Less than three years after the retirement of the Themistoclis, the last Charles F. Adams-class guided missile destroyer, the Hellenic Navy is ready to officially request two newer vessels from the U.S. Navy.
Navy officials have prepared and will soon send a letter of request for a pair of used Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers under a government-to-government agreement, said Navy Capt. Stefanos Gikas, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense here. Details about schedule, cost, transfer conditions and weapons would need to be worked out.
“The response of the U.S. administration in the letter of request will be the decisive factor for the implementation of the program,” a high-level Hellenic Navy official said. “What can be said at this initial stage is that the number of the ships should eventually increase to three or four; only at this force level would the introduction of a highly capable and complicated weapon system be worth the initial investment.”
Greece also is asking the United States for four Osprey-class mine-warfare ships and a number of P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. “All these requests will be managed in the framework of the Greek-U.S. Defense and Industrial Cooperation agreement, which governs the military relations of the two allies,” Gikas said.
The destroyers, which carry the Aegis weapons system, are far more capable than anything in Greece’s current fleet. Adm. Panagiotis Chinofotis, chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, said the Burkes would improve Greek and NATO capabilities by:
• Increasing the interoperability of the Greek military and NATO allies.
• Giving Greece a tactical ballistic missile defense capability, thereby allowing the country to participate more actively in similar allied efforts.
• Strengthening NATO’s southeast region, where hot spots and increasing asymmetric threats have drawn more and more alliance attention over the last decade.
• Helping Greece participate in allied missions overseas.
Chinofotis emphasized that “the transfer will also signal the expansion of the Hellenic-U.S. cooperation in the armaments field and the strengthening of the bonds between the two navies, which are more than 100 years old,” he said.
The transfer of the Burkes also may affect the Hellenic Navy’s effort to buy new frigates, the service’s largest program. A proposal to buy one ship with an option for a second is being included in the preliminary drafts of the next five-year unified armaments procurement plan — known as the 2006-10 EMPAE.
The frigate effort will replace the corvette program that was canceled because of excessive costs in November 2002. Some 588 million euros ($722 million) had been planned for the corvettes in 2006-10.
“The picture will become less obscure when the formal process for the 2006-10 EMPAE starts,” the Navy official said. “Until then, everything is a matter of speculation and alternate options.” But he said Greece was determined to maintain a fleet of 14 major surface combatants.
The Navy now operates four Hydra-class (German MEKO-200HN) and 10 Elli-class (Dutch Standard) multipurpose frigates. Six of the Ellis are getting a midlife upgrade under a 386 million euro contract awarded in 2003 to Thales Naval Nederland, Hengelo, the Netherlands, and Hellenic Shipyards, Skaramanga, Greece. A midlife upgrade for the Hydras will begin in 2010. •
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