The MEKO 200 is a frigate (FFG) design by the German shipyard Blohm+Voss as part of the MEKO family of warships. A total 25 MEKO 200 frigates of seven (7) different configurations were built for Australia (8 ships), New Zealand (2 ships), Turkey (8 ships), Portugal (3 ships) and Greece (4 ships). The Australian and New Zealand frigates have received (or are about to complete) a MLU while Turkey is about to start the MLU of its four newest frigates. Portuguese frigates will receive a limited modernization that will necessitate repurposing the frigates for low-intensity missions only while Greece is currently planning to upgrade its four 3,400-ton Hydra-class (MEKO 200HN) frigates commissioned during the 1990s (1992 first ship, 1998 final ship), as part of an ambitious program that amounts to 5 billion euros.
This program includes the procurement of four new frigates, the upgrade of the existing four MEKO 200HN (Salamis, Spetsai, Hydra, Psara) and an urgent interim solution as “top gap” (acquisition of second-hand warships or procurement new-built light frigates or corvettes). Note that the Hellenic Navy aims to award the program to the company that will win the new frigate program with the aim to achieve a high level of commonality between the equipment of the new frigate and the equipment aboard the upgraded MEKO 200HN. The Hydra-class MLU is valued around 400-450 million euros.
Hydra-class: A long overdue MLU program
As the oldest vessel in the class has now reached 29 years of active service, it is crucial for the MLU program to start as soon as possible in order to adapt the ships’ capabilities to new operational requirements. The Hellenic Navy planned to implement such a program in the late 2000s but was postponed multiple times as a consequence of the sovereign debt crisis, in which, Greece was most acutely affected. Since then the MLU has been postponed multiple times.
In 2009, an upgrade of the two STIR fire control radars (FCR) to allow the firing of the RIM-162 ESSM surface-to-air missile (SAM) as well as the re-integration of the modified Mk48 VLS was completed. The ships among other minor upgrades, have received new communication equipment and a TDR-10 (Salamis) or TDR-10A (Hydra, Psara, Spetsai) electro-optical sensor (EOS) manufactured by local company Miltech Hellas. The Hellenic Navy will acquire at least four (+3) MH-60 Romeo helicopters which will increase significantly the situational awareness and ASW capabilities of the ships when they are embarked.
Upgrading the Hydra-class
Modernization programs are cost-effective means of extending the lifecycle of any naval fleet and upgrading the critical mission systems ensures that the latest developments in combat management and sensors are installed for optimum performance. Thus, the implementation of the MLU program will not only allow the refurbishment or modernization of those systems that will continue to equip the FFGs until the end of their service life but will also allow the upgrading or replacement of the electronic combat systems, sensors and radars, which are necessary to increase the combat effectiveness of ships.
Among the new equipment it is expected that a new rotating AESA naval air & surface surveillance and target acquisition radar will replace both the old DA08 and the MW08 radars in a new mast. The MW08s equip currently the six (seven in the future) Roussen-class fast attack missile craft (FACM). We expect the removed MW08 radars to be installed on in-service vessels of the Hellenic Navy that use the obsolete TRS-3030 Triton radar such as the Armatolos (2) and Pirpolitis-class (2) large patrol vessels or four of the five Jason-class tank landing ships (LST) or four of the five Kavaloudis-class (Combattante IIIB) FACM. A possible installation of MW08 on the aforementioned patrol vessels could allow perhaps the replacement of the old rear 40mm gun turret with a SPIKE NLOS system.
A highly unlikely scenario is the installation of a four fixed-panel radar configuration or multi-function radar such as Herakles or Kronos Grand Naval. The ships will receive also a new Combat Management System (CMS) that will replace STACOS, new navigation radars that will replace one or both navigation radars, new intra-communication systems, new IFF and certainly a new electronic warfare suite that will include new R-ESM that will replace AR-700, new C-ESM/COMINT that will replace Telegon 10 and new R-ECM that will replace APECS II.
The ships will receive additional sensors and equipment such as laser warning systems (LWS) (by Saab, Elbit or Hensoldt?) and remote weapon stations (RWS) of 20-30mm. It is almost certain that their two Phalanx CIWS, if one of them will not be replaced by RAM launcher, will be upgraded to the latest configuration Block 1B Baseline 2. It is questionable if the Mk45 Mod 2A gun will be upgraded to the latest Mod 4 variant. It is not known also if both SQS-56 HMS and DE 1160 VDS sonars will be replaced by new systems, if the Miltech TDR-10 EOS will be replaced by a new EOS and if the Mk32 SSVTs and SRBOC launchers will receive any upgrade or modification.
We believe that the STIR FCRs will be upgraded further (if possible) or more likely will be replaced by new FCRs. It is highly unlikely that the Mk48 Mod 2 VLS will be upgraded to a new configuration such as DP-48 (Dual Pack) or replaced by Mk41 or any other kind of missile system due to the allocated budget and the Greek investment on ESSM. The Harpoon missiles will likely be upgraded to a newer variant but not replaced by a more modern missile. The rest of the amount allocated for the MLU will be directed to wiring, automatic control systems, platform management systems, engines, transmitters, etc.
We expect that the US and Spanish proposals for Hydras’ MLU will be based on a mix of Lockheed Martin, Saab, Hensoldt, Indra and Thales equipment. The inclusion of specific Israeli products from Elbit, Rafael and IAI for the American MLU proposal is also possible. The Dutch and British proposals will be based on Thales (Thales Nederland), Leonardo and Terma products while the German proposal will be based on a mix of some of the Thales, Hensoldt, Atlas Elektronik, Saab and Indra products. French proposal will be based on Thales, Elt Roma (only in case of ECM, if Hydras can receive such large systems as Nettuno 4100s) and Furuno.
About the author:
Dimitris Mitsopoulos is an analyst of naval ships, weapons and fleets. He is an editorial contributor at Warship World, Pictorial Review and Ptisi (Flight) magazines. His personal website is navalanalyses.com.