk2 LPI radar, a sensor that equips also the ships of the Batch III, while the old ZW06 surface search and navigation radar was removed
  • Upgrade of WM25 combined surface search and fire control radar (see next paragraphs for an extensive description of the upgrade and the capabilities of the sensors)
  • Upgrade of STIR 1.8 tracking and illumination radar
  • Upgrade of LW08 long range air-search radar
  • Installation of one of the most advanced systems in the world in this category, the EDO CS-3701 Electronic Support Measures (ESM); the old  SPHINX is removed
  • The Sewaco MkII combat management system is replaced with the advanced and very successful system in this category, the Thales TACTICOS (Sewaco FD).
  • Installation of an ALEX system by Lockheed Martin Sippican's Passive Decoy Systems Group that links the decoy launching system to the ship's ESM, wind and navigation sensors.
  • Replacement of the Integrated Communications System  3 (ICS3) by a new scheme of EADS Hagenuk
  • Integration of the terminal data Link 11 from Rockwell Collins in the combat management system
  • Installation of INMARSAT FLEET 77 on three ships
  • Installation of two Marine Inertial Systems (INS) Mk39 Mod3A Ring Laser Gyro that replaced the gyro compasses Mk29 and Mk23
  • Addition of GPS receiver
  • Installation of V/UHF SATURN featuring Electronic Communications anti-Counter Measure (ECCM)
Modified photo of an Elli/Kortenaer (Batch III) class frigate. For a high resolution image click here.
Many subsystems of the rest of the equipment such as parts of the propulsion system were replaced with new or other systems were upgraded to increase performance and capabilities. As it is already mentioned , for a more extensive description of the sensors' capabilities and details on the upgrades read these paragraphs that describe the electronic equipment of the ships.

Modified photo of an Elli/Kortenaer (Batch III) class frigate. For a high resolution image click here.

When the construction of the Kortenaer class was in progress, the Royal Netherlands Navy and Holland Signaal (now Thales) were still developing the Goalkeeper CIWS. This weapon was intended to equip the S-class frigates but during the commissioning of the first S-class frigates the system was not ready yet. Thus, HNLMS Kortenaer and HNLMS Callenburch, the first two ships featured an extra OTO Melara 76mm Compatto at the top of the hangar which was the reserved position for the Goalkeeper. The rest of the frigates received a Bofors 40mm gun-turret from the old Holland and Friesland class minehunters. Elli and Limnos received also an extra OTO Melara 76mm. The Goalkeeper was replaced with Phalanx in Greek ships; Elli and Limnos kept the extra gun and they were equipped with two Phalanx systems at each side of the LW08 radar and behind helicopter hangar.

HNLMS Kortenaer with 76mm gun atop the hangar.
Photo: Royal Netherlands Navy
HNLMS Van Kinsbergen with 40mm gun atop the hanagar.
Photo: Matterson Marine Collection
HNLMS Piet Hein with Goalkeeper atop the hangar.
Photo: Royal Netherlands Navy

The hangar of Elli and Limnos was also 2m longer than in Netherlands' ships to accommodate AB 212ASW helicopters instead of Lynx in Dutch service. Later the rest of the ships received also this modification. The hangar of the six modernized frigates is large enough to accommodate also the S-70 Aegean Hawks while the helideck of all ships has been strengthened  in order to handle a crash landing of a 10-tonne helicopter according to a recent Jane's news article.

S70 helicopter on the flight deck of frigate Limnos. Photo: Stelios Marg
AB212 ASW aboard a Kortenaer class frigate; view from the water cannon

Bouboulina during decommissioning ceremony
Frigate Bouboulina. Photo: electrickev
Frigate Bouboulina (F-463), ex-HNLMS Pieter Florisz, was the last Kortenaer class frigate to be built (October 1983) but it is the first ship of the class that was decommissioned. The decommissioning ceremony took place on 18 February 2013. Bouboulina was the only ship of the class that was never equipped with a Phalanx CIWS. Today, the ship is being used as a source of spare parts for the rest of the ships in the class.

Bouboulina, the last built S-class frigate but the first one that was decommissioned

Yas under construction
The giga-yacht Yas
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) frigates Al Emirat and Abu Dhabi were trasformed into super luxury giga-yachts known as Swift 141 or else Yas (former HNLMS Piet Hein) and Swift 135 (former HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen). The numbers "141" and "135" indicate the length of these super-yachts which are some of the largest and of course most luxury yachts in the world. It is worth of mention that Yas can achieve the speed of 26 knots, and thus been one of the world’s fastest gigayachts, thanks to its long, narrow frigate hull and a massive refit, including what is believed to be the largest yacht superstructure ever built with composites! Read more about this impressive yacht here.

The initial phases of the yacht transformation.
Recently, many spare parts of the former-warships where donated by the United Arab Emirates Navy to the Hellenic Navy, parts that are valuable to support those ships that are still in active service.

Elli prior the modernization. Photo: Hellenic Navy
Elli after the modernization. Photo: Andrew Johnson

The aft gun of Limnos.
Photo: Hellenic Navy
OTO Melara 76mm gun of Kountouriotis.
Photo: D-Mitch
The ships are equipped with the standard OTO Melara Compatto 3in (76.2mm) fully automatic gun installed forward of the bridge. The two vessels of the Batch II, Elli and Limnos, have also a second mount atop of the helicopter hangar instead of the Phalanx CIWS which the other vessels in the class have. The gun has excellent performance in any kind of role, such as air-defence, anti-surface, anti-missile and shore bombardment role. It can hit air and surface targets at a distance of 4 km (at 85 degrees) and 16 km (effective 8 km) respectively with a rate of fire 85 (100 rounds per minute with a retrofit kit; it is unknown if Hellenic Navy has installed this kit on its guns) and weight of shell greater than 6 kg. There are 85 ready rounds on the mount.

Hard-kill and soft-kill weapon systems of an Elli class frigate (Batch II). High resolution image here.

Oerlikon 20mm gun on Elli class
Oerlikon 20mm gun of Kountouriotis
Some of the ships of the class, Adrias, Aegeon, Kountouriotis and Navarinon are equipped also with two Oerlikon Mk10 20mm guns at each side of the main mast. The rest of the ships, instead of the 20mm guns, they are equipped with AN/M2 or M2 machine guns on Mk21 mounts. The Oerlikon Mk10 20mm (0.787in) gun has a maximum firing range of approximately 4,500m (in practice up to 1.5 km) while the weapon's rate of fire is approximately 450rds/min. The drug magazine holds 60 rounds.

M1919 machine gun
MG3 below the flight deck of Navarinon
AN/M2HB on Mk21 mount
M1919 machine gun
M2HB on Mk21 mount
M1919 MG of Adrias

The mount for an MG3 machine gun
Photo: D-Mitch
The mount for an MG3 machine gun
Photo: D-Mitch
Except the main naval gun, the ships are equipped with a combination of heavy machine guns (M2HB or AN/M2 of 12.7mm) or light machine guns (M1919 and MG3 of 7.62mm). The M2 has a maximum (effective) range of around 1,830m and a cyclical rate of fire of approximately 600 rounds per minute. The M2 heavy machine guns are mounted on Mk21 mounts. The shield of this mount is bolted to angle-pieces welded to the side plates of the cradle, and the two are considered a single assembly. The single mount cradle has no recoil-absorbing device and the inner plates, on which the gun is mounted, are fixed to the outside plates. The mount uses a shield of .50 inch armor plate. Both shields are resistant to cal. .30 and cal. .303 bullets at test range. The armament in some ships of the class completes a Rheinmetall MG3 7,62 mm light machine gun usually installed under the flight deck (where is the Nixie anti-torpedo system). The rate of fire is 1,000-1,300 rounds per minute and the effective firing range is close to 1km.
Harpoon launchers of Kountouriotis. Photo: D-Mitch

One of the two quad Harpoon launchers
of Limnos frigate (the fourth canister is
about to be reloaded). Photos: Stelios Marg
Reloading Harpoon launcher.
Photos: Stelios Marg
Each frigate carries eight (8) Boeing RGM-84D/G Harpoon anti-ship missiles in two Mk141 quad launchers amidships. These missiles have a range greater than 120km, a sub-sonic of speed of 860km/h (Mach 0.9) while they carry a warhead of 221kg. Harpoon missile has a low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory, active radar guidance and it is capable to perform pop-up manoeuver which it is a rapid climb of the missile to about 1,800m before diving on the locked target.

The Sea Sparrow launcher of Kountouriotis. Photo: D-Mitch

Reloading Mk29 launcher of Limnos.
Photo: Stelios Marg
Mk29 launcher of Aegeon.
The anti-aircraft protection of the ships is based on a Raytheon 8-cell Mk29 Guided Missile Vertical Launching System (GMVLS) for RIM-7P Sea Sparrow Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs). In Greek service the model is the 7P++ S2S, the latest and final upgrade of the missile; the S2S stands for surface-to-surface and indicated the upgraded capability of the missile to engage surface targets. Originally developed as an air-to-air missile by Sperry and the U.S. Navy, the later versions were developed and produced by Raytheon and General Dynamics. Sea Sparrow is a short/medium-range, all-weather, all-aspect, semi-active guided missile designed primarily for the ship self defense role. The guidance system of the -P- variant allows mid-course upgrades and the ability to accept delayed lock-on. Sea Sparrow, is used for shipboard point defense on more than 150 ships of various classes for the U.S. and numerous other countries. The RIM-7P is the most recent model of the Sparrow family of missile systems, which began initial deployment in 1956 and has become the standard upon which many worldwide systems are based. The 7P model features performance improvements executing a variety of maneuvers in heavy clutter environments and much lower altitude air and surface target capability. Additionally, it is more time immune to the ever challenging countermeasures threat. The speed is close to Mach 4 and the range greater than 25km. The new guidance system of the -P- models give also to Sea Sparrow missile a very useful secondary anti-shipping role that allows it to attack smaller boats. The Mk29 launcher can launch a missile every 2 seconds. Each frigate carries 24 missiles; the reloading is performed manually. A video of a Sea Sparrow launch  from a Kortenaer class frigate when the class was in service with Royal Netherlands Navy, you can enjoy here.

Sea Sparrow SAM is launched from Mk29 launcher of an Elli class frigate

Phalanx of Kanaris; notice the different
Baseline. Photo: D-Mitch
Phalanx of Kountouriotis.
Photo: D-Mitch
At the top  of the helicopter hangar of Batch I and III vessels, a Raytheon Mk15 Phalanx Close-In-Weapon System (CIWS) is installed, a very popular system worldwide in this role. Phalanx is a rapid-fire, computer-controlled, radar-guided gun system designed to defeat anti-ship missiles and other close-in air and surface threats. As a self-contained package, Phalanx automatically carries out functions usually performed by multiple systems – including search, detection, threat evaluation, tracking, engagement, and kill assessment. The block that belongs the Phalanx of the Batch II and III ships, is the old Block 1, and thus the system lacks the stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) sensor, the automatic acquisition video tracker and the other improvements which have the newer models such as the Block 1B. The vessels of the Batch II are equipped with the Block 1A Baseline 0 models while some of the vessels of Batch I have an upgraded Block 1A Baseline 1 model similarly with the Hydra class frigates of Hellenic Navy. The Baseline 1 upgrade replaced the hydraulic gun drive with a pneumatic (air-driven) gun drive system that increased the rate of fire to 4,500 rounds per minute. Search radar sensitivity was also improved in the baseline 1 upgrade. The Batch III frigates received Block 0 systems from the retired Knox frigates; these models have been upgraded also to Block 1A standards. Block 1A incorporates a new High Order Language Computer (HOLC) in order to better process engagement algorithms and provided improved performance against maneuvering targets. . Phalanx has a 20 mm (0.79in) M61 Vulcan 6-barreled Gatling autocannon that has an effective range of more than 3.5km and a rate of fire of higher than 3,000 rounds (!) per minute with a magazine drum holding 1,550 rounds. The Block 0 held 989 rounds.

Phalanx (Block 1 Baseline 1) of Kountouriotis. Photo: K. Panitsidis
Phalanx (Block 1) of Limnos. Photo: Owen King
The 6-barel gatling gun of Phalanx system. Photo: K. Panitsidis

Interior of a Halifax class frigate and
an Mk32 Mod 9 twin launcher
One of the two twin Mk32
torpedo launchers of
Kountouriotis. Photo: D-Mitch
For Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) the ships are equipped with two twin Mk32 Mod 9 324mm torpedo launchers in fixed positions for Honeywell Mk46 Mod 5 active or passive/active acoustic homing lightweight torpedoes. These torpedoes have a range of approximately 8,500-11,000m at 45 knots (maximum speed) and they carry a very powerful warhead of 44.5kg for this category of lightweight torpedoes. They are designed to attack fast submarines and to engage them even over 400m below sea level as well as surface targets (latest variants such as Mod 5).

View of frigate Limnos. INMARSAT FLEET 77 had not been installed that time.
Photo: Stelios Marg
View of frigate Limnos. Photo: Stelios Marg

WM25 under modernization.
Photo: thales7seas
The Thales WM (WM20 /WM22/ WM25/ WM27/ WM28/ Mk 92) is a family of multi-channel Fire-Control Systems (FCS) designed for gun, torpedo and missile systems and using a combined radar antenna system. It may be used as a primary fire-control system in small warships (fast attack craft and above) while on larger warships it may be a dedicated subsystem supporting the command and weapon control system. It is designed to provide continuous air and surface warning, navigation aid, combat information, target designation and weapon control. This Combined Antenna System (CAS) may also be used as a stand-alone command and weapon control system sometimes supplemented by the combat management system of the ship. Each member of the WM family is dedicated to a specific weapon fit and the majority are designed to engage both air and surface targets. The exceptions are the WM24 which has an additional ASW role, and the WM26 which is only for engaging surface targets. The mini combat system is a fast reacting system, including certain data handling facilities which are of great importance during operations in a multi-target environment. Its high-quality radar, provided with ECCM features, guarantees target detection and engagement at maximum weapon range. During Ships Life Extension Programs (SLEP), already 34 WM systems are re-integrated with the TACTICOS' Combat Management infrastructure. Eight of them with an automatic track initiation.

The radome of the WM25 FCS
of Kountouriotis. Photo: D-Mitch
WM25 of Kanaris wtih SPHINX
DF antnennas. Photo: D-Mitch
The Dutch Configuration (DC) of FCS systems are divided into three different clusters (or ship groups). These clusters are differentiated depending on the generation of the SMR computer and its peripherals, as well as the level of integration between the FCS and the ship's Combat Management System (CMS). Cluster 1 originally comprised those ships built or designed in the early 70’s. They havea CAS/STIR hardware configuration. In addition, the primary characteristics of this cluster are that the CAS and STIR are not fully integrated and the SMR computer system. Cluster 2 comprises those ships built or designed in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They have a CAS-STIR combination and the primary characteristics of this cluster are a CAS and a fully integrated STIR tracker and an SMR-S computer system. The Hellenic Navy completed the Mid-Life Modernization program (229GR) of four Cluster 1 (Batch I frigates) and two Cluster 2 (Batch II frigates) ships. The modernization resulted in a Thales Modular Combat System (TMCS) that fully integrates sensor-, weapon-, command- and control functions via a Fully Distributed (FD) network and includes an automated LVAT capability. The FCS has been extensively modified, it has been integrated in the TMCS and the Cross Field Amplifier (CFA) of the Cluster 1 ships has been removed and it has been replaced by two separate units. As a result the project number was changed from 254/314NE to 229GR. As modified, the automatic tracker can carry 16 air and 16 surface targets. A TV camera is added to the associated STIR FCS.

Sensors and weapon systems of an Elli class frigate (Limnos, Batch II). High resolution image here.

LW08 radar of Kountouriotis
Photo: D-Mitch
LW08 radar of Kanaris
and SRBOC launcher.
Photo: D-Mitch
The Thales LW08 is a 2D radar system for long-range air surveillance in D-band (L-band), providing target indication to weapon control systems. LW08 presents a clear picture of the environment; it does so, reliably, under any circumstances. LW08 performs with great frequency agility over a wide band, due to its synthesizer-driven TWT transmitter. Excellent performance under various clutter conditions is ensured by the wide dynamic range receiver with application of digital video processing, supported by circular polarization. The LW08 antenna has a low side-lobe level, which assists the system in operating under ECM conditions. The radar can detect a small missile from 100km or a fighter aircraft from 230km flying with Mach 4 while the tracking capacity is 400 tracks. Minimum range is 2km. The LW08 radars of the modernized frigates have an increased performance.

Modernized frigate Adrias during a NATO exercise.
Longbow Apache passing over Kountouriotis during an exercise.

STIR 1.8 atop of the bridge of
Kountouriotis; exactly above it is the
navigation radar.
Photo: Konstantinos Panitsidis
STIR 1.8 atop of the bridge of
Kountouriotis; exactly above it is the
navigation radar.
Photo: Konstantinos Panitsidis
Elli class frigates have a multiweapon control system for controlling both Sea Sparrow missiles and the 3in naval gun. This system is the Thales STIR 1.8 medium-to-long range tracking and illumination radar. Its design is optimized for stealth target detection in demanding littoral and ECM environments. Stir is a highly capable medium-to-long range tracking and illumination dual-band (I/K) radar system. A full set of electro-optic equipment (TV/IR/laser) complements the system for optimal performance in demanding environments, The system has been designed primarily to control point and area defence missile systems such as NATO Sea Sparrow, ESSM, Aster and Standard Missiles. A secondary application is the direct control of various caliber guns. The extreme stable front end results in excellent detection of small targets in sea and land clutter environments. The high dynamic range of the low noise receivers in combination with advanced coherent Doppler processing ensure the detection of stealth targets in heavy clutter. The STIR 1.8 of the modernized frigates has been upgraded to High Power (HP) from TWT and thus its performance is increased. The instrumental range (air and surface) is 120km for the I-band and 36km for the K-band.

Frigate Nikiforos Fokas. Photo: Petros Psarras
Frigate Nikiforos Fokas. The ships has already the new TDS and SCOUT radar.

ZW06 radar of Kanaris. The navigation
radar is the small antenna just above it.
Photo: Konstantinos Panitsidis
Nikiforos Foka's superstructure
The Thales ZW06 is an early '70s designed surface search and navigation radar operating in the I-band (X-band). This radar is particularly suited for surface search, low elevation gap filler, helicopter control and navigation. The transmitter is coherent for clutter and jamming rejection. According to the manufacturer, the ZW06 radar can detect a 10 target at 14n.m while the general maximum range is approximately 46km.

Details of the equipment of frigate Kanaris. SCOUT radar (foreground white antenna) next to STIR sensor. Above
is the ZW06 radar and then the BridgeMaster navigation radar, then the SPHINX and finally the WM25 radome.
Photo: Konstantinos Panitsidis

SCOUT and STIR of Kountouriotis
SCOUT radar of Kountouriotis.
Photo: Konstantinos Panitsidis
The Thales SCOUT Mk2 is a Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) short-to-medium range surface surveillance and tactical navigation radar. The system can be operated remotely (radio or line connection). It is an all-weather fully solid-state system of high reliability operating in X-band radar featuring Frequency Modulation Continuous Wave (FMCW) and therefore has an extremely low output power which makes the system ideal for cover operations in hostile environments where radar silence is required and thus its transmissions cannot be detected by ESM systems or radar warning receivers. SCOUT Mk2 outstandingly detects targets in adverse sea clutter conditions, thanks to its very small range cell size. The system is also very suitable for coastal surveillance. A 1m² can be detected at 5n.m., a 100m² at 15.5n.m.

A very nice photo of frigate Kanaris. Photo: Hellenic Navy
SCOUT radar of Kountouriotis. Photo: Konstantinos Panitsidis
Except the SCOUT radar, the ships are equipped with a Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine BridgeMaster E. The standard BridgeMaster models include clutter suppression capabilities unequalled in other marine radars, and with BridgeMaster E there is the option of fitting “Vision”, a revolutionary new clutter suppression system. This provides the first true hands-off clutter and gain control capability. “Vision” allows the operator to leave the radar in automatic clutter suppression mode even when close to land and totally eliminates the need to adjust radar gain as the operator changes range or pulse length. The operator is left free to concentrate on important navigation activities without the distraction of optimizing radar settings. BridgeMaster E comes with a comprehensive array of features to enhance situation awareness and tools to enable the operator to perform navigation functions effectively and efficiently. Moreover, by combining inputs from two separate radar transceivers, the BridgeMaster E Dual Channel system can eliminate the effects blind arcs cause by blockages from the ship’s or platform’s superstructure, and can provide 360-degree visibility of the surrounding area. The radar family consists of ATA (Automatic Tracking Aid) and ARPA (Automatic Radar Plotting Aid) series. ARPA and ATA have the ability to track 60 and 40 targets respectively at relative speeds of up to 150 knots. Tracked target data is output to other ship-borne systems such as electronic chart systems (ECS). Targets may be acquired manually or by using the annular and polygonal automatic acquisition zones.

Frigate Themistocles or Nikiforos Fokas . Photo: Kyriakos Anastasopoulos
MIRADOR of Kountouriotis. Notice the
absence of SPHINX. Photo: K. Panitsidis
Manned water cannon
Another important weapon control system that the class features it is the Thales MIRADOR, a compact, fully optronic observation and weapon control system. The one-piece stealthy sensor head houses a mix of electro- optical sensors for TV surveillance, TV tracking, IR tracking and laser range finding. Its lightweight design enables ultra-quick responses. An ergonomically designed state-of-the-art Human Machine Interface completes the system in a stand-alone configuration. MIRADOR incorporates the latest technological features such as carbon fibre shell structure and a direct-drive servo system. MIRADOR acts as a secondary passive fire control and observation channel on the class.

From left to right: Mk21 mount with M2HB machine gun, TDS and M1919 machine gun.
Photo: javiertarifa
Old TDS on Elli class frigate
TDS (left), MG (middle), searchlight
Each vessel of those ships in the class that have received the modernization, is equipped with two Thales Target Designation Sights (TDS) that provide means for optical investigation, target designation and weapon firing. The TDS is equipped with binoculars and the latest version includes a Laser Range Finder. Bearing and elevation data are fed into the CMS system but the TDS can also be used for emergency control of a gun or CIWS system. The importance of the function of the TDS is re-emphasized against asymmetric tactics such as piracy and insurgency. The ships that have no TDS, retain the old TDS.

Thales TDS
The location of these  two Mk137 launchers indicate that the frigate is Elli or Limnos.
Notice also the AN/M2 Mk21 mount. Photo: Hellenic Navy

Mk137 SRBOC launchers of
Kountouriotis. Photo: D-Mitch
Mk137 SRBOC launcher of Kanaris.
Photo: D-Mitch
The decoy launchers are the BAE Systems Mk 36 Super Rapid Bloom Offboard Countermeasures (SRBOC) Chaff and Decoy Launching System. It is a shipboard, deck-mounted, 6-barreled 130mm mortar-type array that launches type-specific countermeasures against a variety of threats. Following launch and dispersion, Mk36 SRBOC chaff and infrared countermeasures are designed to lure hostile missiles away from ships under attack by creating false target sets. The Mk36 SRBOC launching system is controlled from the ship’s combat management system (see last paragraph), and it is dependent on information provided by the ship’s detection and threat analysis equipment. The Mk36 SRBOC consists of the Mk137 launcher, firing stations at the bridge and CIC, the Mk160 power supply, Mk5 Mod2 or Mod4 Ready Service Lockers (RSLs), and a selection of munitions. Each vessel of the Batch I and II is equipped with four Mk137 launchers while the Batch III with two. These ships are also equipped with an Automated Launch of Expendables System (ALEX) by Lockheed Martin Sippican's Passive Decoy Systems Group that links the decoy launching system to the ship's ESM, wind and navigation sensors. ALEX continuously provides all the necessary information to the operator, automatically (or semi-automatically) selects the best tactic for optimum decoy deployment and, if desired, automatically (or semi-automatically) implements the tactic. ALEX may be operated in an automatic or a semi- automatic mode. Manual override is available at all times, regardless of the operating mode selected. The ALEX System provides shipboard management of expendable decoy cartridges via a computer controlled countermeasure system used with deck-mounted launchers.
Frigate Kountouriotis. Photo: D-Mitch
INMARSAT FLEET 77 of Limnos.
Photo: Owen King
INMARSAT (?) of Kanaris.
Photo: D-Mitch

The middle dome is the IMASRSAT
Frigate Elli with INMARSAT
As it was mentioned earlier in the article, during the modernization, three of the ships received new satellite communications, the INMARSAT FLEET 77. The ships that are not equipped with this communications system are Nikiforos Fokas, Themistocles and paradoxically  Kountouriotis. Perhaps in the future if Kanaris will be retired then Kountouriotis will receive its system.

Frigate Limnos. Photo: Owen King
Frigate Limnos. Photo: Owen King

Frigate Limnos. Photo: Owen King

Frigate Limnos. Photo: Owen King

The small cylindrical antenna of Limno's
SLQ-01. Photo: Maragkoudakis G.
Frigate Themistocles. Below the big
SATCOM radomes are the pairs of
RAMSES. Photo: javiertarifa
The ships of the Batch I and II were initially equipped with SLQ-01, the Dutch variant of Elettronica's Newton Gamma ESM/ECM system. This was consisted externally of two small cylindrical antennas one on either side just abaft the bridge. The system has been removed from the modernized ships.  The next Batch III frigates keep the Signaal's I/J-band Reprogrammable Advanced Multimode Shipborne ECM System (RAMSES) or else SLQ-02. The system uses a vertical pair of egg-shaped radomes on each side of the ship under the SATCOM radomes. Frigate Kanaris is the only ship of the four of the Batch II that is not equipped with the SATCOM radomes and it has the RAMSES radomes on each side of the main mast. Each radome carries an identical Luneberg lens antenna; one of each pair tracks the threat the other jams. The tracking and jamming antennas are well separated so there is no need to pause for look-through while jamming. Each pair operates independently so two targets (one on each side) can be jammed simultaneously.

Modernized frigate Elli without SHPINX and with the bases
for the SLQ-01 but without the system. Photo: Hellenic Navy
Kanaris with SPHINX and RAMSES
but without SATCOM radomes


Kountouriotis without SPHINX

Themistocles with SPHINX, SATCOM radomes and RAMSES

SPHINX under the WM25 of Kanaris

RAMSES of Kanaris.
Photo: D-Mitch
Oerlikon 20mm gun on Elli class frigate during exercise
The Signaal's System for Passive Handling of intercepted X-missions (SPHINX) was equipping initially all the ships of the class but it has been removed from the modernized ships after the installation of the EDO CS-3701 ESM receiver. Eight-port DF antennas are wrapping the base of WM25 combined surface search and fire control radar while three omnis are at the masthead. Each sector of the DF antenna has five antennas including a horizontal cone. SPHINX can track 14 signals and can lock onto three of them. SPHINX automatically warns of radars lock-ons and it can blank out selected signals. The system's digital output can be passed to an ECM system such as RAMSES.

Frigate Themistocles

The EDO CS-3701 of Kountouriotis.
Photo: Konstantinos Panitsidis
ES3701 architecture
The CS-3701 by EDO Reconnaissance & Surveillance Systems (formerly Condor Systems Inc.) tactical surveillance system provides electronic support measures (ESM) and radar warning receiver (RWR) functions. It is a modern precision direction-finding system currently in use by several international navies for both surface and subsurface vessels. It provides improved automatic threat detection and warning for platform self-protection, situational awareness including emitter identification to support tactical decisions and indications of possible hostile intentions. When used in conjunction with radar systems, the system can identify the source and assist determining bearing, range and track dynamics. The system continuously monitors potential radar threats, even in difficult electromagnetic environments, allowing the ship’s crew to quickly take defensive action. The Circular Array Interferometer antennas allow constant 360 degree surveillance, providing an extremely accurate, instantaneous direction-finding capability. The capabilities include High Sensitivity FMCW Detect and millimeter wave (MMW).

Frigate Themistocles

TACTICOS of modernized S-frigate
TACTICOS of modernized S-frigate
All the vessels are equipped with either a  Canadian Westinghouse SQS-505 or SQS-509 (last four ships) hull-mounted; active search and attack sonar. Moreover, the ships carry the Raytheon AN/SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoys that consists of a towed decoy device (TB-14A) and a shipboard signal generator. The decoy emits signals to draw a torpedo away from its intended target. The Combat Management System of the six modernized ships is the Thales TACTICOS as it was already mentioned in the summary of the modernization program. The combat room accommodates the Multifunctional Operator Consoles (MOC) Mk3. Split second decision making in the high tech naval combat environment depends on tight integration of sensors and weapon control systems. Top performance demands flexibility for rapid response to changing conditions. This is the basis on which Thales Naval Nederland has developed the combat management system TACTICOS. This state-of-the-art system has a track record of proven performance. Fully tested at sea, TACTICOS is today operational on 160 ships and shore bases of 18 NATO and non-NATO navies around the world. TACTICOS tightly integrates all subsystems for synchronised performance of the combat system and ship. It is designed to fully support a combat team in every stage of a naval operation, from pre-mission planning right up to post-mission analysis. This includes assessing and monitoring the tactical situation, planning and co-ordinating actions, and controlling actions and weapons. Even more information about TACTICOS you can read here.

Frigate Kanaris with an AB212 on board
Frigate Kanaris during an exercise.Photo: Xatzivasiliou E.

The interior of Kountouriotis's hangar. Photo: D-Mitch
Each frigate carry one helicopter; the modernized frigates carry either an AB212 ASW helicopter or an a S70 Aegean Hawk while the non-modernized frigates only the AB212. Both types are specialized in ASW operations with the appropriate equipment (dipping sonar, radar etc.) and weapons. The S70 helicopters can carry up to three Mk46 Mod5 ASW torpedoes and AB212 can carry two. In addition to that, S70 helicopters can carry one Penguin Mk2 Mod 7 air-to-surface missile or four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. AB212 may be armed also with a an MG3 mount to perform a variety of operations. Main missions for the AB212 and S70  are antisubmarine warfare (ASW), antisurface warfare (ASuW), and surface surveillance. Secondary missions include SAR, MEDEVAC, VERTREP and Special Operations (Fast Roping, Parachuting, etc.).

Helipad of Nikiforos Fokas
S70 with Penguin and Mk46 torpedo


S70 with Hellfire ASM
AB212 with MG3 mount

The new electric engines of HS Aegeon
UPDATE: Panos and Thanasis Laskaridis, under the so-called “KYKNOS” program, undertook the cost of supplying, installing and integrating four Societe Internationale des Moteurs Baudouin και Leroy Somer power generating sets to the frigates HS Aegeon (2018 completed) and HS Elli (2020 completed), to replace existing old technology (Pielstick engines). The successful replacement of the power generating sets ensures greater power availability for a period of time that will cover the expected operational life of Elli/Kortenaer class frigates, significantly reducing maintenance and repair costs, while the old sets will be used to support other frigates of the same type. Note that the new engines are of higher power and less weight than the old ones. More likely, one more ship of the class will receive the new electric engines in the future. Meanwhile, the frigate HS Aegeon and HS Navarinon have appeared with a new antenna on her mast. I assume that it is an omnidirectional UHF antenna, perhaps an R&S AD033V3 or something very similar. Moreover, all the non-modernized frigates of the class, have received the new electro-optical sensor MLT-TDR-10A made by Miltech Hellas. 

The new UHF (?) antenna of HS Aegeon. Original photo: Nick Thodos
The Miltech Hellas TDR-10A of a non-modernized Elli class frigate

I am particularly grateful to Stelios Marg., officer in the Hellenic Navy, for his constant support during writing process and specifically his clarifications over the electronic and communications equipment as well as the very nice photos he provided to me. A big thank you to fox2 ( for the nice information he provided about the propositions regarding the modernization and upgrade of the S-class frigates to make this article completed. I would like to thank Kostas Tsaganas for the clarifications over the different variants of M2 heavy machine guns and the Mk21 mount; he is a truly expert in such kind of weapons. And last but not least I would like to thank Greek71Airborne for finding the nice photo of Aegeon frigate which I modified it in order to illustrate the systems of the Batch I frigates.

Frigate Kanaris. Photo: Hellenic Navy



  1. Excelent, D-Mitch. I could not imagine there were so more to learn about our HN Elli class frigates.

  2. WOW! This article feels more like reading an encyclopedia, your infographics are out of this world :D
    Any plans creating a MEKO/Hydra frigate entry in the future?

    1. Thank you! Of course I will write an article about them as well. Stay tuned my friend!
      Παρακαλώ :-)

  3. Ευχαριστούμε για τον κόπο της αναλυτικής παρουσίασης σου.Εγώ θα πρότεινα αντί να παροπλισθουν όταν έρθει η ωρα,να δοθούν στην Κυπριακή Δημοκρατία.

    1. Ευχαριστώ για τα καλά σας λόγια. Αυτά περί παραχώρησης σε Κύπρο υποβρυχίων, αεροσκαφών και φρεγατών συνηθίζεται να λέγεται από αρκετούς που δυστυχώς δεν κατανοούν τις δυσκολίες και τις τεράστιες ανάγκες λογιστικής υποστήριξης, δημιουργίας υποδομών και επάνδρωσης. Ιδιαίτερα δε όταν μιλάμε για πλατφόρμες +40 ετών. Είναι ανεδαφικές τέτοιες προτάσεις όταν η Κύπρος έχει πληρώματα 20-30 ατόμων, ουδεμία υποδομή σε πυραυλικό οπλοστάσιο, βαρέα πυροβόλα, αισθητήρες παντός τύπου και λοιπά. Μια φρεγάτα δεν είναι ένα αυτοκίνητο ή ένα τανκ που το δίνεις κάπου να επανδρωθεί. Εδώ αυτά έχουν δυσκολίες σκεφτείτε τι θα συμβεί για 1-2 130μετρο πλοίο 40 ετών με δεκάδες όπλα κι αισθητήρες πάνω του. Είναι αδύνατον από πλευράς πόρων και οικονομικής υποστήριξης. Μόνο καλά εξοπλισμένα ΠΑΘ μπορεί να αποκτήσει η Κύπρος.

    2. Η Κύπρος έχει την οικονομική δυνατότητα για δημιουργια υποδομών. Το ανυπαρκτο <> τους είναι μικρές ακταιωροι. Θα μπορουσε να τις πάρει, αλλά το FOS να γίνεται στην Ελλάδα με συμβολικό κόστος,και σίγουρα όχι όλες λόγω πληθυσμιακου μειονεκτηματος.Εστω τις combatante.Οσον αφορά το δικό μας Π.Ν. ακόμα και με πλοία 40ετιας όπως ξέρετε ειναι ιδιαίτερα αξιομαχο σε σχέση με τα πλοία και ειδικότερα τα πληρώματα των γειτόνων. Είχα την τύχη να περάσω και να δω κάποιες μέρες,ασκήσεις πάνω σε αυτά ως αμφίβιος καταδρομεας.Οπως και στο παρά πέντε εμβολισμούς κατά των γειτόνων πολεμικών πλοίων που <> να διακόψουν ασκήσεις μας,να φεύγουν με την ουρά στα σκέλια.

  4. Hi to everyone and congrats.. on your great work. If i may ask,what are those boxes or pods right under the name of the ships, if they're not just big light projectors. Thanks again.???

  5. Hi to everyone and congrats.. on your great work. If i may ask,what are those boxes or pods right under the name of the ships, if they're not just big light projectors. Thanks again.???

  6. could there be a chance the 3 s class stayed out of the upgrade program because the navy thinks of scrapping them to bring the modernised 6 to the same level of armamennts as elli and limnos (2 76mms and 2 phalanxes plus utillizing the extra launchers) so they can carry more firepower around the Aegean before they get retired?