The Hellenic Navy is considering a variant of the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship as part of a program to refresh its surface combatants, a Lockheed Martin official told USNI News this week.
Greece, a NATO member, is considering buying four of the multi-mission surface combatants based on the version of the Freedom-class initially developed for Saudi Arabia, Lockheed Martin vice president for international strategy and business development Tom Rowden told USNI News on Tuesday.
“Very high on their priority list is the modernization of their navy. They’re currently operating four MEKO-class frigates and various other patrol craft that are working pretty hard. It’s pretty busy in the Eastern Mediterranean right now,” Rowden said.
The request from the Greek government came to the U.S. Navy in March and outlined four main components: build four new frigates, upgrade the existing Hydra-class frigates in service, find an interim naval capability while the ships are being upgraded and participate in the Constellation-class (FFG-62) program, USNI News understands. The Greeks asked specifically for information about the Lockheed combatant and the potential for a Foreign Military Sales case.
The Hellenic Navy is built around a quartet of German-designed MEKO 200 frigates that entered service in Greece in the early 1990s.
The 4,000-ton multi-mission frigates will be upgraded as part of an overall modernization package, Rowden said.
In late May, Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos and Chief of Hellenic Navy Vice Adm. Stylianos Petrakis met with the U.S. Navy’s head of international programs, Rear Adm. Frank Morley, and U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt to talk about future defense cooperation.
“Greece has invested over $1 billion in U.S. Navy equipment and capabilities, including upgraded P-3Bs and the MH-60R. The U.S. Navy’s proposal for the Hellenic Future Frigate, which is backed by a government-to-government agreement, will capitalize on Greece’s current defense investments, and ensure the most advanced maritime capability in the region,” said Navy Capt. Tim Ketter, a senior defense official for the U.S. in Greece, in a Tuesday statement.
“Our commitment to domestic production will result in substantial and significant investments in the Greek shipbuilding industry.”
Lockheed’s pitch calls for building the initial frigate in Italy and the follow-ons in Greece.
The Lockheed frigate would be built around the same propulsion system used on the Freedom and the Saudi frigates – two Rolls Royce MT-30 gas turbines and two Colt-Pielstick diesel engines.
Rowden said the new ships would include a Lockheed-derived fix to the combining gear that links the gas turbines and the diesels. Naval Sea Systems Command and Lockheed are working to fix the fault tin the gearing system hat has limited the operations of the U.S. fleet of Freedom-class LCS.
“That fix is being tested right now and it will be backfilled obviously on the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships and forward-fit on these,” he said.
Lockheed is also proposing upgrades to the Hellenic Navy Hydra-class frigates with a combat system derived from the Aegis Combat System.
“The combat management system for both the MEKOs and the frigates would be COMBATSS 21, a derivative of the Aegis weapons system,” Rowden said.
“I think it makes them much more compatible operating with U.S. Navy ships.”
Greece has already purchased Lockheed MH-60R multi-mission helicopters, which would be easily compatible with the Component-Based Total-Ship System – 21st Century (COMBATSS-21) combat system.
The Saudi Frigates, currently under construction at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin, are outfitted with an eight-cell Mk-41 vertical launch system and a 4D air search radar. The ship will also field eight RGM-84 Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles (ASM), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) sonar suites and torpedoes.
Specific sensors and weapons are still to be determined for the Hellenic Navy’s frigates, Rowden said.
Lockheed Martin will be entering a competitive contest for the frigate program.
Several European shipbuilders specialize in ships in the 4,000-ton size range.
According to Naval News, other competitors include:
- Naval Group, Thales, MBDA teamed to offer the 4,500-ton FDI/Belharra frigate;
- Dutch shipbuilder Damen with the a new frigate design called the SIGMA 11515;
- British shipbuilder Babcock with the Type 31/Arrowhead design being built for the U.K. Royal Navy;
- German ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems with an updated MEKO frigate; and
- Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri with an unspecified design.