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Thursday 11 April 2024

Frigate FDI HN LIGHT: a logical choice, for a powerful Greek Fleet!

Article by pro
Graphs by Aylont1

The FDI HN LIGHT concept. Graph by Aylont1
Following closely the efforts of the Hellenic Navy (HN) in recent years, after a period of inactivity due to the country's economic situation, we understand the difficulties this endeavor faces, with the main obstacle being cost. The author's perspective on resolving this challenging situation has remained consistent through social media channels. The main idea is that the Navy should focus on procuring surface units of adequate size, such as frigates, with equipment that meets the Navy's requirements as outlined in the informal competition of the corvette acquisition program. Moreover, this equipment should be offered by companies participating in the program. At the very least, it should be similar in quality. 

Thus, the Navy, with a larger-sized vessel instead of a corvette, can benefit from the relatively low cost of size increase. This is because the small value of the hull of the warship is mainly burdened by equipment, such as sensors, armament, and other equipment. Consequently, a larger vessel could offer all the advantages in terms of survival, operational range, autonomy, personnel comfort, and, of course, the development potential that a larger vessel offers.

In this article, we will examine this perspective through the removal of equipment in the Kimon class (Naval Group’s FDI HN). The vessel is presented in the graphs of the outstanding Aylont1, who names this configuration as FDI HN LIGHT (FDI HN-LT) which is actually a balanced general purpose (GP) frigate.

First and foremost, the most significant change is the replacement of the PSIM integrated mast that houses the advanced sensors including the Thales SEAFIRE MFR with a similar mast to that of GOWIND corvette, housing a rotating Thales NS110 air and surface surveillance radar with integrated IFF (thus the elimination of Thales BLUEGATE) and equipped with Thales VIGILE R-ESM (instead of Thales SENTINEL), Thales ALTESSE-H C-ESM and the R-ECM that is under development and will be installed on FDI HN frigates. This conversion alone can lead to savings reaching up to 100 million euros.

A light variant of FDI HN, the FDI LIGHT general purpose frigate. Graph by Aylont1.

A second important change is the removal of the four octuple A50 vertical launching systems (VLS) and their replacement with 32 MBDA VL MICA-NG missile systems or with MBDA CAMM-ER. Based on information from open sources, the cost of the empty A50 VLS is comparable to the cost of 32 MICA-NG missiles along with their launchers. In this case, we definitely save an amount of around 150-180 million euros from not installing the ASTER 30 missile systems.

The main idea behind the proposed configuration.
Original image by Aylont1, modified by D-Mitch.

Furthermore, alterations have been implemented at two additional junctures. Firstly, there's the substitution of CAPTAS-4 with CAPTAS-2, or even the potential elimination of any VDS altogether but maintaining the KINGKLIP Mk2 HMS in order to the ship to serve as a GP frigate, similarly with the FREMM IT GP and ASW configurations. Secondly, there's the exchange of RAM CIWS with a BAE Systems Bofors 40 Mk4 gun system, capable of firing programmable 40mm 3P ammunition, or with the Nexter-Thales RAPIDFire 40mm CIWS, a move that could result in savings of several tens of millions of euros. The rest of the armament remains the same with the FDI HN, and includes the twin torpedo launchers for MU90 torpedoes and the eight EXOCET anti-ship missile launchers amidships.

The configuration of FDI LIGHT general purpose frigate. Graph by Aylont1.

By making the calculations, we realize that the final cost of the ship (with its armament and ammunition) has come down significantly below 750 million euros. Even if we ultimately equip it with a full loadout of RAM missiles and launcher (+45 million) and Leonardo LIONFISH 30 30mm RWS with programmable ammunition (+5 million) instead of LIONFISH 20 RWS, the cost will not exceed 800 million euros. The design could receive even a third LIONFISH 20 RWS, installed at the empty space near the bridge (starboard), in order to strengthen its secondary armament.

Kimon, Nearhos and Phormion: the three under construction
frigates for the HN. Image by Naval Group.

Our proposal is to adopt this GP or alternatively LIGHT configuration of the FDI HN, within the framework of a domestic shipbuilding program of at least three (3) units, similarly to the Kimon class purhcase. Any additional armament additions or improvements could be made at a later stage, while within a 20-year MLU framework, a similar configuration could be adopted with the FDI HN upgraded at that time. This way, the HN will be able to acquire true frigates that have nothing to envy from any other vessels in the region, without being forced to compromise with smaller ships and proportionally lesser capabilities such as corvettes. The commitment of funds to achieve this will be within reasonable and acceptable limits both by the military leadership and of course, by the political sphere. Greece will thus be able to achieve a kind of partial autonomy in terms of FDI design, while the fleet will become formidable, allowing for the retirement of outdated Elli-class (Kortenaer) frigates.
Rather than opting for a Greek Fleet comprised solely of GOWIND and FDI frigates as it depicted in this Naval Group graph, our proposal suggests a refined approach: exclusively integrating two distinct configurations of FDI vessels – the versatile multi-mission variant and the nimble light/general purpose version.

We emphasize here that besides the exceptionally affordable cost of this option for fleet reinforcement, within a package allowing for a much larger number of constructions, the reselection of the FDI simplifies both personnel training and easy mobility from unit to unit. It also streamlines operational exploitation and maintenance of the ships, achieving economies of scale in key subsystems.

It's a logical choice, heading in the right direction!

Thank you for the time anyone spent reading my article, and I especially thank my friends Dimitris Mitsopoulos for hosting, editing, and unwavering encouragement in bringing this article to light, and of course Aylont1 for for skillfully transforming the concept of FDI LIGHT into a captivating visual representation.


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