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Greece Says Deal With France is Final Ruling Out US Frigate Offer

Greece US France frigates
The Hellenic Navy in the Aegean. Credit: Hellenic National Defence General Staff

Greece’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday that a government decision to purchase three French Belharra frigates is final, in effect ruling out the US offer to sell its own vessels.

It said that negotiations for the French vessels, worth about 3 billion euros ($3.51 billion), will be soon wrapped up so the deal can be ratified in Parliament.

On Friday, the US State Department announced the approval of a potential sale of four Multi-Mission Surface Combatant ships for $6.9 billion to Greece alongside $2.5 billion worth of upgrades to the country’s existing Meko Class ships.

US frigates offer to Greece

The approval of the $9.4 billion sale includes Greece’s $6.9bn purchase of four Lockheed Martin-manufactured, multi-mission surface combatant ships called “Hellenic Future Frigates”.

The remaining $2.5bn component of the sale will go towards updating and enhancing four MEKO-class frigates that Greece already possesses.

“The proposed sale will improve Greece’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing an effective combatant deterrent capability to protect maritime interests and infrastructure in support of its strategic location on Nato’s southern flank,” the State Department said in a statement.

It added that the sale “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

US frigates offer a direct challenge to France

The announcement by the US is a direct challenge to France which has signed a memorandum of understanding with Paris on a similar deal for French-built ships.

In late September, Greece and France sealed a “strategic partnership” with an agreement for the sale of three frigates, with the option for a fourth.

At the signing ceremony in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said the agreement is part of a deeper “strategic partnership” between the two countries.

“Today is a historic day for Greece and France because we have decided with President Macron to upgrade our bilateral defense cooperation, while expanding the readiness of our states for solidarity, mutual assistance and joint action in all fields,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in Paris.

Greece and France ink deal on frigates

The French Belhara 4500-ton frigates are equipped with the best radars, with the extremely capable Thales Sea Fire AESA radar, and sonar, with the Kingklip Mk.2 hull-mounted sonar and a CAPTAS 4C variable depth sonar, both also from Thales.

It would be armed with 32 Sylver A50 cells for Aster 30 SAMs, a RAM CIWS, eight Exocet SSMs in their latest upgrade, two twin launchers for MU90 torpedoes, one 76mm gun and finally, two remotely-controlled autocannons.

The build plan proposed by Paris would be for the three frigates to be built in France, with the delivery of the first two by 2025 and the third in 2026. One remains as an additional option and could be built by Greek shipyards.

In the France-Greece deal, the two sides had until the end of this year to reach a final agreement.

The US announcement suggested that France faces a fresh commercial arms deal threat after the United States wrested away a massive submarine contract for Australia in a shock announcement on September 15 that ruptured relations between Washington and Paris, AFP reports.

Macron had recalled France’s ambassadors to the United States and Australia in response to the AUKUS alliance between the two countries and the United Kingdom.

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