US approves possible upgrade of four MEKO Hydra-Class Frigates of Hellenic Navy

According to information published by the United States Department of Defense on December 10, 2021, the U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Greece of four MEKO Hydra-Class Frigates Modernization and related equipment for an estimated cost of $2.5 billion.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Hellenic Navy Hydra-class frigate Salamis F-455 (Picture source Wikipedia via Eugenio Castillo Pert)

The Government of Greece has requested to buy equipment and services to repair, update, and enhance their four existing Hellenic Navy (HN) MEKO Class frigates. The MEKO 200 is a frigate design by the German shipyard Blohm+Voss as part of the MEKO family of warships. Currently Hellenic Navy has a total of four MEKO-200HN Hydra-class frigates. The program was authorized in 1988 and partially paid for with FMS aid and previsioned for the commission of six vessels. The first ship was built in Germany and commissioned in 1992. 

On April 25, 2018 the Greek defense minister Panos Kammenos announced that the modernization of the four vessels is in progress but without presenting any further details about the program. 

These upgrades will include the following: eight (8) Close in Weapon Systems (CIWS) Phalanx BLK 1B Baseline 2 upgrade kits; four (4) MK 45, 5” 54 caliber gun overhauls; four (4) MK 49 Guided Missile Launcher Systems; four (4) COMBATSS-21 Combat Management Systems; and, four (4) AN/SQS-56 Sonar overhauls. Also included is the repair and/or upgrade of existing systems; ordnance; testing; training; systems integration; follow-on technical support; acquisition, upgrades, and overhaul of Narwhal 20A Gun System; Sylena MK 2 Decoy Launching System with CANTO torpedo countermeasure; Radar/Fire Control TRS-4D; Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Mode 5; NIXIE SLQ-25 Surface Ship Torpedo Defense System; Helicopter Handling System (Repairs); Defense Advance GPS Receiver (DAGR); Gun Computer System (GCS); Low Frequency Active Towed Sonar (LFATS); Compact Low Frequency Active Passive Variable Depth Sonar-2 (CAPTAS-2); Infrared Search & Track System (IRST); Elta Electronic Warfare (EW), with C-ESM, R-ESM, and ECM capability; Naval Laser- Warning System (NLWS); 7 meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB); SQQ-89 ASW System; Fire Control Radar System; Improved Point Detection System-Lifecycle Replacement (IPDS-LR); Enhanced Maritime Biological Detection (EMBD), as well as significant Hull, Mechanical and Electrical upgrades, replacements, and repairs; support and test equipment; spare and repair parts; communications equipment, including Link 16 communications equipment; Battlefield Information Collection and Exploitation System (BICES); AN/SRQ-4 Tactical Common Datalink (TCDL); Global Command and Control System-Joint (GCCS-J); Air Defense Systems Integrator (ADSI); cryptographic equipment including SY-150, SY-117G, and KYV-5M; software delivery and support; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, systems integration, technical, and logistics support services; test and trials support; studies and surveys; and other related elements of logistical and program support. The estimated total cost is $2.5 billion.

The proposed sale will improve Greece’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing an effective combatant deterrent capability to protect maritime interests and infrastructure in support of its strategic location on NATO’s southern flank. This acquisition, which will be awarded to the winner of an international competition for the Hellenic Navy (HN) MEKO Class Frigate Upgrade, will enhance stability and maritime security in the Eastern Mediterranean region and contribute to security and strategic objectives of NATO and the United States. Greece contributes to NATO operations in Kosovo, as well as to counterterrorism and counter-piracy maritime efforts. Greece will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.

The four Hydra-class frigates of the Hellenic Navy are based on the MEKO 200HN design built by the Gerrman company Blohm and Voss. The first ship was built in Germany while the other three were constructed at the Hellenic Shipyards at Scaramanga. HS Spetsai (F453) was commissioned in October 1996, HS Psara (F454) in April 1998 and HS Salamis (F455) in December 1998.

The Hydra-class frigate has a length of 117.5 m, a beam of 14.8 m, a draught of 6.0 m, and a fully-loaded displacement of 4,000 tons. The ship is powered by a Combined diesel or gas (CODOG) propulsion system including two MTU diesel engines, model 20V956TB82 with a power output of 3,830kW, a General Electric gas turbine, model LM2500-30 with a power output of 22,300kW, a reduction gearbox with clutch coupling and an SSS clutch driving an Escher Wyss controllable pitch propeller. She can reach a top speed of 31 knots (57 km/h) with a maximum cruising range of 4,100 nautical miles (7,600 km) at 18 knots (33 km/h). 

The Hydra-class frigate is armed with one Mk 45 Mod 2A 5" naval gun, two Mk15 Phalanx 20 mm CIWS (Close-In Weapon Systems), two Mk141 2×2 launchers for HARPOON anti-ship missiles, Mk 48 Mod 2 vertical launcher for 16× RIM-162 ESSM Medium-range surface-to-air missile, and two Mk32 Mod 5 2×324mm T/T for Mk46 torpedoes. 

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