The standard for FDI frigates is finalized, and it is remarkable!

The signing on October 10 of a letter of intent between Athens and Paris for the acquisition of two FDI frigates (Defense and Intervention Frigate), plus very probably the construction of two others in Greece, opened technical discussions for bring the FDI closer to the military needs of the Hellenic Navy. The discussions held in Athens last week are beginning to outline how the National Navy version is evolving and what characteristics will be specific to the Greek IDF.

The structuring points of the Franco-Greek discussions are the need to move quickly because with a view to a potential order of four IDF long-term supply orders must be placed with the manufacturers concerned before January 31, 2020. And to move quickly within the framework of a financial exercise constrained for both parties, one of the most probable solutions is that Paris faces marginally evolve the National Navy version.

It is noted that the National Navy version of the FDI is evolving so as to no longer have only two octuple launchers SYLVER (VERTical Launch System). At the launch of the Intermediate Size Frigate (FTI) program, called FDI since January 1, 2019, the configuration decided for the French Navy was two SYLVER A50 (2 x 8 ASTER missiles (AeroSpatial TERminal) 15 or 30).

Fregate Defense and Intervention 2019 Defense News | CIWS and SHORAD | Military naval construction
The French and Greek Defense and Intervention Frigates (FDI) will be equipped with 3 octuple SYLVER A50 launchers (24 ASTER 15/30 anti-aircraft missiles) and 1 octuple SYLVER A70 launcher (8 MdCN missiles). This configuration brings them closer to the standards of Asian navies of equivalent tonnage, unlike the initial configuration (2 x SYLVER A50).

To meet the Greek need and meet the deadlines in order to conclude all long-term supply contracts before January 31, 2020, the existing reserves allowing the increase from 2 to 4 SYLVER will be used. On the other hand, and this is a surprise, the two navies agreed on the same configuration for the vertical launch system and not on two different configurations with four SYLVER launchers.

The Hellenic Navy and the National Navy will have a configuration of the vertical launch system based on:

  • 3 x SYLVER A50 (24 ASTER 15/30 missiles)
  • 1 X SYLVER A70 (8 MdCN missiles).

It should be noted that the Hellenic Navy, in order to have four octuple SYLVER launchers, by exploiting the reserve provided for in the National Navy version, finds itself in the position of obligatorily requesting the MdCN capacity, which requires integrating a SYLVER A70, in order not to diverge from the effort that the French Navy is prepared to make to finance integration studies. The use of reserves to integrate two additional SYLVERs will be made possible by studies which will boil down to connecting these launchers to the combat system and the various networks on board.

Launch of an Aster 15 missile from the FREMM Bretagne of the French Navy Defense News | CIWS and SHORAD | Military naval construction
With 24 ASTER 15/30 anti-aircraft missiles, the IDF will have a reinforced anti-aircraft capacity to face attacking salvos or a succession of attacks.

In the specific case of France, the fact of adopting such a configuration of the vertical launch system, even if it involves satisfying a Greek request by modifying the national version of a program with major effect, commits everything in considering these criticisms an increase in the anti-aircraft defense capabilities of the first-rate anti-submarine frigates of the French Navy because the frigates of the Horizon program carry 48 ASTER 15 and 30 missiles, the FREMM only 16 except 32 for the particular case of the Alsace et Lorraine delivered in 2021 and 2022. Is this a simple collateral effect of the negotiations or the timely consent of the French Navy with a view to preparing the first major technical shutdowns of the FREMM?

On the other hand, the Greek request to add, in addition to the ASTER 15 and 30, CAAM missiles (Common Anti-air Modular Missile) of MBDA, was not retained. Same fate for the SIMBAD RC system (Remote Control) which can shoot up to two MISTRAL (MIStransportable sile Light anti-aircraft).

strales Oto melara 76mm Defense News | CIWS and SHORAD | Military naval construction
The Greek IDF will receive the 76mm STRALES cannon from OTO Melara with an increased rate of fire and guided shells, several of which can be fired simultaneously. Some French FDI could receive this artillery piece.

It is also noted that the Hellenic Navy will have a piece on the front beach of its FDI 76 mm STRALES (2004) by OTO Melara replacing the previous version (Super Quick (1985). It would seem that the French Navy would have agreed to adopt this artillery piece. Part of the French FDI's 76 mm were to come from FREMM Nos. 9, 10 and 11, the order of which was canceled without the supply contract with the Italian manufacturer being able to be renegotiated.

Without the choice of this equipment appearing confirmed, it would not be surprising if the FDI n°1, 2 and 3 of the French Navy received the 76 mm Super Rapido from the FREMM n°9, 10 and 11 canceled and that the FDI n° °4 and 5 receive 76 mm STRALES as part of a joint order with the Hellenic Navy since it would have been necessary, in all cases, to place an order for the last two FDIs of the French Navy while looming on the horizon the mid-life renovation of the two frigates of the Horizon program whose two 76 mm guns could be replaced.

The STRALES system can engage several attacking missiles thanks to its DART guided shell (Driven Ammunition Reduced Time of flight) until 8000 meters with a muzzle exit speed increased to 1200 ms-1 compared to 900 ms-1 for the previous version. This system tends to compete with CIWS (Close-In Weapon System), great point of attention of the Greek navy.

It is also noted that Greek IDFs will receive during their construction a system CIWS Mk15 Phalanx CIWS 20mm. They will be taken from the frigates of the Hellenic Navy of the Elli class which will be decommissioned, as a prelude to the admission to active service of the Greek IDF. These two frigates to be disarmed will perhaps be the oldest, unless other frigates of the same class are in less good condition, namely the Aigaion (1993 – 2024?) and adrias (1993 – 2026?).

Furthermore, the aeronautical installations of the National Navy version will be slightly reworked and adapted to allow the integration of the S-70B-6 Aegean Hawk anti-submarine warfare helicopters which are on staff in the Greek Navy.

S70B Aegean hawk Defense News | CIWS and SHORAD | Military naval construction
The IDF hangar will be slightly modified to accommodate the S-70B helicopter Aegean hawk in service in the Hellenic Navy

The next steps on the calendar are, initially, the meeting of the Supreme Council of the (Greek) Navy on November 25 in order to approve – or not – the configuration agreed during the discussions held in Athens. In parallel with this procedure, the General Secretariat of the Greek Government will inform the Ministry of the Interior of the progress of the discussions in order to communicate the result to the competent committee of the Greek Parliament.

In the event of a green light granted by the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (Κυβερνητικό Συμβούλιο Εξωτερικών και Άμυνας (ΚΥΣΕΑ), the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) and its Greek equivalent, the General Directorate of Defense Investments and of Armaments (Γενική Διεύθυνση Αμυντικών Εξοπλισμών και Επενδύσεων (ΓΔΑΕΕ) will draft the acquisition contract for the two FDIs through Athens.

There is still talk of two additional FDIs being built in Greece but their case does not seem to fit into the format of the current negotiation. They may be covered by a separate program.

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