The Greek government has approved a multibillion-dollar proposal to modernize the country’s naval forces.
Its largest naval modernization plan in two decades, Greece will spend 2.26 billion euros ($2.53 billion) to purchase three Belharra frigates from French defense contractor Naval Group over the next four years.
Athens may also exercise an option to purchase another Belharra frigate and four corvettes next year.
The approval comes amid the country’s concern that a war like the one between Russia and Ukraine could break out in the Aegean. Tensions between Greece and Turkey have increased due to disputes over territorial waters and sovereign rights to undersea resources such as oil and minerals.
The Turkish government has a standing threat of war with Greece if it claims the full 12 nautical miles of territorial water around its sovereign land, including islands that abut the Turkish coast. Such a claim would give Athens 71.5 percent control over the Aegean.
Equipped With Advanced Weaponry
The Belharra frigate is equipped with advanced weaponry not currently deployed by other forces in the Aegean.
The vessel features the latest version of the Exocet anti-ship cruise missile, able to strike targets up to 200 kilometers (124 miles) away. It also has strong anti-submarine capabilities.
The frigate will also be mounted with the Aster 30 surface-to-air missile, which has a range of 120 kilometers (74 miles). It is designed to create an “umbrella of air superiority” around each frigate.
“The basic thing the Belharra will offer the Greek armed forces is to break Turkish numerical superiority in the air,” a Greek naval officer told Al Jazeera. “It will clear the airspace and offer naval forces the opportunity to operate.”