Babcock has announced it had held talks with officials in Greece proposing the Arrowhead-140 design (the basis for the Royal Navy’s Type 31) as a candidate for the Hellenic Navy’s new frigate modernisation programme.
Working jointly with the UK Government, Babcock says that it can provide the Hellenic Navy assistance with upgrades to the existing Hydra Class frigates, an interim frigate capability and four Babcock Arrowhead 140 frigates.
The new frigates would be built in Greece, helping the domestic supply chain, and include upgrading infrastructure and a transfer of skills and technology. Babcock has been engaging with Greece-based companies interested in being part of the supply chain and recently held a live online event in Athens, under the auspices of the Hellenic MoD Armaments Directorate.
Thales will provide the Combat Management System and is already involved in the upgrade of the MEKO 200 Hydra Class frigates upgrades, delivering commonality of systems from the current frigate fleet to the new fleet of Arrowhead 140s.
Details of how the Greek frigates could be equipped are unclear but would seem be more heavily armed than the Type 31. The accompanying image appears to show a 32 cell-VLS and 8 canister-launched Anti-ship missiles amidships. The aft Bofors 40mm gun is retained but the forward mount is replaced by a RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launcher which is already in service with the Hellenic Navy. The new Leonardo Sovraponte 76/62 gun replaces the 57mm of Type 31. The sensor fit would appear to be similar to Type 31, but with the addition of dedicated gunfire control radars.
Babcock faces stiff competition from experienced international competitors. French shipbuilder, Naval Group have submitted a proposal to Greece for 4 Frégate de défense et d’intervention (FDI) vessels, based on the design of 5 ships for the Marine Nationale that will shortly begin construction. The first ship would be built in France and the remaining 3 vessels in Greece. They would also provide 4 ex-French navy frigates as an interim solution. Navantia has proposed 4 ships based on F110-class multi-mission frigate being built for the Spanish Navy. Dutch shipbuilder Damen is proposing the brand-new SIGMA 11515 frigate design for Greece, an evolution of the SIGMA 10514 already in service with several navies.
The US has offered the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) derivative of the US Navy’s Freedom-Class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to Greece which Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine are building for Saudi Arabia. The MMSC is relatively well-armed but the LCS platform is controversial and has poor survivability. Both the FDI and F110 are more capable than Type 31 but also likely to be more expensive than the Babcock proposal.
The RN would appear to only have two frigates potentially available to offer the Greeks in the interim – HMS Monmouth and Montrose. Both would require very significant work before they could be considered fit for another 5 years of service and there may be foreign frigates available that would better suit the requirement.
An export success for Arrowhead-140 would be great news for the RN, Babcock and UK industry as a whole, together with the success of Type 26, would demonstrate that UK warship designers have become a global force once again.