French industry has locked down the missile specifications of an airdefense model of the FREMM multimission frigate in talks with Greeceand is embarking on negotiations on industrial cooperation, industryexecutives said.
Despite thebudgetary crisis assailing Athens, industry executives hope the GreekNavy will sign for the FREMM warship in 2012. Talks have centered on anorder for four ships and options for two more.
Missile maker MBDA would supply a total 56 surface to air missiles on the air defense frigate proposed to the Greek authorities.
Inthe configuration proposed, the long range Aster 30 missiles would behoused in three Sylver A50 launchers and a Sylver A70 launcher in thefront of the ship, Stéphane Bertuzzi, MBDA head of naval systems toldjournalists here. In addition, the vertical launch Mica missile wouldbe housed in six Sylver A35 launchers at the rear.
"This is what we've proposed to the Greek Navy," Bertuzzi said.
Inthe French Navy anti-submarine warfare version of the FREMM, the A70launcher would be used for the Scalp cruise missile, giving a deepstrike capability of 1,000 kilometers.
MBDA builds the Aster andMica missiles, while DCNS builds the Sylver launchers. Thales buildsthe seekers in the missiles as well as the Herakles 3D radar andArtemis infrared search and track sensor which are used to cue theweapons.
The missile company has found it hard going to sellthe Aster 30 missile in export markets, encountering price resistance."Customers are asking for the Aster 30 but they can only afford the VLMica," an executive said.
A French Navy officer on board theChevalier Paul air defense destroyer said Greek Navy officers recentlyvisited the Horizon class warship and were impressed by itscapabilities. "They said they wanted this ship for the same price asthe FREMM," the officer said.
Discussions with the Greekauthorities on the FREMM are held every two weeks and are led by theDirection Générale de l'Armement (DGA) procurement office. "Everythingis on track," a DCNS official told journalists here ahead of theEuronaval trade show which opens Oct. 25.
French executivesbelieve the budgetary and political situation in Greece may have calmeddown in 2012, and the need to maintain employment in local shipyardswill help the government to sign a contract for the warships.
Thetalks on industrial cooperation are key as Greece expects to obtain ahigh level of local assembly of the FREMM frigate in domestic yards, anindustry executive said.
Italy, which had been in the running tooffer its version of the FREMM, is understood to have bowed out of thecompetition, ceding the ground to the French.
DCNS has 12 FREMMships on the orderbooks, 11 for the French Navy, down from an initialplanned 17-ship buy, while Morocco has bought one FREMM.
Thecompany five years ago invested 15 million euros in adding toproduction facilities here in anticipation of the full build out of the17 French ships. DCNS has slowed production to one ship per 10 monthsinstead of seven months but can pick up the rate to one every sevenmonths if export orders are won.
Exports of the FREMM areneeded to make up for the cancellations in the national program. Franceis also trying to sell the frigate to Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
TheMoroccan FREMM is based on the French Navy's version, with littlemodification, but is widely seen as a consolation prize for Paris afterRabat bought the Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter instead of the Rafalefrom Dassault Aviation.
DCNS launched April 29 the first ofclass Aquitaine and has started building the Normandie, the second inthe series for the French Navy.
President Nicolas Sarkozyvisited the Aquitaine here in May and departed from a prepared speechto describe himself as a member of the DCNS sales team as he insistedon the importance of France maintaining an industrial manufacturingcapability.
The focus on the industrial and commercial sidediscomfited the senior Navy officers present as they saw that asundercutting the president's status as commander in chief and thesignificance to the service of the Aquitaine as the first of class in anew generation of warships.