Greece has become a battleground for competing NATO allies who have rushed to sell new frigates and capitalize on the country’s massive modernization program for its armed forces.
The focus in the last few months has turned to frigates, as Greece has signaled it intends to procure state-of-the-art vessels to improve its naval capabilities in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean in the face of the Turkish threat.
United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and France – Greece’s NATO allies – have already made offers, which are currently examined by officers of the Hellenic General Defence Staff.
The latest offer came from France on Tuesday by the French Ambassador to Athens and the vice-president of Naval Group, a French defense contractor.
The proposal includes the construction of one of the new Frégates de taille intermédiaire (FDI) frigates in France with a delivery date in early 2025.
The other three new frigates, according to the proposal, will be built in Greek shipyards and will be ready in 2027, 2028 and 2029.
As an intermediate solution until the frigates are constructed, two active frigates from the French Navy will be used by Greece.
These are the anti-aircraft frigate AAW Jean Bart, which will be delivered to the Greek Navy in 2025, and the anti-submarine frigate ASW Latouche-Tréville, which will be delivered in 2026.
The main mission of the Jean Bart frigate is for anti-aircraft action, supporting the naval air force with warships, including aircraft carriers and possibly merchant ships.
U.S. frigate offer to Greece
The United States is also aggressively pitching Greece to purchase four American-made frigates, and will offer to co-produce three vessels in country, the top U.S. diplomat in Greece has said.
“We think the United States is going to have a very competitive product to offer there with our frigates and the unique American proposal to co-produce three of those frigates here in Greece,” said Geoffrey Pyatt.
Should Greece decide to buy frigates from the United States, the U.S. government is proposing that three of them be co-produced by American-owned Onex Shipyards, based in the Greek island of Syros.
British offer of frigates
The British government’s proposal for the Greek procurement of four new frigates with an interim solution was presented by British Ambassador to Greece Kate Smith earlier in March.
The offer to the Greek Navy reportedly concerns the Type 31 frigate design, Arrowhead 140.
The Type 31e frigate, also known as the Type 31 frigate or General Purpose Frigate (GPFF), is a planned class of frigate for the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy intended to enter service in the 2020s alongside the more capable Type 26 frigate.
The Arrowhead 140 can operate in all states and conditions with a Ship’s Company of less than 100 personnel.
Spanish and Italian offers
The Spanish proposal to Greece reportedly includes the sale of four new F110 frigates, a stop-gap solution of two new Alfa 3000 light frigates to be delivered in just 35 months and the modernization of the existing Hellenic Navy’s Hydra-class frigates.
Greece is also considering a proposal for the supply of four FREMM multi-mission frigates designed by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri Marine.
According to Greek daily Kathimerini, the proposal includes the provision to Greece of two intermediate solution ships, possibly FREMM or Maestrale-class frigates.
Fincantieri’s FREMM has been selected as the platform design by the US Navy for its next-generation frigate known as FFG(X).
Greece, a NATO ally, doubles defense budget
In late 2020, Greece approved the 2021 state budget, which includes a doubling of defense expenditures.
Greece’s defense budget is projected to reach around 5.5 billion euros (US$6.6 billion), more than double last year’s spending.
Apart from the frigades, Greece will also purchase eighteen French Rafale fighter jets, which will cost 1.5 billion euros next year from a total of 2.5 billion.
“Never before has such a complex and important military program been carried out so quickly and efficiently,” PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis had said, adding the government also wants to acquire helicopters, and drones, upgrade its F-16 fleet and recruit an additional 15,000 personnel to its ranks.