Wednesday 18 September 2019

Hellenic Navy – Brief analysis of the current situation of the Fleet and its future

Written by D-Mitch
Photos by Nick Thodos 

The Hellenic Navy in exercise
Today, the Hellenic Navy maintains a large number of surface combatants and submarines in its inventory. However, the shortfalls suffered by the Navy over the last several years from the severe economic recession that began in mid-2008, are significant. Τhe economic crisis hit hard the country and Greece tried to recover via spending cuts including a high proportion of the defence budget. The vast majority of the warships in active service today are very old and should had been replaced by modern designs at least a decade ago. Having been held back by the pressures of the global economic crisis, the Hellenic Navy is now racing to catch up with its neighbors (source). Greece is a country with vast coastline, archipelagos and enclaves, heavily depended on trade and on the exploitation of maritime resource. However, trade and economic issues depend considerably on the free use of the sea, on the security of the sea lines of communication and the sustainable exploitation of marine resources. Greece is a maritime nation by tradition, as shipping is arguably the oldest form of occupation of the Greeks and has been a key element of Greek economic activity since ancient times. Today, shipping is the country's most important industry worth $21.9 billion in 2018. (source) The responsibility of the Hellenic Navy in this respect is certainly huge. To a large extent, the future of Greece depends on the control exercised on the sea. To continue being effective, the Fleet must be a powerful, balanced and flexible instrument at the service of Greece in this uncertain and ever-changing geostrategic environment. It is vital for the Navy to continue having the necessary means to solve the most complex and demanding situations and constantly protecting and surveilling the maritime domains of national interest. In this article the most important facts about the current situation of the Fleet and its (possible) future are reported. Finally, one graph depict the current fleet composition and its future composition by 2030 in two scenarios, optimistic (O) and pessimistic (P). A second graph depicts the years of active service of the newest and oldest vessel per warship type.

Hydra class frigate
  • The 70% of the vessels have trainable anti-aircraft missile launching system. (source)
  • There is no dedicated AAW platform in the Fleet since many years now.
  • The oldest ship in the class is 41 years old (Kountouriotis, commissioned in 1978) while the youngest ship is 21 years old (Salamis, commissioned in 1998). (source)
  • None of the ships is equipped with remote weapon station (RWS) for the purpose of asymmetric warfare and coastal defense.
  • The electronic counter measures systems (ECM) are absent or very old.
  • Raytheon will begin soon the installation of new electro-optical systems on the ships that have not such sensors. (source)
  • The Kortenaer/Elli class frigates need to be replaced by new designs while the Hydra class frigates need modernization and if possible upgrade in specific weapon systems.
  • It is certain that Hydras will follow a modernization programme but it is not known yet its scale. The systems will be replaced on the ships are definitely the CMS, ESM, navigation radars, engines and the long-range air and surface surveillance radar. Hydras will serve in the '30s as well.
FDI frigate for the Hellenic Navy

MMSC frigate for the Hellenic Navy
  • There are negotiations to acquire 2+2 Naval Group FDI frigates from France (source) while the Americans propose the acquisition of 4 MMSC (source). Few countries today can replace such a large number of vessels with just one type or under a common shipbuilding programme. It is almost certain that two types will replace the Ellis except if only one of the procurements will take place, thus only new 4 vessels plus two old Ellis (those with new electric engines) in order to maintain 10 frigates.
  • Another suitable option is to procure corvettes to replace a number of old Kortenaers. 
  • Second hand warships such as the recently modernized Dutch and Belgian Karel Doorman frigates could be a good interim solution, after modernizing them with the installation of ESSM, new radars and CIWS.
  • All Greek frigates carry Harpoon missiles. These missiles need upgrade.
  • Note that Greece participates in NATO-led ESSM consortium. The Navy must procure ESSM Block 2 and to equip fully the Hydras.   

Papanikolis (Type 214) class submarine
  • The oldest submarine in the fleet is 47yrs old while the newest is only 3yrs old.
  • The new Type 214s (Papanikolis class) need new torpedoes. More likely the procurement will take place in the very near future. (source)
  • The 6 old and non-modernized Type 209s will be gradually retired without any replacement announced yet.
  • In May 2011 HDW cancelled the contract for the additional two Type 214 vessels in response to bribery allegations involving Abu Dhabi Mar, which became the majority shareholder of Hellenic Shipyards in 2010. (source)
  • The most logical decision the next years is the acquisition of 2-3 boats of a new Type 214 variant. This is the optimistic scenario of 8 submarines.
  • By 2030, the sole Type 209/1500 AIP (Okeanos, former Type 209/1200) will have exceeded the 50 years of active service; therefore it is more than questionable, whether will still be part of the Greek fleet by that time.(source)
  • By 2030, the Navy should begin a modernization programme for the Type 214s.

Roussen class fast attack missile craft
  • There are two Roussen class FACM under construction; one will be commissioned by the end of 2019 or in the beginning of 2020 after a +10-year delay due to financial problems. The 6th Roussen boat will be the newest in the current Fleet. There are no changes in the design despite there about 20 years since the first vessel in the class entered the water. (source1, source2)
  • The majority of the FACM are built in the late ‘70s. Four of them have been modernized extensively.(source)
  • The oldest ship, an S148 class boat, is 46yrs old. However the two of the active S148s carry no missiles and operate as patrol boats. Nevertheless, they are included in the FACM fleet. Perhaps they can receive old MM38s if are still operational.
  • All the old vessels, except the three S148s which are about to be retired soon with the introduction of the new Roussens, have replaced or will replace soon their old MM38 and Penguin missile systems with Harpoon launchers from retired frigates and destroyers. (source)
  • The boats that have no Mirador sensor will receive a new Miltech system. (source)
  • It is questionable if Harpoons in the current inventory are plenty enough to equip all the Laskos and Kavaloudis boats. The Navy should procure new Harpoons or to install the systems from retired Ellis with the introduction into service of modern frigates equipped with more advanced missiles.
  • The Navy should modernize the existing Exocet missile stock to homogenize the entire MM40 missile fleet. The new MM40 Block 3C variant should be procured.
  • The Navy must equip all the Roussens with RAM Block 2 missiles and thus to increase their survivability.
  • The Navy must procure new ships of an advanced stealth design to replace the old Combattantes and to have at least 15-strong FACM fleet. 
  • The torpedo launchers from the Combattantes could equip the Roussens increasing their lethality.

Jason class landing ship
  • The oldest Jason class vessel is already 25yrs old.
  • The Jasons need urgently modernization that will include new sensors, new CMS, new LCVPs, ESM, improvements on their secondary guns, etc.(source)
  • The procurement of the STRALES system could increase the survivability of the ships.
  • It is significant the absence of Assault Amphibious Vehicle or else Marine Fighting Vehicle (such as AAVP-7, BMP-3F etc.) in the inventory of the Hellenic Armed Forces.
  • Perhaps one of the oldest vessels will be retired in the coming years and used to support the rest of the vessels.

Hunt class minehunter. Photo: Hellenic Navy
  • The minehunter fleet needs modernization. The Hunt class vessels are about 34yrs old.
  • The Royal Navy has modernized its Hunt class extensively while has upgrade their capabilities with new minehunting equipment. Lithuania followed a similar programme for its vessels. The Hellenic Navy should pursue such a modernization programme in cooperation with the Royal Navy. (source)
  • The Hellenic Navy should pursue the acquisition of two retired vessels from the Royal Navy, Atherstone and Quorn. The two boats could operate periodically as patrol vessels.

Machitis class gunboat
  • With the exception of the Machitis class gunboats, the rest of the boats need modernization and some of them replacement. (source)
  • The Asheville class boats are obsolete and extremely old (50 yrs old). The Navy needs urgently at least two new boats with the same or even superior capabilities than the current Machitis boats, to replace the old Ashevilles.
  • Possibly two of the old S148s can be an interim solution.The Navy operate them as such today.
  • The rest four boats (Osprey 55 and HSY 56) will receive or have already received new electro-optical systems. (source)
  • An upgrade of the OTO Melara gun mounts with the installation of STRALES systems should be examined.

Nasty class patrol coastal boat. Photo: Hellenic Navy
  • The coastal patrol boats are either former torpedo boats or small missile boats.
  • Some of the oldest boats in the Navy are included in this category. The oldest vessel is 53yrs old while the youngest.. 44!
  • The Navy should procure new boats and to replace all or at least the majority of the current ones.
  • The new boat should be able to operate in shallow waters, to be easy to maintain and command. RWS, modern sensors, and possibly short-range missile systems should be included in their equipment.
  • The Hellenic Coast Guard will receive new armed coastal patrol boats. Perhaps the best solution could be a design based on that platform or to reconsider the coastal patrol duties for the Navy. (source)

Prometheus replenishment ship
  • The youngest replenishment ship, Prometheus, is currently the largest ship in the Greek fleet.
  • The installation of a second weapon system atop the helicopter hangar, as it was planned initially, would increase the survivability of the most capable replenishment ship in the Fleet.
  • A second vessel of similar capabilities with the newest one is required in order to retire the 50-yrs old Lüneburgs and therefore to have two large replenishment ships by 2030.
  • Italian ships that will retire in the near future could replace the Lüneburgs.

Kerkyra, the most modern vessel among the Zubrs
  • Two of the four initially boats are currently active while a third one is periodically active. The fourth one is unlikely that will enter service again.
  • Their support is problematic and it is questionable if all of them will remain in active service for long time. (source)
  • The fourth and most modern vessel in the LCAC fleet will certainly remain in active service for many years to come, perhaps by using spare parts from the rest of the boats.

S-70 Aegean Hawk
  • Recently, the U.S. State Department cleared a possible $600 million foreign military sale of seven MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopters to Greece. If all the helicopters will be acquired then they will replace an equal number of AB212s which are about 35yrs old. (source)
  • A decision was taken in 2014 for the re-activation of existing P-3Bs and their submission to a program of overhaul, upgrade and service life extension. The contract includes the return of one aircraft to airworthy condition with the existing mission equipment as an "interim solution" and the complete modernization and upgrade of four other aircraft in HAI. The option includes the complete modernization and upgrade of that aircraft as well. The "interim solution" aircraft has been already delivered while the upgraded aircraft are expected to be delivered by December 2023. (source)
  • The Navy should move on with the modernization of its S70s and especially those of the S70B6 variant that are equipped with analog cockpit and old sensors.

Titan, the most modern and largest tug in the Fleet. Photo: Hellenic Navy
  • The situation in the rest of the fleet is really bad. There is no new ship in decades now while the oldest ship is about.. 74yrs old! All the boats need replacement by new more capable designs. There are significant opportunities for the local shipbuilding industry to participate in a shipbuilding program and to provide various types in common platforms such as oceanographic, lighthouse tenders, etc. 
  • Second hand ships from Italy, Germany and the US, could also improve the situation.
  • The majority of the tugs are built in the early ‘50s or ‘70s while there are some that were commissioned in the mid ‘40s. The 90% of them needs replacement. The youngest tug is Titan, a 30yr old ocean-going boat that was acquired in 2011 from Germany.
  • The youngest oceanographic/hydrographic vessel is 43yrs old and the youngest is 30yrs old.
  • The age of the oldest water tanker ship is 53!
  • The age of the oldest coastal oiler is 43!
  • The oldest lighthouse tender is also 43!

M1919 machine gun on a frigate
  • The majority of the warships, if not all, are equipped with old heavy machine guns or guns such as M1919, Oerlikon 20mm, AN/M2HB on Mk21 mount and even MG 34s! All of them without modern optics.
  • The Navy must procure a new secondary gun and to equip the most modern machine guns (MG 3, M2HB) with modern optics.
AN/M2HB on Mk21 mount
Oerlikon 20mm on a frigate

M2HB on Mk21 mount
MG34 on a minehunter

The Facts

Years of active service per warship type, newest and oldest.

Hellenic Navy Fleet composition by the end of 2019 and by 2030 (two scenarios, optimistic and pessimistic).
Note that the actual number of missile boats are 14.


  1. Hellenic Navy is so old. I think their budget wont be enough to replace all. New ships, modernisations, from submarine to coast guard. Very wide range. Could u prepare an analys for the Turkish Navy ?

    1. I have made a very detailed analysis in the past about the Turkish Navy. I just updated it. Read at

  2. old but much beter than the turkish navy , as always !!!

  3. do not be funny. He has no chance against the Turkish navy.

  4. Navys are very vulnerable if you have the right answer......more rafales is the answer,F-35 and upgrage of ALL f16 to viper and mirages to M2000-5....

    Additionally land based anti ship systems......when the skies are yours everything else that moves is history