In November 2019, it was reported that the American company Lockheed-Martin was ready to supply Greece with four “multi-mission surface combatant” frigates. [MMSC] for less than $2 billion, including weapons systems. Better yet, he would also have suggested having these ships built by a Greek shipyard.
Ultimately, Athens rejected this generous offer [sur le papier] and preferred to stick to the purchase of three defense and intervention frigates [FDI] from the French naval group for around 3 billion euros. However, the American offer for the four MMSCs was retained, albeit at an amount re-estimated at 6.1 billion euros, according to a notice published in December 2021 by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency [DSCA]responsible for the export of military equipment under the so-called FMS procedure [Foreign Military Sales].
As a reminder, the design of the MMSC-type frigate is inspired by that of the Littoral Combat Ship [LCS] the Freedom class, which the US Navy no longer wants due to inadequate performance and reliability. After the USS Freedom, the USS Sioux City was decommissioned in August 2023 after only four years of service. A few weeks later, the USS Little Rock and the USS Detroit suffered the same fate. But these ships could sail again… but under the flag of the Greek Navy.
Recently, without elaborating, the Secretary of the Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs of the Greek Parliament, Tasos Chatzivasileiou, indicated that Greece was still considering the acquisition of four MMSC-type frigates. And this is exactly the scenario that is emerging after the recent visit of Antony Blinken, the head of American diplomacy, to Athens.
Thus, on January 29, the daily newspaper I Kathimeriní reported that Greek Defense Minister Nikos Dendias had indicated that the United States had offered to give the Greek Navy, free of charge, the four “Freedom” class LCS that it had recently acquired Greek Navy to deliver disarmed. But this offer goes beyond that, as there is also talk of including Athens in the “Constellation” program, which aims to equip the US Navy with at least twenty new frigates.
“We are also examining an interim solution with LCS, which the USA offers us free of charge. But beyond that, we are also discussing the design and co-production of the new generation Constellation frigates,” said Mr. Dendias after a meeting with Vassilis Palmas, his Cypriot counterpart.
Athens' goal is to acquire seven frigates of this class. “If Greece agrees, it could participate in the design of this program according to its needs. This could be a great step forward for both the Greek Navy and the Greek marine industry,” argued Dendias.
As a reminder, in May 2020, the US Navy announced that it had selected Fincantieri Marinette Marine as part of its FFG(X) program. Apparently, the Constellation class is largely inspired by the Italian model of the multi-role frigate [FREMM]. This new ship will have a displacement of 7,000 tons and will in particular be equipped with CAPTAS-4 sonar, an EASR air surveillance radar, the AEGIS BL 10 combat system, 32 MK 41 vertical take-off systems and two MH helicopters. 60R.
Ironically, Greece became interested in the French model of the FREMM in 2008 to replace the six Elli-class frigates purchased second-hand from the Netherlands. But the euro crisis, with its consequences for Athens' state finances, put a stop to this project to modernize the Greek navy.