WASHINGTON — The Greek government has signed the paperwork for three new French frigates, plus a fourth if things go well, in a deal that could be worth around $3.5 billion.
The March 24 announcement follows a strategic defense partnership between the countries initiated last fall by French President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The signature on the frigate purchase, ceremoniously delivered in Athens, sets in motion a tight production schedule that will see two ships delivered in 2025 and one in 2026.
The deal with France’s Naval Group puts to rest speculation about whether Lockheed Martin was hoping for a last-minute snatch of a similar sale to the Hellenic Navy. The U.S. defense giant is known to be in the running for naval business opportunities in Greece, pursuing work to upgrade existing vessels and, if the chance arises, to build entire warships.
Naval Group CEO Pierre Eric Pommellet and retired Vice Adm. Aristeidis Alexopoulos, Greece’s military-acquisition chief, today signed the contract for new frigates of the French shipbuilder’s FDI variant, which stands for frégate de defense et d’intervention. French Defense Minister Florence Parly and her Greek counterpart, Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, also attended the festivities.
“With defense and intervention frigates, Greece completes and strengthens its ability to act,” Parly said. “It will have buildings equipped with a latest generation combat system, powerful, capable of protecting the approaches to Greece and defending its national interests.”
The envisioned Greek ships contribute to a naval modernization trend in the Mediterranean Sea. The region is a key transit hub for major international shipping lanes, it borders volatile Middle East hotspots, and disputes over energy resources buried beneath the ocean floor have flared up in recent years.
Naval Group says the FDI frigates’ air and surface combat power stems from modern sensors such as the Thales Sea Fire radar. The ships boast a novel, integrated mast combining all on-board sensor signals for permanent, 360-degree surveillance of the surroundings, according to the shipbuilder.
Weaponry includes Naval Group’s MU90 torpedos as well as Exocet anti-ship and Aster anti-aircraft missiles made by MBDA. The ship type also sports space for a 10-ton helicopter and an aerial drone.
Notably, Naval Group’s CANTO anti-torpedo weapon also is part of the package for Greece. The system consists of small, launchable decoys constantly emitting a flood of signals in efforts to misguide incoming torpedos away from the ship, effectively running them out of gas.
Sebastian Sprenger is Europe editor for Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multinational investments in defense and global security. He previously served as managing editor for Defense News.