In a previous article we reported about the alleged shortlist for the Hellenic Navy’s frigate competition. With the DEFEA defense exhibition in sight, we are now taking a close look at the ships in the so called “1st category” of this shortlist.
Sigma 11515 HN – Damen
It is not surprising to see Damen and their proposal at the top of this list. Indeed, it is a very cost effective choice with its powerful equipment at a relatively low price, complemented by additional options to further increase the ships’ capabilities if required, their Sigma 11515 HN frigate proposal is more than fitting for the Hellenic Navy.
The standard version proposed offers a 4,440 tons ship, equipped with CODLOG (Combined Diesel-Electric Or Gas) propulsion, allowing it to reach up to 30 knots and still be able to conduct ASW operations with the quieter electric motors.
The Sigma 11515 HN is equipped to face a wide range of threats, and as such is fitted with an array of advanced sensors and armament to effectively detect and destroy potential targets, all while ensuring the protection of the ship.
As such, this frigate is capable of protecting itself and other assets with its comprehensive surface-to-air defensive equipment. Proposed with 16 Mk 41 VLS cells, it will be able to fit up to 32 ESSMs SAMs or a mix of ESSMs and SM-2s for longer range defense. With a Mk 49 CIWS for an additional 21 RAM surface-to-air missiles, this ship can defend both from long range threats and saturation attacks.
Morevover, the Sigma 11515 HN is well equipped for ASW missions. Indeed, it is fitted with advanced sensors, Kingklip Mk.2 hull mounted sonar and CAPTAS variable depth sonar (VDS), both from Thales, as well as effectors with a pair of triple torpedo tubes.
For surface targets, the Sigma 11515 HN is fitted with the classic configuration of eight SSMs, here AGM-84 Harpoons. Naval artillery is not lacking either, with a 76mn/62cal Super Rapido main gun from Leonardo and three 20mn Narwhal remote weapon stations (RWS) from Nexter.
The protection of the ship is assured both from the numerous decoys launchers, for a total of 36, to defend from any threats, as well as its extensive electronic warfare equipment. It is composed of electronic support measures, communication support system, jammers, communication interception capabilities and laser warning receivers.
While this standard configuration is offered at the very competitive price of approximately 550 millions euros per unit, Damen offers different options to further the ship’s capabilities.
For instance, the main gun can receive the STRALES upgrade which brings improved capabilities in anti air warfare (including against incoming missiles). The RWS can be replaced by 30mn ones, the number of the VLS cells can be doubled to 32 and the NS110 radar can be switched for the more powerful NS200 or Sea Master 400 also from Thales.
The most notable option is the version aimed at increasing AAW missions is offered for 600 millions euros with the standard equipment plus STRALES and the NS200 radar.
Like any other proposed ship here, this is not a perfect ship. However, while it can be critiqued on some aspects, most of the attacks against Damen’s frigate have been pushing the idea of a paper design, not mature enough to be selected by the Hellenic Navy.
These critiques are unfounded. First of all, the same could be argued about the other proposals, and would still be incorrect. The FDI-HN for instance, while originating from a design selected by the French Navy is technically also a paper design with the first ship delivered to the Marine Nationale only in 2023.
More importantly, major elements of the Sigma 11515 HN already are built, tested and operational. The complex diesel-electric engines for the CODLOG propulsion of the ship are already in place on the Holland class offshore patrol vessels of the Royal Netherlands Navy, built by Damen. Similarly, the SM400 radar proposed in some of the more advanced options for the ship is also fitted on the Holland class. This shipbuilder has vast experiences with this type of hulls, the 11515 HN being a variant of the Sigma family with the 9113 and the 10514. The armament itself is also fairly generic and proven, composed of Mk.41 VLS cells and a 76mn main gun from Leonardo, a common combination. As such, claims of immature or paper design do little sense.
As seen above, Damen proposed with this Sigma 11515 HN a cost efficient package, able to successfully meet the requirements of the Hellenic Navy and potentially exceed them with the different upgrades proposed in parallel with the standard version.
FDI-HN – Naval Group
This new announcement of the FDI-HN being selected in the first category is particularly good news for Naval Group considering the difficulties they encountered with this Greek contract and the efforts they made to improve their proposal each time.
Indeed, Naval Group was aiming for a Greek purchase of the FDI since 2018 with the initial negotiations between them and Lockheed Martins. Eventually these exclusive talks were stopped in favor of a contract opened to a wider range of competitors.
Still, Naval Group carried on and adapted to the new situation. The requirement of the Hellenic Navy required an improved proposal to add the necessary equipment while still fitting within the tight budget. These changes led to the current proposal with the FDI-HN frigate.
The selected design is a frigate of around 4,500 tons of displacement, 122 meters in lengths with a 17 meters beam. The propulsion would remain in the CODAD (Combined Diesel And Diesel) configuration found on the French version of the frigate, with a maximum speed of 27 knots.
The main improvement from the original French design concerns saturation attacks. Since it is equipped with the excellent Sea Fire radar from Thales and the Aster-30 surface to air missile, the FDI is more than capable to serve as an area-denial frigate. However, with only 16 missiles in the initial proposal, one per Sylver A50 VLS cell, its resistance against saturation attacks appeared to be limited.
To remedy this issue, the newest design incorporates 32 Sylver A50 VLS cells for a mix of Aster-15/30 and VL-Mica NG (which, unlike ESSM, can not be quad-packed). This puts the total missile output of the cells to 32, double that of the original proposal. Moreover, this new frigate is also equipped with the Mk 49 CIWS with its 21 RAM missiles for close defense. This new package ensures the ship’s protection even against the most potent attacks.
As usual with French frigates, the ship proposed by Naval Group is well equipped for ASW missions. With a Kingklip Mk.2 hull mounted sonar and a CAPTAS 4C variable depth sonar, both from Thales, this frigate is equipped with some of the most advanced sensors available today for submarine hunting missions. MU90 lightweight torpedoes in twin tubes on each side of the hull are set to ensure the destruction of the detected threats.
Armed with eight SSMs in the form of MM40 Exocet Block IIIc (the latest variant of the missiles, with the new coherent seeker), a Leonardo Super Rapido 76mn/62cal main gun (or STRALES as an option) and two 20mm Narwhal RWS, the compact hull packs a rather powerful punch.
There still are issues with the French proposal, most of them originating from the initial French Navy requirements for their version of the FDI, shaping research and development.
Indeed, with all its qualities the ship still lacks any form of ECM, a significant flaw for a 21st century front line warship, set to operate in contested waters. In addition, while the ship is equipped for the naval version of the SCALP cruise missile, and is proposed with it, there are still concerns on whether or not the its integration price will be included in the final proposal.
Thus, we still have to wait to see what the final result will be but it is certain that Naval Group have now a solid proposal for the Hellenic Navy and have shown their determination and adaptation skills in this competition.
FREMM – Fincantieri
Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri is the third company that made on this shortlist for the future frigate of the Hellenic Navy. This comes as quite a surprise since Fincantieri remained quite secretive on their offer as far as to what ship they would actually offer to Greece.
Rumours went all over the place, with some contradictory elements being mentioned from reputable sources. The main question was whether the FREMM-IT would be proposed or if it would be another ship such as a design derived from the Doha class air defence corvette.
However, with the recent successes of the FREMM design, the basic design of which was adopted for the US Navy’s Constellation class frigate, the two ships sold to Egypt in 2020 or the recent contract for the Indonesian Navy, it is quite likely that Fincantieri will try to capitalize on these achievements to promote the design to the Hellenic Navy, and as such it will be the ship we will study here.
The FREMM is a ship originating from a Franco-Italian agreement to build a common class of frigates. In the end two different designs emerged with two subclasses within the Italian FREMM, the general purpose (GP) and anti submarine warfare (ASW) versions. Initial rumors concerned the GP, general purpose, version for the Hellenic Navy.
This is a quite heavy frigate, displacing 6,700 tons for 144 meters and a nearly 20 meters beam. The Italian selected a CODLAG, Combined Diesel-Electric And Gas, propulsion configuration to allow for speeds in excess of 30 knots. With its size, this frigate can accommodate two helicopters in its two dedicated hangars, as opposed to only one on the French version.
The FREMM is fitted with an impressive set of sensors allowing it to adequately detect potential threats early on to ensure the protection of the ship and neighboring critical assets. Notable elements here include the excellent Kronos 3D radar from Leonardo, capable of more than 300km range, as well as the long list of complementary radar equipment such as the RAN-30X 2D medium range radar, the IRST SASS, silent acquisition and surveillance system, the 2D LPI, low probability of interception, surveillance radar and even the UMS 4110 CL hull sonar from Thales. This list is not exhaustive, many others equally as vital sensors being installed, but it is not desired to list all of them here, the excellent blog of Dimitri Mitch, Naval Analyses, should help those interested.
For its protection the frigate can count on a capable complement of decoys with the SLCAR-H decoys launchers, as well as the advanced electronic warfare systems present on the vessel. These are the NETTUNO 4100 ECM from Elettronica, found on all versions of the FREMMs and the ALTESSE C-ESM and COMMIT system from Thales.
The FREMM-It is armed with 16 Sylver A50 VLS cells for Aster 15/30 with another 16 behind available for 16 A70 if need be to equip cruise missiles. It is also fitted with eight SSMs, in the form of Teseo Mk.2 from MBDA, which can be changed for the MILAS ASW version if required. To complement this ASW capability, triple torpedo tubes are present on each side for the MU90 lightweight torpedo.
As it is often the case with Italian designs, the naval artillery is more than adequate. Indeed, it is armed with a 127mn/64cal main gun from Leonardo with the VULCANO upgrade, allowing it to reach targets at 100km with precision. A 76mn/62cal cannon is also equiped at the rear with the STRALES upgrade to enhance its capabilities and serve as a CIWS. Finally, two remotely controlled 25mn autocannons on each side complete this impressive display of firepower.
As seen here, the FREMM-IT from Fincantieri is a more than capable design. However, this also reflects in its price with it being the most expensive option on this list, at around 700 millions euros per unit. It must still be said that in the end, with crew training, maintenance and all other often overlooked factors, the original price difference might actually not differ significantly from each proposal, depending on how they are compared.
If this is the ship that ends up being proposed by Fincantieri, the Hellenic Navy will potentially have a very powerful new navy in its hands, if they can afford it. While initial rumors mentioned a FREMM in GP configuration, new ones tend to point towards an export variant of the “American FREMM” (i.e. Constellation class frigate) or a FREMM GP with US-made weapons and sensors. Naval News will make sure to shed light on this next week directly with the Italian shipbuilder, during DEFEA.
As seen here all of the shortlisted proposals for the Hellenic Navy would deliver a perfectly capable frigate, some more armed, some more expensive. And don’t forget the proposals in the so called “2nd” and “3rd” categories too, which may still win the tender. In the end we have to keep in mind that this is a non-exhaustive overview of an incredibly complex selection process, and that these ships are not in a vacuum, they are a part of a larger proposal and that other geopolitical factors will inevitably play in the final decision. Moreover, and as we have seen throughout this competition, things can change, these proposals are not set in stone and could evolve to better adapt to the situation. We only have to wait and see what the final result will be, and probably the best place to follow these events directly from Greece would be the excellent Naval Defense website.