Hellenic Navy Seal
|Active||1821 (de facto)|
|Size||c. 30,000 active personnel|
115 Warships & other Boats, including:
19 Missile Boats
9 Tank-landing Ships
6 Patrol Boats
47 Fleet Support & other Auxiliary Ships
3 Memorial Ships
|Part of||Hellenic Armed Forces|
"The rule of the sea is indeed a great matter"
|Colors||Blue, White & Gold|
|March||The Aegean sailor.|
|Engagements||Greek war of independence|
World War I
World War II
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Desert Shield
Operation Sharp Guard
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Active Endeavour
Operation Ocean Shield
2011 military intervention in Libya
War on Terror
|Chief of the Navy General Staff|| Vice Admiral|
|Chief of the Fleet Command|| Vice Admiral|
|Chief of the Hellenic Navy Logistic Support Command|| Vice Admiral|
The Hellenic Navy (HN; Greek: ?, Polemikó Naftikó, abbreviated ) is the naval force of Greece, part of the Hellenic Armed Forces. The modern Greek navy has its roots in the naval forces of various Aegean Islands, which fought in the Greek War of Independence. During the periods of monarchy (1833-1924 and 1936-1973) it was known as the Royal Hellenic Navy ( , Vasilikón Naftikón, abbreviated ).
The total displacement of the fleet is approximately 150,000 tons and it is the 22nd largest Navy in the world by total number of vessels. The HN also operates a number of naval aviation units.
The motto of the Hellenic Navy is "? " from Thucydides' account of Pericles' oration on the eve of the Peloponnesian War. This has been translated as "The rule of the sea is a great matter". The Hellenic Navy's emblem consists of an anchor in front of a crossed Christian cross and trident, with the cross symbolizing Greek Orthodoxy, and the trident symbolizing Poseidon, the god of the sea in Greek mythology. Pericles' words are written across the top of the emblem.
The navy, as it represents a necessary weapon for Greece, should only be created for war and aim to victory.-- Greek Government (1866)
The history of the Hellenic Navy begins with the birth of modern Greece, and due to the maritime nature of the country, it has always featured prominently in modern Greece's military history.
At the beginning of the Greek War of Independence, the naval forces of the Greeks consisted primarily of the merchant fleet of the Saronic islanders from Hydra, Spetsai and Poros and also the islanders of Psara and Samos. The fleet was of crucial importance to the success of the revolt. Its goal was to prevent as much as possible the Ottoman Navy from resupplying the isolated Ottoman garrisons and land reinforcements from the Ottoman Empire's Asian provinces.
Although Greek crews were experienced seamen, the light Greek ships, mostly armed merchantmen, were unable to stand up to the large Turkish ships of the line in direct combat. So the Greeks conducted the equivalent of modern-day naval special operations, resorting to the use of fireships (Greek: or ), with great success. It was in the use of such ships that courageous seamen like Constantine Kanaris won international renown. Under the leadership of capable admirals, most prominently Andreas Miaoulis of Hydra, the Greek fleet achieved early victories, guaranteeing the survival of the revolt in the mainland.
However, as Greece became embroiled in a civil war, the Sultan called upon his strongest subject, Muhammad Ali of Egypt, for aid. Plagued by internal strife and financial difficulties in keeping the fleet in constant readiness, the Greeks failed to prevent the capture and destruction of Kasos and Psara in 1824, or the landing of the Egyptian army at Modon. Despite victories at Samos and Gerontas, the Revolution was threatened with collapse until the intervention of the Great Powers in the Battle of Navarino in 1827. There the Egypto-Ottoman fleet was decisively defeated by the combined fleets of the Britain, France and the Russian Empire, effectively securing the independence of Greece.
When Ioannis Capodistrias became governor of newly liberated Greece in 1828, the Greek fleet consisted of few remaining ships, which had participated in the war for independence. The first minister of "Naval affairs" was Constantine Kanaris, and the most powerful ship of the fleet at that time, the frigate Hellas, had been constructed in the United States in 1825. The Hellenic Navy established its headquarters at the island of Poros and the building of a new series of ships began at the naval base while old ships were gradually being retired. Furthermore, continuous efforts towards the education of officers were initiated. Young people were initially trained at the military school of Scholi Evelpidon and afterwards they were transferred to the navy, as there was no such thing as a Naval Academy.
In 1831, Greece descended into anarchy with numerous areas, including Mani and Hydra, in revolt. It was during this revolt that the flagship Hellas, docked at Poros, was set on fire by Admiral Andreas Miaoulis. Capodistrias was assassinated a few months after.
When the new King Otto arrived in the Greek capital, Nafplion, in 1832 aboard the British warship HMS Madagascar, the Greek fleet consisted of 1 corvette, 3 brigs, 6 gollettes, 2 gunboats, 2 steamboats and a few more small vessels. The first Naval School was founded in 1846 on the Corvette Loudovikos and Leonidas Palaskas was assigned as its director. However the inefficient training of the officers, coupled with conflict between those who pursued modernization and those who were stalwarts of the traditions of the veterans of the struggle for independence, resulted in a restricted and inefficient navy, which was limited to policing the sea and the pursuit of pirates.
During the 1850s, the more progressive elements of the navy won out and the fleet was augmented with more ships. In 1855, the first iron propeller-driven ships were ordered from England. These were the steamships Panopi, Pliksavra, Afroessa, and Sfendoni.
On October 29, 1863, following an enthronement ceremony in his native Copenhagen and a tour of several of the European capitals, Prince Wilhelm of Denmark arrived aboard the Greek flagship Hellas, to take up the throne as King George I of Greece. During the 1866 Cretan revolt, the ships of the Royal Hellenic Navy were in no condition to support it. Such failure led to the government awakening to the problem of naval insufficiency and the adoption of a policy stating that: "The navy, as it represents a necessary weapon for Greece, should only be created for war and aim to victory." Because of this, the fleet was supplied with new and bigger ships, reflecting a number of innovations including the use of iron in shipbuilding industry and the invention of the torpedo; with these advances, the effectiveness and the appearance of the Hellenic Navy changed.
Meanwhile, after 1878, because of the Russo-Turkish War and the need to expand the Greek navy, a new and larger naval base was established in the area of Faneromeni of Salamis and a few years later it was transferred to the area of Arapis where it remains today. At the same time the Naval Academy was founded and Ilias Kanellopoulos was made Director. A committee from France headed by Admiral Lejeune introduced a new, advanced naval organization and the methodological training of enlisted personnel through the establishment of a training school in the old building of the naval base in Poros. During the government of Charilaos Trikoupis in 1889, the fleet was further increased with the acquisition of new battleships:Hydra, Spetsai, and Psara from France. Thus, when Greece went to war in the Greco-Turkish War in 1897, the Hellenic Navy established its dominance in the Aegean Sea. However, it was unable to change the outcome of the war on land, which was a national humiliation.
In 1907, the Hellenic Navy General Staff ( ) was founded, with then-Captain Pavlos Kountouriotis as its first head. After the war, in 1897, the Ottoman Empire embarked on a program of naval expansion for its fleet and as a response to that, in 1909, the cruiser Georgios Averof was bought from Italy. In 1910, an English naval mission arrived, headed by Admiral Tuffnel, in order to recommend improvements in the organization and training of the navy. The mission led to the adoption of the English style of management, organization and training, especially in the area of strategy.
The Navy, shortly before the Balkan Wars, was composed of a destroyer and battleship fleet. Its mission was primarily offensive, aiming at capturing the Ottoman-held islands of the Eastern Aegean, and establish naval supremacy in the area. To that end, its commander-in-chief, Rear Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis, established a forward base at the Moudros bay at Lemnos, directly opposite the Dardanelles straits. After defeating the two Turkish sallies from the Straits at Elli (December 1912) and Lemnos (January 1913), the Aegean Sea was secured for Greece.
The Balkan Wars were followed by a rapid escalation between Greece and the Ottoman Empire over the as yet unclear status of the islands of the Eastern Aegean. Both governments embarked on a naval armaments race, with Greece purchasing the obsolete battleships Lemnos and Kilkis and the light cruiser Elli as well as ordering two dreadnoughts, the Vasilefs Konstantinos and the Salamis and a number of destroyers. However, with the outbreak of the First World War, construction of the dreadnoughts stopped.
Initially during the war, Greece followed a course of neutrality, with the Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos favoring the Entente and pro-German King Constantine I advocating neutrality. This dispute eventually led to a deep political conflict, known as the "National Schism". In November 1916, in order to apply pressure on the royal government in Athens, the French confiscated the Greek ships. They continued to operate with French crews, primarily in convoy escort and patrol duties in the Aegean, until Greece entered the war on the side of the Allies in June 1917, at which point they were returned to Greece. Subsequently, the Greek Navy took part in the Allied operations in the Aegean, in the Allied expedition in support of Denikin's White Armies in the Ukraine, and in the operations of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 in Asia Minor.
After Greece's catastrophic defeat, the 1920s and early 1930s were a politically turbulent period, with the economy in a bad state, so the Navy received no new units, apart from the modernization of four destroyers and the acquisition of six French submarines in 1927 and four Italian destroyers in 1929.
In 1938, Greece ordered four modern Greyhound class destroyers in British shipyards, making a serious step towards modernization. The outbreak of war in Europe, however, allowed only two to be delivered. Greece entered World War II with a navy consisting of 2 battleships, 1 armoured cruiser, 14 destroyers, and six submarines.
During the Greco-Italian War, the Navy took over convoy escort missions in the Ionian Sea and even embarked on three raids against the Italian supply convoys in the Strait of Otranto, although without success. The most important role was given to the submarines, which although obsolete, sank some Italian cargo ships in the Adriatic, losing one submarine in the process. The Greek submarine force (six boats) was however too small to be able to seriously hinder the supply lines between Italy and Albania (between 28 October 1940 and 30 April 1941, Italian ships made 3,305 voyages across the Otranto straits, carrying 487,089 military personnel, including 22 field divisions, and 584,392 tons of supplies while losing overall only seven merchant ships and one escort ship).
When Nazi Germany attacked Greece, the RHN suffered heavily at the hands of the Luftwaffe, with 25 ships, including the old battleship, now artillery training ship, Kilkis and the hulk of her sister Lemnos, lost within a few days in April 1941. It was then decided to shift the remaining fleet (one cruiser - the famous Georgios Averof - three destroyers and five submarines) to join up with the British Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria.
As the war progressed, the number of Hellenic Royal Navy vessels increased after the concession of several destroyers and submarines by the British Royal Navy. The most notable aspects of the Hellenic Royal Navy's participation in World War II include the operations of the destroyer Vassilissa Olga which, until sunk in Leros on September 23, 1943, was the most successful Allied destroyer in the Mediterranean Sea; the participation of two destroyers in Operation Overlord; and the story of the destroyer Adrias, which while operating close to the coast of Kalymnos in October 1943 hit a mine, resulting in the loss of the vessel's prow, while blowing the two-gun forward turret over the bridge. After some minor repairs at Gümü?lük Bay in Turkey the Adrias managed to return to Alexandria in a 400-mile (640 km) trip, even though all the forepart of the ship, up to the bridge, was missing.
After World War II, the Royal Hellenic Navy was significantly strengthened by the concession of British and Italian ships. The organisation also changed in line with modern naval doctrines of that era after the entrance into NATO in 1952. At the beginning of the 1950s, US military aid formed the core of the country's armed forces. The Royal Hellenic Navy received the first Bostwick-class destroyers which took on the name Beasts (), while withdrawing the British ones.
The next significant change was during the early 1970s, when Greece was the first Mediterranean naval force to order missile-equipped Fast Attack Craft (Combattante II) and the Type 209 submarines, whereas US military aid continued in the form of FRAM II class destroyers. In 1979, the Hellenic Navy placed an order in the Netherlands for two modern Standard class frigates (the Elli class). These were the first acquisitions of new main surface vessels, rather than the use of second-hand ships, in almost four decades.
The arrivals of Hydra class (MEKO 200 HN) and more Standard class frigates along with the orders for more missile corvettes, Poseidon class Type 209 submarine submarines and naval helicopters allowed the retirement of the obsolete vessels. Greece also received four Charles F. Adams class destroyers from the US Navy in 1991-1992. All four have since been decommissioned since their electronics and armament were obsolete and they required large crews. The advance continued when Greece ordered Type 214 submarines that feature an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, Sikorsky S-70B-6/10 Aegean Hawk helicopters and Project 1232.2 Zubr class hovercraft from Russia and Ukraine. Plans included the modernization of Standard class frigates with new electronics and radar systems, the modernization of Glaukos and Poseidon class submarines with new sonars, electronics and air-independent propulsion engines (programs Neptune I/II).
|Greek Name||English Name||Location|
|? ? ()||Hellenic Navy General Staff||Athens|
|()||Fleet Headquarters||Salamis Island|
|? ? ()||Aegean Sea Naval Command||Piraeus|
|? ()||Ionian Sea Naval Command||Patras|
|? ? ? (?)||Northern Greece Naval Command||Thessaloniki|
|()||Naval Training Command||Skaramagas|
|? ()||Navy Aviation Command||Grammatiko|
|?||Crete Naval Base||Souda Bay, Chania|
|?||Salamis Naval Base||Salamis Island|
The Hellenic Navy relies on frigates as its main heavy-platform surface vessels. The fleet consists of 13 frigates. The types operated are the Hydra Class (Type: Meko-200HN) and the Elli Class (Type: Kortenaer). The Elli Class frigates HS Elli (F450) and HS Limnos (F451) were sold to Greece during construction, the rest were bought directly from the Dutch Navy. The Hydra Class vessels were constructed in Greece by Hellenic Shipyards Co., except from HS Hydra (F452) that was constructed by the German company Blohm and Voss based in Hamburg. Modernization of six frigates was completed in 2010. The intention for the Hydra Class vessels was, as of February 2015, to be modernised with a EUR400 million upgrade that would extend their operational life to 2035.
In 2018, Greece entered talks with France for the purchase of the next generation, multipurpose, mid-size, stealth frigate (FTI) "Belh@rra", that is being developed by the French company DCNS (now Naval Group) and has already been selected by the French Navy as its next generation platform. As an alternative, the Hellenic Navy was also proposed the Greek-designed, next-gen, stealth corvette/frigate "ALS Class-100", developed by the Greek company NSD Group.
In July 2019  and later in October of the same year, a top Naval Group representative and the French Minister of Defence confirmed that, after signing a Letter of Intent (LoI), Greece and France were actively implementing a bilateral agreement, that included the purchase from Greece of 2 multi-purpose FTI frigates with an option for 2 additional ships and relative infrastructure for future coproduction for a cost of $2 billion, starting in 2023. The construction of the first Greek FTI vessel would begin immediately after the completion of the first French ship, subsequently involving fully the Hellenic Navy in the FTI Belh@rra project. Thereafter, cost for construction of future vessels would decrease significantly, taking into account Greece's participation with coproduction. The configuration for the Hellenic Navy vessels will differ from the French ones, only in respect to the interest of Greece for integration of wide-range, deep-strike missiles (MBDA's Naval Cruise Missile), that will be exclusively supported by the Greek configuration.
The Hellenic Navy operates 10 gunboats of the Osprey and Asheville Class. Both Osprey HSY-55 and Osprey HSY-56A classes are designed by the Hellenic Navy following a modular concept so that weapons and sensors can be changed as required. They were built by Hellenic Shipyards (HSY) in Greece. These vessels are similar in appearance to Gunboats Class Osprey 55. The first pair was ordered on 20 February 1990. HS Pyrpolitis (P57) was launched on 16 September 1992 and HS Polemistis (P61) on 21 June 1993. Each ship can carry 25 fully equipped troops. Alternative guns and Harpoon missiles can be fitted as required. Pyrpolitis was renamed Kasos on 11 November 2005, after the island of Kasos in the Dodecanese. The ship is based in the area of Kasos, and the name recognises the island and the Kasos Massacre during the Greek War of Independence. The two Asheville Class gunboats are former US Navy vessels, bought and transferred to Greece in 1989.
The fleet consists of 19 Missile Boats also known as Fast Attack Missile Craft. Two new ships (P78 and P79) entered service in 2019. The main purpose of these vessels is offensive anti-ship warfare. The Hellenic Navy operates four types of missile boats. These are the Roussen (Super-Vita), Laskos (La Combattante III), Kavaloudis (La Combattante IIIb) and Votsis (La Combattante IIa) classes. The La Combattante III and La Combattante IIIb were upgraded in 2006. For the Combattante III craft, Thales delivered a TACTICOS combat management system, including four multifunctional operator consoles, one surveillance radar, a fire-control tracking system, one electro-optical tracking and fire control system, an integrated low-probability-of-interception radar, two target designation sights and a tactical data link. The weapon suite of the Combattante IIIs remained unchanged. Thales was also responsible for the integration of existing guns, surface-to-surface missiles and torpedoes. The La Combattante IIa ships are scheduled to be decommissioned upon completion of the two newly ordered Roussen gunboats.
The Hellenic Navy Submarine Command operates 11 submarines of four types. The newest and most advanced type operated is the Type 214 Papanicolis Class, which is widely considered to be among the most advanced conventional (non-nuclear) propulsion submarines in service with naval forces at the moment. The Type 214 is a diesel-electric submarine developed by the German Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW). It features diesel propulsion with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system using Siemens polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cells. A contract to build four boats for the Hellenic Navy was signed between February 2000 and June 2002. The first boat was built at HDW in Kiel, Germany, and the rest at Hellenic Shipyards Co. in Skaramangas, Greece. The Hellenic Navy named them the Papanikolis class. Other types operated are the 209/1100 Glavkos Class, the 209/1200 Poseidon Class and one boat of the 209/1200 Okeanos Class. The Glavkos submarines were upgraded with the "Neptune I" modernisation program and the Poseidon and Okeanos vessels with the "Neptune II" program. The Okeanos upgrade included AIP capabilities very similar to Type 214 so extensive to justify HS Okeanos (S118) as a new, separate class when compared to the rest of Type 209/1200 vessels. New dimensions are similar to Type 214 boats.
The Hellenic Navy currently operates 9 tank landing ships of the Greek built Jason Class (LST) and the Ukrainian/Russian built Zubr Class (LCAC). The Jason landing craft are capable of transporting 287 troops plus 22 battle tanks or any other combination of other armoured vehicles. The Zubr craft have a military lift of total 130 tonnes of cargo with 3 battle tanks, 8 armoured vehicles, 10 personnel carriers and 140 troops or combinations of those and a speed of 40 knots when fully loaded. The Zubr Class (Project 1232.2 / NATO codename: "Pomornik") is an air-cushioned landing craft (LCAC). This class of military hovercraft is, as of 2012, the world's largest, with a standard full load displacement of 555 tons. The hovercraft is designed to sealift amphibious assault units (such as marines and tanks) from equipped or non-equipped vessels to non-equipped shores, as well as transport and plant naval mines. The purchase of HS Cephalonia (L180) for the Hellenic Navy was the first time a Soviet design had been built for and purchased by a NATO member.
The Hellenic Navy operates 13 replenishment ships including Petroleum tankers, water tankers and auxiliary vessels. It also operates 2 Greek built transport ships of the Pandora Class, 6 coastline patrol boats, 4 minesweepers, 3 torpedo retrievers, 17 tugboats (both open sea and harbour), 4 oceanographic & scientific research vessels and 2 lighthouse tenders. The Navy also preserves 3 memorial ships including the Pisa Class Armored Cruiser HS Georgios Averof which is the only Armored cruiser worldwide still in existence and, although it is permanently a harboured museum ship, is ceremoniously considered in active-service carrying the Rear Admiral's Rank Flag.
The Hellenic Navy operates naval aviation units under the Navy Aviation Command, that resulted from the amalgamation of the Navy Helicopter Command and the 353rd Naval Cooperation Squadron, which was run jointly with the Hellenic Air Force.
It currently operates:
|NATO code||OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D)||Student officer|
|No equivalent||No equivalent|
|Admiral||Vice Admiral||Rear Admiral||Commodore||Captain||Commander||Lieutenant Commander||Lieutenant||Sub Lieutenant||Ensign||Officer Designate|
|Warrant Officer||Master Chief Petty Officer||Senior Chief Petty Officer||Chief Petty Officer||Leading Seaman||Seaman|
Admiral and War of Independence hero Constantine Kanaris (1793-1877)
Admiral and President of Greece Pavlos Kountouriotis (1855-1935)
Portrait of Rear Admiral Sofoklis Dousmanis (1868-1952)
Jason-class tank landing ship HS Chios at Phaleron Bay
Hydrographic vessel HS Nautilus A-478 in Syros harbour
HS Pandora A-419, a passenger ship connecting Piraeus Harbor and Salamis Naval Base