Ally Anxiety: US May Block Another French Naval Deal After Approving $9.4 Bln Sale to Greece
Earlier this year, Washington revealed that it would deliver Australia's first nuclear-powered submarine as part of a new trilateral security partnership, despite France's Naval Group having already discussed a $90 billion submarine contract with Australia. The move prompted Paris to recall its ambassadors in both Canberra and Washington.
The US State Department has reportedly approved a foreign military sale geared toward the modernisation of Greece's Hellenic Navy (HN) MEKO Class frigates and the delivery of four Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ships, according to a Friday release from the Pentagon's Defence Security Cooperation Agency.
Per the announcement, Greece is seeking to pay up to $6.9 billion to obtain a variety of naval equipment, including at least four MMSC ships; five Vertical Launch Systems; and five COMBATSS-21 Combat Management Systems, the latter an Aegis-derived system marketed as a cheaper alternative for next-generation surface fleets.
Lockheed Martin is the sole principal contractor for the sale of the weapons.
Meanwhile, the other approved sale covers repairs, updates and enhancement of the HN's existing MEKO Class frigates. The modernisation of the fleet is estimated to cost around $2.5 billion.
Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, BAE Systems, and VSE Corporation are the principal contractors associated with this sale.
"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," Washington touted in both Friday announcements.
The US approval of the combined $9.4 billion in naval weapons sales comes after France's Naval Group announced in September that it would sell three frigates to Greece as part of a tentative $3.4 billion deal. The agreement included an option for the future procurement of a fourth frigate.
At the time, French military spokesman Hervé Grandjean noted that Paris expected the agreement with Athens to be finalised within "a period of three months".
Though it's unclear whether the newly-approved US deal with Greece will torpedo France's tentative contract, the move could be perceived as Washington slighting its NATO ally for a second time this year.
In September, France's Naval Group expressed "deep disappointment" in Australia's decision to adopt a new nuclear submarine initiative as part of its new AUKUS affiliation. The move nixed a $90 billion submarine contract with the French defence contractor.
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