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Wednesday 30 October 2019

SCENARIOS #1: Hellenic Navy 1998 - 2030

Written by D-Mitch 

In this new series of articles, I examine briefly how the composition of major surface combatants of a specific naval Fleet could be different than it is today and how it could possibly look like in the near future. A graph illustrates this development through the years examined. For the graph, I take into account only the serious "opportunities" (mainly second-hand vessels) emerged during the time period considered as well as the official declared interest by the country's and/or armed forces' leadership. Please note that I do not criticize the decisions taken by the Hellenic Armed Forces leadership as every offer had its pros and cons. In this first article, I examine the Hellenic Navy (Πολεμικό Ναυτικό) from 1998 until 2030 focusing on specific years and providing a brief overview of the situation.
SCENARIOS #1: Hellenic Navy 1998 - 2030. High resolution image here.
Analytically about the lost opportunities (?) and the future of the Navy, as it follows:

Composition of the Hellenic Navy (major) fleet during the years
  • 1998 - Four Charles F. Adams old AAW destroyers (DDG) armed with single SM-1 surface-to-air missiles (SAM) and 13 general purpose (GP) frigates (FFG), including three old Knox class frigates (mainly ASW oriented) are the major surface combatants of Greece. The old American warships need replacement urgently. The Hydra class programme is complete and no additional vessels (six was the initial plan of which two AAW oriented) are ordered. (source1, source2)
  • 2001 - In December 1998, the US  Department of Defense announced that Greece had requested a lease-sale arrangement of four Kidd class AAW DDG (commissioned 1981-2) and related munition items and services relating to "hot ship" turnover of one Kidd class destroyer, "cold ship" transfer reactivations for three Kidd class destroyers from the US Navy. Along with the destroyers, would purchase for new corvettes from Ingalls Shipbuilding. The next year Greece turned down the US offer due to the non-release of the SM-2 anti-aircraft missile. By 2001 the Hellenic Navy would had four very capable AAW DDG , but armed with the obsolete SM-1 missile and without any guaranty that the SM-2 will be ever available plus ten GP FFG. All the old American vessels would have been retired in order to man the new large vessels. The latter took place by 2004 but Greece lost the AAW capabilities gained earlier by the Adams destroyers. (source1, source2)
  • 2004 - By 2003, Greece acquired four more Kortenaer class frigates from the Netherlands while the previous year a modernization programme started  for the six existing vessels. The Fleet consists of 14 GP frigates in total. (source)
  • 2006 - Six former Royal Netherlands Navy Karel Doorman (M) class frigates (commissioned 1991-94) are gradually retire and are up for sale since 2004. If the Navy would have planned acquire four of them instead of buying its predecessor design (Kortenaer), the Fleet would consist of six modernized/to be modernized Kortenaers and eight Hydra and Doorman class frigates all with vertical launching system (VLS), younger builts and with much more modern equipment than Kortenaers. Instead of two M frigates the Navy could purchase two Jacob van Heemskerck class (L) class AAW frigates and therefore to have AAW-capable surface combatants in its fleet. However all those ships were never actually offered to Greece neither the Navy showed an actual interest, choosing to invest more on Kortenears (believing perhaps that the modernization programme would be actually a real upgrade programme). Later, the Ms and Ls were acquired by Chile (two Ms and tow Ls), Belgium (two Ms) and Portugal (two Ms). (source)
  • 2013 - One Kortenaer class frigate is retired, Bouboulina. That ship was never fitted with Phalanx CIWS. From 2013 until today the composition of the Fleet has not been altered. (source)
  • 2018 - Since 2013, the Navy seeks to purchase two Arleigh Burke class Flight I AAW destroyers. This was never materialized mainly because the US Navy until today needs as many as possible surface combatants in its fleet. It is not known also for sure if the United States will ever release for sale such advanced AAW ships for countries like Greece. (source)
  • 2021 - There were talks since 2018 for the purchase of the last two Adelaide class AAW frigates (commissioned 1992-3) from the Royal Australian Navy. The two frigates are equipped with SM-2 and ESSM SAM among others. This was never materialized and the two ships more likely will acquired by Chile and will replace the old L class frigates. The Fleet would consist of two Adelaides and 10-11 GP frigates. (source)
  • 2026 - In 2019, there is a discussion with the US for the transfer of two Arleigh Burke class Flight I AAW destroyers. (source) Recently also Greece signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) for a possible procurement of two FDI/Belh@rra class frigates. The Navy seeks to acquire these advanced frigates with partially AAW capabilities by equipping the ships with an important amount of long range anti-aircraft missiles (24 per vessel) in combination with the long range SEA FIRE radar. There are rumors that the negotiation is about two vessels (built in France) plus two vessels (built in Greece). There is still an ongoing discussion about frigates' specifications to meet the Hellenic Navy requirements. If this will materialize, by 2026, the Navy will have two Areigh Burkes, two multi-purpose high-tech frigates FDI, four modernized Hydras (the modernization will start in 2020) and four modernized but very obsolete Kortenaers by 2028-2030. (source)
  • 2028 - If Greece will procure 2+2 FDI and not another design, then the Navy will have four multi-purpose high-tech frigates FDI, four modernized Hydras (the modernization will start in 2020) and four to five modernized but very obsolete Kortenaers by 2028-2030. (source)  Possible procurement of two Burkes, will decrease the number of Kortenaers by three at least.
  • 2030 - In 2018, Lockheed Martin proposed four Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) for the Hellenic Navy. Until today there is no more information about that proposal. It is almost certain that the replacements of Kortenaers will be two different designs. Therefore, if there are enough funds, the Navy will have four FDI, four MMSC (or another type) and four modernized Hydras by 2030 or some years later.This is of course the best scenario. (source)
I would like to thank my friend fox2 for his accurate comments about the exact opportunities emerged through the years. He pointed out that there were also other offers during the time period considered, such as two Spruance class destroyers (2001), one additional Knox class frigate (1998) as well as O. H. Perry class frigates (1996). However, these transfers were never considered worthwhile as the ones described in this post.
There was also the famous FREMM "serial" which I did not include in the graph because that "offer" was reported in various years and for a long time period starting from 2009 until 2018. The following accurate description is copied entirely from Wikipedia (source):
On 22 January 2009 the Hellenic Navy announced an order for six FREMM to replace an equal number of Elli-class frigates. After the Greek government-debt crisis this was cut down to between two and four ships equipped with SCALP Naval, with France alleged to have offered them to Greece at no cost for the first five years. Germany objected to this deal in October 2011 and no deal has been signed. In February 2013 though and during the formal visit of the President of France, François Hollande, in Athens, according to press reports an agreement which includes the long-term leasing of two FREMM frigates (Normandie and Provence according to initial reports) to the Hellenic Navy has been reached. On 12 January 2018 the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini reported that the Greek government is set to enter talks with France regarding the procurement of two FREMM frigates, with an option for an additional two. Contacts between Greece and France will begin initially at a military level, starting in February 2018. In April 2018, Greek deputy Minister for National Defence Fotis Kouvelis stated that an agreement between France and Greece has been reached for a five-year lease of 2 FREMM frigates, which could be handed over as early as August 2018. After few days, on 25 April 2018 the Greek minister of Defense Panos Kammenos denied any information regarding the purchase of two frigates from France. 

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