Athens has sent an expression of interest to Defence to buy the RAN’s two remaining Adelaide-class FFG frigates, HMA Ships Melbourne and Newcastle, ADM can confirm.
Greek Minister for Defence Evangelos Apostolakis referenced the move during a press conference attended by local media in late December.
Minister Apostolakis said the Adelaide-class, a modified version of the US Oliver Hazard Perry class, is one of three options under consideration as an interim capability for the Hellenic Navy. Other possibilities include American LCS frigates or the French La Fayette class.
“Defence has received expressions of interest from the Hellenic Navy, as well as other countries in relation to the Adelaide class frigates,” a Defence spokesperson said to ADM.
Greece is currently looking to expand its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean as tensions with Turkey grow over regional natural gas exploration. Cyprus has granted drilling rights to a number of foreign companies, with ExxonMobil expected to shortly begin drilling in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone – a move Turkey has warned against.
Ankara has previously used warships to prevent Italian company ENI from drilling at a site not far from Exxon’s license.
A report by Ptsisi Magazine indicates that Greece also intends to use the ships to leverage its position as a ‘bridge of cooperation’ between the US and Egypt.
The attractiveness of the Adelaide-class largely rests on upgrades received under the Sea 1390 program, which added medium range surface-to-air Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSMs), SM-2 Block IIIA long-range air defence missiles and associated sensor and combat system enhancements. The ships are the first Australian vessels powered by gas turbines and can move from cold in less than 30 minutes.
Sources indicate that Greece may seek an end-to-end user certificate from the US to acquire the SM2s and ESSM missiles with the Australian ships. ADM understands, however, that RAN is unlikely to include weapons with a potential sale.
The most recent FFGs to be decommissioned are ex-HMA Ships Sydney and Darwin, with the former taken apart and the latter awaiting a decision on its future. Ex-HMAS Darwin was the first Australian ship to deploy to the Persian Gulf.
Three new Hobart-class guided missile destroyers are replacing the Adelaide-class. Two have been commissioned into RAN service with the third due this year.
ADM understands that the Minister’s remarks have preceded a possible visit to Australia by Greek representatives.
“Defence treats all expressions of interest on disposals as ‘in-confidence’ unless otherwise agreed with the relevant country, and does not comment on the details of subsequent discussions or negotiations,” the Defence spokesperson said.
“Any decision regarding the purchase of Adelaide class frigates from Australia is a matter for the relevant foreign government.
“Once withdrawn from service, Defence has no plans to retain the Adelaide class frigates.”
Poland officially expressed interest in buying the last Adelaide-class vessels in 2017 but negotiations have reportedly since fallen through.
Editor's Note: This article has been revised to correct the current status of HMAS Darwin.