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Politics

Closer with Greece, US Pitches American Warships Big Buy

With a renewed military co-operation deal in hand and wanting a bigger military presence, the United States now is hawking Greece to buy four American-made frigates as part of Greek plans to build its arsenal against Turkish aggression.

Part of the deal, said Defense News in a report, would be to have three co-built in Greece, similar to an agreement about upgrading F-16 fighter jets that has run into difficulty because of management problems in Greece.

“We think the United States is going to have a very competitive product to offer there with our frigates and the unique American proposal to co-produce three of those frigates here in Greece,” said US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, during a panel discussion hosted during the during the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference, the report said.

If Greece goes ahead with the purchase, the US government said three would be built on the island of Syros, at the American-owned Onex Shipyards.

“We had a U.S. Navy International Programs Office team here in Athens just a few weeks ago, which had a very successful round of discussions with Onex, visiting the shipyards (and) seeing the capabilities there,” Pyatt said.

“They came away absolutely confident that if the Greek state goes with the American frigate offer, that the United States and the US Navy IPO will be positioned to implement a co-production approach to that strategically important project – a project which is important to Greece’s long term security, but also advances America’s interest in helping Greece to continue to be a strong and effective NATO partner in a geopolitically complicated neighborhood,” he said.

Defense News said it was unclear which frigate Pyatt was talking about as the US Navy recently launched a new frigate design with the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, but not seen as being the preference of the US.

Lockheed Martin’s Multi-Mission Surface Combatant, being built at Fincantieri’s Marinette Marine shipyard, is a potential contender. The four-ship, $1.96 billion MMSC contract with buyer Saudi Arabia was awarded in December.

Another option would be to refurbish four of the Oliver Hazzard Perry-class frigates not in use, the US Navy having transferred a number to other countries but the Navy declined to discuss any pending sales.

in mothballs. The Navy has transferred a number of those ships to other countries, including the former frigates Taylor and Gary to Taiwan. Turkey also uses converted Oliver Hazzard Perry-class frigates in its fleet.

In September, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his plan included buying four frigates, 18 Rafale fighter jets made by France’s Dassault — a combination of new and used planes — and four MH-60R helicopters from Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky. The country also plans to refurbish four MEKO frigates, as well as procure torpedoes and antitank weapons.

Pyatt said the United States paid “special attention” to the announcement and is eager to offer American defense products to the Greek military.

“Our industry is here for the long haul and is looking now to work with the Greek government as the prime minister seeks to modernize Greece’s defense capabilities,” he said.

Panos Xenokostas, Onex’s President and Chief Executive, said that the company is interacting with the leading shipbuilding companies in the US to prepare its shipyards to begin construction should the Greek frigate program be awarded.

“We understand this is a game changer,” he said. “And that will put our shipyards in a position to attract more business from the United States.”

In 2019, France and Greece had signed a letter of intent to open up formal discussions on a potential purchase of two Belharra frigates, which are being built by the Naval Group for France’s navy. 

Defense Minister Niko Panagiotopoulos said then that there was still a “long way to go” before a final deal is reached between the two nations.

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