Greece Inks Contracts for French Frigates, Rafale Jet Fighters

Greece continues to push the modernization needle of the Hellenic Armed Forces, with its government signing contracts for three new French frigates and a top-up order for six additional Dassault Rafale combat aircraft, both of which were signed on March 24.

The acquisitions form part of a larger capabilities upgrade initiative for the Hellenic Armed Forces announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis back on September 12, 2020. At that time, Greece faced an increasingly contentious situation with Turkey in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas over long-standing disputed claims between the two countries.

The announcement by Prime Minister Mitsotakis restarted a dormant modernization effort put on hold for over a decade due to the country’s sovereign debt crisis and slow economic recovery. Greece has looked to France as a strategic partner in its quest to upgrade the Hellenic Armed Forces. A bilateral agreement inked with French President Emmanuel Macron on September 28, 2021, helped pave the way for the latest series of acquisitions, with the Greek parliament signing off on the two deals back on February 15.

The purchase of three frigates from French naval shipbuilding prime Naval Group involves the Frégate de defense et d’intervention, or FDI, design. The FDI vessels are equipped with torpedoes (MU90), anti-ship missiles (Exocet), and Aster anti-aircraft missiles, as well an anti-torpedo weapon (Naval Group’s CANTO).

The FDI frigate purchase also includes an option for a possible fourth warship. The initial delivery schedule calls for the first two ships to be handed over to the Hellenic Navy in 2025, followed by the third in 2026.

Upgrading and modernizing the Hellenic Navy’s surface fleet forms a part of the overall modernization of the armed forces, with the procurement of 12-13 major surface vessels in the form of new frigates and/or corvettes prioritized as a near- and medium-term goal.

U.S. defense prime Lockheed Martin is angling for an opportunity to pick up business in Greece, either through the upgrade and modernization of existing Hellenic Navy Hydra class MEKO frigates or the sale of new-build warships. In the event of a Hydra class upgrade contract, Lockheed Martin is offering up four decommissioned U.S. Navy warships to the Hellenic Navy as a gap-filler while the work is being conducted. Lockheed’s pitch to Greece, undertaken in tandem with the U.S. Navy, was officially offered to Athens in December in a letter of agreement (LOA) that has been extended out to September 18.

As for the fighter purchase, these additional Rafales will add to the current 18-unit order involving six new-build units and twelve secondhand French Air Force models ordered on January 25, 2021, in a EUR1.92 billion ($2.35 billion) deal. Delivery of the first secondhand Rafale occurred on July 21, 2021, at Dassault’s flight test center in Istres, followed by five more used models across the ensuing five months. The first new-build units are to arrive over the first half of 2022. The remaining six used Rafales will arrive by the summer of 2023.

Delivery of the latest six units ordered is expected to kick off in the summer of 2024.

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is a senior analyst covering both the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions for Forecast International's International Military Markets group.

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