Greece counts down to $1.6 billion corvette competition decision
Greece plans on acquiring three ships while retaining an option for a fourth, with industry competitors committing to supporting local shipbuilding as part of their bids.By TIM MARTINon March 10, 2023 at 7:23 AM
Hellenic Navy Jason-class tank landing ship HS Chios (L 173), center, and Hydra-class frigate HS Salamis (F 455) sail in formation behind the U.S. Navy San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), out of view, May 10, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Bellino)
BELFAST — The Greek government is nearing a final decision on who will win an estimated €1.5 billion ($1.58 billion) contract to build the Hellenic Navy’s newest corvette, according to a top Greek official.
“The final decision on the corvettes is imminent, both proposals are extremely positive for the Navy’s needs,” said Greek Minister of National Defense Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos on Feb. 25, during an interview with local newspaper To Vima.
The Greek MoD had not responded to a request for further comment at the time of publication, but the contestants are well known in European circles. On one side is Italy’s Fincantieri, with its FCX30 design, currently used by Qatar as the Doha/Al Zubarah-class ship. On the other is France’s Naval Group and the Gowind, in use in Egypt as the El Fateh-class. Both designs were formally submitted in December 2022.
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Greece plans on acquiring three ships while retaining an option for a fourth, with industry competitors committing to supporting local shipbuilding as part of their bids. A first corvette is expected to be built approximately three years from contract award.
Fincantieri has already signed an agreement with local firm ONEX Shipyards & Technologies Group, covering a corvette manufacturing line and life-cycle support based at Elefsis Shipyards.
“We like to localize production as much as possible, we are accustomed to going far from home and sharing our knowhow and accustomed to interacting with SME’s and local shipyards,” said Fincantieri CEO Pierroberto Folgiero in an interview with Breaking Defense earlier this year.
Similarly, Hellenic Shipyards would support Naval Group’s offer by building Gowind vessels in Greece. The French shipbuilder has also said it will “ensure economic benefits in Greece of at least 30% of the program value,” in line with a “ramp up” of operations across the country, supported by Naval Group Hellas, a new Greek subsidiary.
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The shipbuilder already holds strong ties with the Hellenic Navy after securing a contract in March 2022 for the construction and supply of three defense and intervention frigates (FDI HN), plus one optional hull, and has also submitted a bid with Thales and MBDA for the midlife upgrade of Hydra-class MEKO 200 designed frigates. (Naval Group did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.)
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Fundamentally, the overall designs and capabilities of the FCX30 and Gowind are considered to be “fairly similar,” said Pat Bright, senior analyst at AMI International, a US naval market intelligence agency.
“Gowind is based on a 102 metre design compared to the 107 metre FCX30 and they weigh within 400 tonnes of one another,” added Bright. He said the Gowind offer “appears” to be based on integration of 16 vertical launch MBDA MICA surface-to-air missiles, Exocet surface-to-surface missiles, Leonardo’s 76mm naval gun, “possibly” [Nexter’s] Narwhal 20mm remotely operated turret and the Thales KingKlip Mark2 hull mounted sonar.
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Bright added that the FCX30 design would potentially use either 16 MICA SAM’s or MBDA’s Common Anti-air Modular Missile Extended Range (CAMM-ER), Raytheon’s Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM), Leonardo’s Marlin 30mm remote weapon system and the Italian manufacturer’s Kronos multifunctional radar.
“The capabilities are relatively so closely matched,” he noted, but outlined that the Gowind offer “appears” to be valued at $433.9 million per hull and includes “an attractive financial proposal with long term deferred payments.” Naval Group did not publicly share per hull costs when releasing its final bid announcement.
French business newspaper La Tribune previously published cost estimates of Fincantieri’s bid. It said that the Italian offer of four FCX30 frigates amounted to “about 2 billion euros,” noting that the cost of the four ships of the Doha class sold to Qatar in 2017 totaled €3.2 billion, excluding weapons. Breaking Defense cannot independently either Bright or La Tribune’s figures, but if they are accurate, a rough comparative breakdown would indicate the original FCX30 offer appears to be cheaper than the Gowind price by approximately €66 million per hull.
Other differences may come down to production plans.
“[If Naval Group wins] the first Gowind will be built in France with the three remaining hulls in Greece, but the way we understand the Fincantieri bid is that it is based on a two hulls plus one option, all built locally….that’s pretty significant in itself,” said Bright.
Folgiero made clear Fincantieri views the Greek competition as one that could potentially unlock other regional sales.
“Absolutely [selection of the FCX30 design by Greece would be] validation of our uniqueness that will open more and more doors,” added Folgiero. “Because again, everyone that is spending wants the best with respect to schedule and budget….I believe that it would be a very, very important point in the roadmap of this expansion of international business.”
Greece counts down to $1.6 billion corvette competition decision - Breaking Defense
Greece plans on acquiring three ships while retaining an option for a fourth, with industry competitors committing to supporting local shipbuilding as part of their bids.