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French Team Submits New Strategic Package Offer For The Hellenic Navy

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Belharra frigate in AAW configuration (with 32x VLS) seen here launching two ASTER surface to air missiles. Screen capture from Naval Group video.

French Team Submits New Strategic Package Offer For The Hellenic Navy

A "French Team" consisting of three major defense companies (Naval Group, Thales, MBDA) recently submitted a new offer to Greece for the Hellenic Navy surface combatants requirement: It consists in FDI Frigates as part of a global strategic package.
Xavier Vavasseur 02 Mar 2021

Talking to Naval News, an industry source with direct knowledge of the negotiations said that the “Team France” offer is a comprehensive and robust strategic package designed to ensure Greece has the best capabilities in the shortest timeframe with optimized costs. Our source added:
This offers addresses all the needs of the Hellenic Navy and enables a fast track acquisition.
With this package, France will ensure that the Hellenic Navy capabilities are enhanced to meet immediate needs including:
  • MEKO modernization program
  • A stop-gap solution
  • 4 FDI next generation frigates

For the record, France and Greece were involved in exclusive negotiations for a while, for two FDI type frigates. However, despite the signing of an LOI in October 2019, Greece decided to keep its options open and is now considering several designs. The designs being considered, in addition to the FDI, are:
  • Lockheed Martin with the MMSC
  • TKMS with the MEKO A200NG (or MEKO A300)
  • Damen with an unspecified design
  • Babcock with the Type 31

The procurement process doesn’t seem to be a “classic open tender” but rather government to government (G to G) discussions with each party.

MEKO modernization program
Hydra frigate sailing from the Salamis naval base
Hydra frigate sailing from the Salamis naval base. Hellenic Navy picture.

To meet Greece’s requirements, Naval Group have joined forces with Thales (the OEM of the Hydra-class combat management system) to offer “a risk-free solution for the upgrade of the MEKO”.

By combining their specific knowledge and expertise, Thales and Naval Group are ideally placed to offer an optimal cost-performance compromise, both for the mid-life upgrade program itself and to guarantee the operational availability of the ships.

The “Team France” proposal calls for the MEKO MLU to be carried out in a Greek shipyard, with the participation of Greek industry. In this respect, Thales can count on the presence of Thales Hellas S.A. and on the relations already established between Thales and Naval Group with existing industrial partners.

Regarding the level of commonality between the equipment of the FDI in “Hellenic Navy” configuration and the equipment aboard the upgraded MEKO, our source said work on the planned final configuration is still ongoing.

Stop-gap solution
French Navy frigates Jean Bart (left) and La Fayette (right). French Navy picture.

Because of the urgent requirement of the Hellenic Navy, the French offer includes a “stop-gap solution” consisting in second hand frigates to be transferred as soon as possible to Greece, likely after an upgrade and modernization. Details on this stop-gap solution are scarce, if not non-existent: Our industry sources declined to comment. Contacted by Naval News, spokespersons at the DGA and French Navy declined to comment while the spokesman of the French Ministry of Armed Forces did not return calls requesting comment.

The number of vessels being offered as stop-gap is not known, nor is their type. However the only available units would be the two non-modernized La Fayette-class frigates and one (soon two) Cassard-class frigates. Because of the age of the Cassard-class, we believe the most viable option would be the transfer of La Fayette-class frigates Surcouf and Guépratte to Greece. In 2017, the DGA awarded the FLF renovation program contract calling for the upgrade of three of the five La Fayette-class stealth frigates (FLF) operated by the French Navy: Naval Group will renovate the Courbet, the Aconit and the Lafayette in Toulon.

FDI Hellenic Navy
Artist impression of a generic FDI. frigate Naval Group image.

“Team France” offers to Greece the FDI “Hellenic Navy”. It is a next generation surface combatant featuring the latest technologies from the European defense industries Thales, MBDA and Naval Group. She has been designed to deal with the latest threats, and her physical and digital infrastructures guarantee an evolutionary potential that will ensure that the Hellenic Navy will be able to deal with emerging and future threats over the life of the ship (UAVs, Cyber, anti-ship ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles, stealth threats underwater or above water, etc.).

The FDI Hellenic Navy will be a power and sovereignty asset for Greece. She offers unrivalled capabilities for the permanent control of air and sea space and autonomy of action, in support of the political and military objectives set. As a result, the Hellenic Navy will necessarily be integrated into any planning of inter- allied naval air operations and will have a very high military resilience in combat.
According to our information, the “Team France” offers consist in four FDI “Hellenic Navy”. Construction of the first one would take place in France to ensure operation by Greece in the shortest timeframe, and to secure the transfer of technology to allow construction of three frigates in Greece.

The proposed industrial cooperation plan will make it possible to build a real Defense Industrial Base for the naval domain in Greece, capable of producing several frigates in the country, and above all to provide business for several dozen Greek companies and several hundred Greek citizens.
A defensive asset for air-sea control
The key strengths for the FDI for air-sea control are:
  • Thales Sea Fire radar, the first fully digital radar with four flat antennas based on AESA technology, provides access to a surveillance volume of several hundred kilometers and is capable of detecting stealth threats, from unmanned vehicles to hypersonic missiles. Its extended anti- aircraft capability enables it to provide protection, defense and intervention against the most effective airborne threats.
  • Integrated missile launch sequence with high reactivity and extreme precision. The FDI missiles, associated with the Sea Fire radar, are specifically designed to respond to all types of missile threats, in particular supersonic. They guarantee exceptional performance in the field of anti-missile defense, in particular thanks to its unique force piloting system. These performances have been confirmed by several firings by the French Navy against supersonic missiles, the only ones carried out by a European navy. The automatic processing provided by TEWA (Threat Evaluation and Weapon Assignment) enhance the performance of this launch sequence.
  • A multi-source and fully interoperable information system is essential in today’s complex environments. The FDI Hellenic Navy systems are integrated by the SETIS Combat Management System, providing the ship with a real multi-threat processing capacity thanks to the quality and precision of the tactical situation, made possible by the fusion of data from all the sensors on board.
  • FDI Hellenic Navy’s resilience is highly performant thanks to Naval Group’s know-how and great care in design. Ease of use thanks to ergonomic interfaces allows for reliable and efficient weapon deployment. This reliability benefits from the Navy’s operational feedback from the Horizon frigates for anti-air warfare capabilities and from the FREMM frigates for anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Self- protection is reinforced by the latest-generation electronic warfare system. The cyber threat is considered right from the ship’s design stage by a system that makes the ship highly resilient in this area, covering all the ship’s equipment and functional chains. Finally, the architectural choices make the frigate highly resistant to combat damage. The propulsion system, all the critical services on board, the data centers and the damage control system are totally redundant and the ship is divided into two zones separated by a double watertight bulkhead resistant to missile effects. The two onboard data centers are designed around a cloud-type distributed digital architecture and enable the ship’s systems to be immediately reconfigured in the event of damage in combat.
  • The Hellenic Navy will also benefit from the highest level of availability of its fleet for a reduced cost of ownership thanks to :
    1. Innovative technical solutions proposed in terms of maintainability
    2. The ability of manufacturers to provide proven and high-performance support solutions,
    3. Basing all Through-Life Support operations in Greece.

FDI is not only an excellent naval power asset, it is also a valuable anti-missile system capable of fighting both cruise missile and ballistic missile attacks. The joint use of the Sea Fire radar and her missiles already offers an excellent platform to protect a sensitive site with very little notice and without constraint, for example during an international summit or in the face of a specific threat, such as the Athens conurbation, from saturation attacks using cruise missiles, as well as ballistic missiles with a range of less than 600 km.
A defensive asset for air-sea control
Cyberattacks armed UAVs, swarms of UAVs, hypersonic missiles, ballistic anti-ship missiles are all new threats with constantly increasing performances that the FDI Hellenic Navy will be able to handle thanks to its outstanding upgradability, both in the physical and digital domain:
  • Numerous predispositions have been implemented: weigh volume, electrical & refrigeration reservations, hangar door dedicated to UAVs, etc. to allow the subsequent integration of new capabilities.
  • The frigate’s digital architecture offers a high level of adaptability to extremely rapid developments in ever-changing information technology. The digital infrastructure is derived from technology in the financial sector (banks, insurance, etc.) and enables large quantities of data to be processed, with reliability and security being critical.
  • The frigate’s distributed architecture is designed to allow rapid, simple and low-cost operational evolution of new systems or software, without profoundly impacting the ship’s availability.

Naval News understand the final configuration of the FDI “Hellenic Navy” variant will depend on the customer’s final choices.

Strategic industrial partnership with the Greek Industry
The French team is committed to implementing a very ambitious industrial cooperation plan that will benefit Greece, both in the context of the acquisition of FDI Hellenic Navy and, more broadly, in the long-term development of the Greek naval industry.

The proposed industrial cooperation plan will contribute to the revival of a profitable naval industry while significantly increasing Greece’s autonomy and sovereignty and will allow international recognition of the excellence of its naval industry.

Naval Group has a long history and successful track record of transfer of technology and production for both surface ships and submarines. Looking forward to working with the Greek industry to build and sustain the FDI Hellenic Navy in the country, Naval Group has already started conducting extensive industrial surveys to include Greek companies in its worldwide supply chain.

Nine companies are already registered as Naval Group suppliers, and about twenty more candidates have already been identified. In addition, partnerships with three Hellenic universities are established

Beyond the FDI program, the know-how that the French team will share with the Greek industry within the framework of a Technology Transfer will enable it to take part in increasingly complex projects with very high added value in order to create and then sustain hundreds of qualified jobs and generate long- term economic spin-offs in Greece.
The industrial cooperation plan includes the following components:
  • Participation in the production of the FDI Hellenic Navy frigates through the training of Greek personnel and the transfer of activities locally,
  • Technology transfer for the production of additional frigates in Greece
  • Transfer of technology enabling the localisation in Greece of FDI Hellenic Navy’s operational maintenance activities, activities that can be extended to other programmes.
  • Participation in the development of training simulators using the most modern technologies, and location of associated capabilities bringing competitiveness, reactivity and flexibility in the development and maintenance of the Greek Navy’s operational capabilities.
  • Integration of qualified Greek companies into our global supplier panel in order to integrate their supply chain and benefit from direct access to all their markets.
  • Participation in joint R&D projects
  • Participation in the development of future naval systems
French Team Submits New Strategic Package Offer for the Hellenic Navy - Naval News
 

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