The Ministry of Defense has apparently decided to spend €500 million to upgrade its four Hydra-Class MEKO frigates.
The upgrade will allow the 3200-ton frigates, commissioned in the 1990s, to remain operational for 15 more years.
If the decision stands, it will be a departure from the Greek Navy’s plans to upgrade two of the four frigates. But it fits with the plans of the National Defense General Staff to have a deployable fleet of 12 frigates and 6 corvettes in the period to 2034, capable of countering Turkey’s Navy in the Aegean Sea; Turkey, will, by the end of the period, be able to deploy about 30 such units.
Spending €500 million on an upgrade means that the Navy has about €1.5 billion – the sum could be raised to €1.7 million, according to officials – to spend on buying corvettes. A decision on the acquisition will be taken before the end of summer, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said.
France, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and the US have already expressed interest in Greece’s corvette procurement program. Recently, Germany and Israel have joined in, offering the Sa’ar 6-class corvette, ordered by Israel 2015, built in German shipyards; the 4 units were delivered in 2020 and 2021 and have been fitted with Israeli weapons systems.
Not all of the systems offered are corvettes; for example, the UK proposes a large (5,600-ton) frigate, the Type 31, also known as Arrowhead 140, built by British company Babcock International. The Greek government will choose what types of ships it wants for the Navy.
Since these proposals involve ships yet to be built, some Navy officers have also raised the possibility of buying Littoral Combat Ships that will be decommissioned by the US Navy in order to achieve the goal of 18 surface ships by 2034. It should be noted that the Greek Navy is at an advanced stage of negotiation with the US Coast Guard for the transfer of four Island-class patrol boats that currently operate in the Persian Gulf.
The cost remains a major concern for the corvette program. It is a fairly large expenditure item for Greece’s defense budget, although a small amount for the firms that have submitted the proposals. The second issue concerns the government’s desire to have them built in Greece, as was done with three of the four Hydra-class frigates (the first was built in Germany).