Greek Navy Opts for Strategic Speed and Flexibility with New Fast Strike Armed Boats

(Balkanalysis.com Security & Intelligence Brief 14), All Rights Reserved.
Seeking to serve the unique needs presented by its jagged maritime frontier, the Greek Navy has purchased 3 Roussen-class fast strike boats. Based on British design, the Roussens live up to their name- they are small, very fast and heavily armored.

The fast-strike boats are being built in Greece by Elefsis Shipyards and VT Shipbuilding and they cost roughly 150 million euros each. The navy has another two on order.

Greece has traditionally used this kind of boat due to its unique geography. In 1968, during the time of the Junta, the first order was given for the French “Combatante” class boat and then, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, for the German type “S-148″.

Each ship is capable of carrying a crew of only 40-45 men. Ammunition includes 4 surface-to-surface missiles. These can be either the French Exocet, American Harpoon or Norwegian Penguin. The fast boats also contain four torpedoes and a heavy 76mm cannon, as well as short-range anti-aircraft missiles and smaller cannons. The craft also use specialized equipment for electronic warfare and SIGINT.

This type of ship is also used by Israel, France, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. Turkey, Greece’s rival across the Aegean, has some but seems to be not very interested in their use and rarely deploys them. The Turkish fast boats are also based on an older design.

Turkey’s oversight seems to be Greece’s strategic gain. The fast strike boats are exceptionally well suited for the crowded Aegean Sea because they are fast enough to hunt down larger craft, lob missiles at them and then evade pursuit, hiding behind the numerous rocks and islets in the archipelagos. Since the boats are also of minimal height, they are not easily intercepted by radar. Their maximun speed can reach for a few minutes’ duration, 45 knots per hour, and can maintain a more steady pace of around 35 knots per hour.

For Greek defense planners, this type of ship is considered to be the front-line defense in case of war with Turkey, especially in the southeastern area of the Dodecannesian islands. Greece and Turkey almost came to blows in 1997 over ownership of an uninhibated islet near the Dodecannesian island of Kalymnos, and the Turkish illegal overflight of Karpathos, near Rhodes, this summer left one Greek pilot dead.

Another major problem is illegal immigration. Greece claims that it is hampered by some 22,000 applications from illegal immigrants entering the country from Turkey. Just last week, the Greek Navy intercepted another boat containing 60 illegals, mostly Middle Easterners, as it passed westward through the Aegean. Even in the absence of war, constant vigilance is required because of the frequency and audacity of the trafficking operations.
Greek researcher Ioannis Michaletos contributed to this report.

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