It recently surfaced that the Hellenic Navy need was not limited to new-built frigates. Their need is so urgent that they require a “stop-gap” solution (consisting in the procurement of second-hand vessels or a lease of existing vessels) as well as an upgrade to the in-service Hydra-class frigates.
Naval News previously reported on the proposals from Lockheed Martin and Naval Group. This time around, we contacted Damen to learn more about the Dutch proposal to Greece. Here is what we learned from Pieter Heijboer, Manager Naval Sales Support at Damen Naval.
Naval News – What is the SIGMA 11515?
Pieter Heijboer – SIGMA 11515 is the next step in our well-known SIGMA class of ships, in this sense it has been for some time in the drawing board. Already since some couple of years, it has been presented to several customers as a possibility, together with other ships in our portfolio. In particular, the Hellenic Navy showed interest in this design during our initial talks more than one year ago.
The SIGMA 11515 represents an evolution from the SIGMA 10514, already in service within several navies who operate in challenging ops theatres. A clever standardization policy and anticipation to the market are key enablers to support a flexible portfolio that swiftly can serve specific requirements of a Customer.
The main advantages that the SIGMA11515 offers when compared with our other designs are:
• Increased payload with respect to other designs in our portfolio;
• Additional flexibility thanks to the use of dedicated flexible spaces for mission reconfiguration;
• Possibility to include modern developments in weapons and sensors
• risk reduction and clever and fast realization and project set up based on familiarity and commonalities with regards to the SIGMA 10514
Naval News – Can you please detail Damen’s offer, in terms of new ships, “stop gap” solution, and Hydra-class Upgrade?
Pieter Heijboer – All the 4 SIGMA 11515 will be built locally in Greece. Our offer and project set up is based on domestic building and setting to work, but also on preparing the life cycle support of the four frigates.
The intermediate solutions we have proposed are:
a. Two Karel Doorman class are offered to the HN directly from the Netherlands Government
b. Two SIGMA 10514 locally built. Building time of these vessels which fit perfect in the SIGMA line with SIGMA 11515, would be very short. This local building process is proven. We can compete in every aspect with all other second-hand class offers that we have seen. Second hand offers are not ready for operations and would probably also have to be adjusted and modernized to the Hellenic Navy requirements and latest technical standards. Fast new build solves these issues.
Damen together with Thales Netherlands are intensively studying the Hydra update requirements from the Hellenic Navy. The Damen/Thales combination will ensure quality of our proposal and possible execution of the contract in Greece and it will also provide commonality as much as possible with our SIGMA offer.
Naval News – Have you visited shipyards in Greece? Have you identified local partners already?
Pieter Heijboer – Damen visited all relevant shipyards in Greece where our surveys showed that SIGMA could be built making use of our experience in building SIGMA’s successfully worldwide. Our surveys also focused on the local supply chain. Because to build a ship like the Sigma and to provide support during the sustainment, also local suppliers are essential for the success of this program.
Naval News – Is the Dutch government supporting your bid?
Pieter Heijboer – Indeed, our bid is strongly supported by the Dutch government, including a financing arrangement supported by Atradius (Dutch state export credit agency). Intrinsically there is a broader base of commonality with also other NATO/EU partners, such as Germany and Belgium, where we offer to have a similar Above Water Warfare System and sensors, as projected on their new frigates. Therefore this offers already European cooperation in place, since important parts of this proposal are fielded in other EU/NATO partners.
Naval News – Can you tell us more about the role of Thales?
Pieter Heijboer – Thales Nederland is our partner. This gives additional certainty in the project, since we have a long-standing cooperation relation and actually as we speak, this is underway in our projects for the German frigate programme F126 and the Belgian/Netherlands Frigate replacement programme. The sensors and weapons are a mix of European and US systems.
Naval News – Several local (Greek) media reports mention that the American and French bid are supposedly “ahead”. What is your response? Why do you believe Damen offers the best package?
Pieter Heijboer – Damen does not comment on claims or specifics of our competition, but focuses on the Client.
a. The Client, the Hellenic Navy still uses the Dutch designed and at Damen Schelde built Elli class, with which they are operationally and technically very happy. That quality which results in force in theatre, can be prolonged via our offer.
b. Specifications of the SIGMA 11515 fully serves Hellenic Navy requirements according to Hellenic Navy statements
c. Damen will build all 4 vessels locally, in Greece. This offers a solid and long-lasting prospect for Hellenic naval shipbuilding. Damen is the only shipbuilding group that has proven to be able to build in country and, at the same time, is able to build up a capable yard to export. Damen has proven to be successful in this concept in Vietnam, Indonesia, Romania etc. In total Damen has built 1000+ ships at local non-Damen shipyards.
d. Pricewise Damen is competitive, with pricing below 600 Million Euros per ship locally built. This includes an ILS package, which safeguards solid in life support and maintaining up time of the vessels.
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 today, in addition to Damen’s SIGMA 11515, are:
- Lockheed Martin with the MMSC
- Naval Group with the FDI/Belharra
- TKMS with the MEKO A200NG (or MEKO A300)
- Babcock with the Type 31/Arrowhead
- Navantia (allegedly with the F-110)
- Fincantieri (allegedly with the FREMM)
The procurement process doesn’t seem to be a “classic open tender” but rather government to government (G to G) discussions with each party.