Athens Signs Letter of Intent for 2 FDI Belh @ rra frigates from Naval Group

On the occasion of his visit to Paris to meet the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, the new Greek Minister of Defense, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, signed a letter of intent for the acquisition of two Belh@ type frigates. rra of Naval Group. Negotiations around this program, which concerns 2 ships + 2 options, have been underway for several years, and were, until now, blocked by the budgetary difficulties encountered by Greece. By this signature, it seems that an axis of negotiation for a definitive financial arrangement has been found, therefore making it possible to bring this program to fruition.

The Greek IDF will, according to information published by the Ministry of the Armed Forces, be similar in every respect to those planned for the National Navy, with the difference that they will carry, in addition to the 16 Aster 30 missiles in the Sylver 50 silo, 8 missiles of MdCN stealth cruise in Sylver 70 silo. Some reports in the Greek press suggest that Athens would also like to strengthen the anti-aircraft power of the ships, by adding a third Sylver 50 system to increase the number of Aster 30 missiles from 16 to 24. The contract is valued at around €1,2 billion, and Paris would have offered Athens to become a partner of the FDI Belh@rr programa, like what was proposed in Brussels with the CaMo contract concerning the acquisition of the VBMR Griffon and EBRC Jaguar.

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The Greek IDF Belh@rra will deploy 8 stealthy MdCN cruise missiles capable of hitting targets over 1200 km away

If Greece's image was largely damaged following the 2012 crisis, its situation has greatly improved in recent years, with an economic recovery on the horizon, and a national budget in slight surplus. The new government of K. Mitsotakis has also initiated reforms including significant reductions in payroll taxes, to boost employment and put an end to unemployment which still affects 25% of the active population. But the Greek armed forces were among the most affected by the austerity measures imposed by Brussels, and especially by Berlin, the country's main donor, going from an annual budget of €7,5 billion to less than 4 billion €. At the same time, the budget devoted to the Defense of Turkey, the country's historic adversary, increased from €8 billion to nearly €19 billion, and continues to grow. This gap has increased antagonisms between the two countries in the Aegean Sea as well as in Thrace, around Istanbul.

The FDI Belh@rra frigates, in fact, could constitute a rebalancing impatiently awaited vis-à-vis Ankara by the Hellenic Admiralty. The combination of the Aster 30 and MM40 Block III missiles and the Sea Fire radar will, if necessary, make it possible to create access denial zones, particularly around sensitive islands such as those of Lesvos or Cyprus. The MdCN missiles will allow Athens to maintain a response capacity against Turkish strategic infrastructures in the event of escalation, while the advanced anti-submarine detection capabilities of the Belh@rra, associated with its Embedded ASM helicopter, will be able to to neutralize the submarine threat. However, to cover the entire Aegean Sea, the Hellenic Navy will actually need 4 IDF, not 2.

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The Belh@rra represents a condensation of weapon systems and sensors in a hull of only 4.500 tonnes. This is one of the most complete naval weapon systems for such a small tonnage today.

The fact remains that this announcement shows the progress made on this issue in recent months, despite Washington's efforts to try to dissuade Athens to make this acquisition. This also shows the importance that the Greek authorities give to relations with Paris, in an approach which aims to be balanced between France, Germany and the United States. The meeting of the two Defense Ministers will also have made it possible to address the second critical Defense issue which concerns France, the maintenance of the Mirage 2000 of the Greek air forces, which today suffer from a lack of spare parts, and which could benefit from a welcome modernization against the F16 MLU Block 52 of the Turkish air force.

As such, the country's defense industry could represent, for France, a partner of choice, both in the naval and air sectors and in land weapons. The country that will be able to offer a viable industrial and financial solution in the country, could probably become the preferred partner in the reconstruction of the Greek armed forces. For the moment, it is the United States, again, and not a European country, which is showing the most eagerness in this area.

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