Thursday, 12 January 2017

Jason class landing ships of the Hellenic Navy

Written by D-Mitch

HS Rodos (L177), final vessel of the Jason class LST
The Jason class Landing Ships Tank (LST) of the Hellenic Navy (Greek: Πολεμικό Ναυτικό) consists of five (5) ship in service. It is worth mentioning that all ships in the class were built and designed by the Greek Elefsis Shipyard in cooperation with the National Technical University of Athens and the Hellenic Navy. The class was ordered to Elefsis Shipyards in 1986. The keel for the first vessel, Chios (L173), was laid down in April 1987. It was launched in December 1988 and commissioned in May 1996. The second vessel, Samos (L174), was laid down in September 1987, launched in April 1989 and commissioned in May 1994, two years earlier than the first vessel in the class. Construction of all the ships was originally scheduled to be completed by September 1990. However, all the vessels, in particular the last three, were delayed due to a financial crisis faced by the shipyard. Privatization of the shipyard in October 1997 resulted in steady progress of the construction. A sixth ship was added to the programme in 2000, but cancelled before construction began.

Landing ships Chios and Lesvos in a amphibious landing exercise

The Ikaria (L175) was laid down in May 1988, launched in July 1990 and commissioned in February 1999, after nine (9) years from the day that the vessel was launched! The Lesvos (L176) was laid down in April 1989, launched in October 1998 and commissioned in October 1999. The last ship in the class, Rodos (L177), was laid down in November 1989. It was launched in October 1999 and commissioned in May 2000. It was a major step that allowed Hellenic Navy to replace old WWII-era LSTs.

Row of Jason class landing ships at the Salamis Naval Base

Flight deck of Chios
Chios during sea trials
Today, along with the two active Zubr class (from the total four) Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) (the class will be analyzed in a future post), the Jason class LST, are the primary amphibious warfare ships of the Hellenic Navy. The general characteristics of the ships, is a full displacement of about 4,500tons, a length of 116m, maximum speed of 16 knots (CODAD propulsion system) while the range is 4,700n.m. with the maximum speed. On the aft of the ships there is a raised deck for for a medium sized helicopter (usually a S-70 or AB212 but also if there is a need, any kind of medium weight helicopter such as AH-64 or AS332).

Samos (L174) with an AB212 helicopter onboard
Ikaria (L175) with a S70 helicopter onboard
The design incorporates bow and stern loading ramps. A ramp in the middle of the ship spreads from the upper deck (light vehicles) to the tank deck (heavy vehicles).   

The ramp that joins the upper deck with the lower deck
Bow ramp of Ikaria
Bow ramp of Lesvos

Stern ramp of Ikaria. Photo by Drago Brder

Vehicle moves to the upper deck

The stern ramp of Rodos

Vehicle moves to the upper deck

Leopard 1A5 MBTs in the tank deck
Landing ships unloading equipment
The ship features troop compartments and cabins for crew members. All the units are installed with air-conditioning and heating-systems. The ships can accommodate up to 350 infantry, with the possibility of transporting up to 1,200 infantry if needed. The ships can carry up 22 main battle tanks (MBT) or a variety of equipment such as armored personal carriers (APC), howitzers, vehicles, multiple rocket systems (MLRS), vehicles, trucks, etc.

Vehicles on the upper deck
Full upper deck and LCVP36

MLRS is being loaded on the LST
Marines waiting in the tank deck

Pzh 2000 self-propelled howitzer
Notice the RHIB (regular load)

Leopard 2A6 HEL in the tank deck
Leopard 2A6 HEL in the tank deck

"New" LCVP36F
"Old" LCVP36
Each ship carries four LCVP (landing craft, vehicle, personnel) of the 36 or 36F type (-F- stands for Fast). In rare occasions and depending on the mission, an LST can be loaded with an additional craft and thus to reach total five LCVP. The LCVP 36-F Fast Landing Craft was studied and designed exclusively by Motomarine, for military use utilizing the latest development of naval architecture science and technology. During her design the naval architecture test tank of NTUA (National Technical University of Athens) was used. The "new" LCVP can reach 20 knots with its two hydrojets, about 9-10 knots times more than the regular models. In the inventory of Hellenic Navy, they are just six (6) of that model, not enough to equip all the vessels in the class with the type, while the rest are the much older model -36. It should be mentioned due to their characteristics, the "new" LCVPs are used exclusively in all kind of exercises. In special occasions the ships can carry an additional LCVP at the front of the superstructure. In general, single LCVP can carry usually two squads of 10-12 men each.

The two types of LCVP alongside (30 and 30F to the right)
The fast LCVP36F

LCVP 36F of HS Samos (L174)

Loaded LCVP36F; note the two hydrojets at the stern.
The "new" LCVPs can be distinguished from the old ones
by the different ramp, the stern, the pennant number and shaft

The two types together. Note that
despite is Rodos (L177), the left LCVP
"belongs" to HS Chios (L173)

LCVP36F landing. In the background
can be seen the Osman Gazi
Marines exiting the LCVP
Unfortunately, it is significant the absence of Assault Amphibious Vehicle or else Marine Fighting Vehicle (such as AAVP-7, BMP-3F etc.) in the inventory of the Hellenic Armed Forces. Therefore, till today, after more than 20 years from the commission of the first ship in the class, the Greek marines have to land ashore with their equipment using the LCVPs in a similar way to the World War II operations! Soldiers of the first wave (the ship lands later on to unload the heavy equipment it carries) have the tricky task of boarding the bobbing LCVPs via nets thrown over the sides of the landing ships. After cargo and supplies are put aboard, the LCVPs make their way to staging areas in order to prepare for their run to the beach. It is not so difficult for somebody to understand that this landing method consumes a lot of time and moreover leaves the marines completely unprotected and unarmed (for their protection they can use only their rifles!).

Four LCVP36Fs reaching the beach. All the craft of the type, except the
pennant number of their mothership have also a 3-digit number (101-601)
Marines using nets boarding LCVPs during an exercise

Such an amphibious armored fighting vehicle could offer superior fire power, mobility and protection for the amphibious troops to land the surface assault elements of the landing force and their equipment in a single lift from assault shipping during amphibious operations to inland objectives and to conduct mechanized operations and related combat support in subsequent mechanized operations ashore.

Jason class landing ships reaching the beach. Photo by Babis Monogyios

Artistic view of the main gun
The main gun of the vessel
The main gun fitted forward is an OTO Melara 3in (76.2mm/62cal) fully automatic gun. This weapon can hit air and surface targets at a distance of 16 km and 12 km respectively; with a rate of fire 85 rounds per minute and weight of shell greater than 6 kg. The gun can be used to support amphibious operations as well by providing gunfire support. As the vessels lack of a modern close-in weapons system (CIWS), and they rely on their anti-aircraft protection mainly on this gun and secondary on the rest guns, a good solution could be to upgrade these guns with the OTO Melara STRALES. STRALES add-on kit can be integrated into the already in service OTO 76/62 gun mounts without the need of re-configuration or armament or deck penetration for the installation of a CIWS. STRALES includes a Radio Frequency Guidance System provided with a mechanical frame to be connected to the gun-mount structure. A new gun shield is provided with a watertight cover which can be automatically removed to deploy the guidance antenna; required electronic control unit is accommodated within suitable slots inside the 76/62 New Control Cabinet.

Photoshopped image of a Jason class LST with STRALES
STRALES system
DART guided ammunition
Once actual target position and stabilization data are available, STRALES operates as a stand alone system using the DART projectile. The DART guided ammunition is equipped with the new DART microwave  programmable  multifunction  fuse. A new Multiple-Feeding (MF) ammunition loading system for the 76/62 mm is also available as a separate kit; this kit derives from STRALES Double Feeding (DF), and is able to select any ammunition contained in the branches regardless of its position (typically, DART and standard ammo). The system boosts significantly performance by increasing system accuracy to missiles level. See an informative video about the system here.

Jason class LSTs alongside. Notice the different 40mm gun mounts

Upgraded 40mm Bofors gun mount
40mm Bofors gun mount
All the boats have two secondary guns, the (standard) 40mm/L70 Breda-Bofors guns on Type 564 naval mounts, which has been upgraded on some ships to enclosed naval mount. It is not known why only some of the vessels have the enclosed mounts and some others still keep the old ones without the cupola. Perhaps in the near future, there will be updates on the rest as well. The gun has a 240rds/min rate of fire and a maximum range of approximately 12km. There is a 144 round Model 1971 automatic magazine. Crew is normally two operators on mount with one on standby.

The 40mm gun turrets forward of the heli-deck
View from the heli-deck

40mm gun turrets of two Jason class landing ships


Greek sailor operating an Rh 202
Greek sailor operating an Rh 202
Except the 76mm and 40mm guns, the vessels have two single Rheinmetall Rh202 20mm guns located atop the bridge at the two sides of the Pollux fire control system. The Rh-202 which is known also in German service as Mk20 gun, it is a very reliable weapon, gas operated with double belt feed and it fires single shots or automatic fire at 900-1000rds/min (ammunition in 200 round belts). The guns are used for anti-aircraft protection. The effective range is more than 2km. Watch a video from a training aboard a Greek naval vessel here.

Greek sailor holding a Stinger MANPADS aboard a Jason LST
Mount for FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS
HS Lesvos (L176), 4th in the Jason class

As many ships in service with the Hellenic Navy, that lack dedicated anti-aircraft support and rely only on guns, they carry FIM-92 Stinger Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS) for point defence. There are two naval mounts for the operators similarly to the Turkish, US, German and other navies. The Stinger missile carries a high explosive annular blast fragmentation 3kg warhead in a range (effective) of more than 8 kilometers.

Modified photo of a Jason class landing ship of the Hellenic Navy. For a high resolution image click here
Starboard-side M137 SRBOC launcher
Port-side M137 SRBOC launcher
The decoy launchers are the BAE Systems Mk 36 Super Rapid Bloom Offboard Countermeasures (SRBOC) Chaff and Decoy Launching System. It is a shipboard, deck-mounted, 6-barreled 130mm mortar-type array that launches type specific countermeasures against a variety of threats. Following launch and dispersion, Mk36 SRBOC chaff and infrared countermeasures are designed to lure hostile missiles away from ships under attack by creating false target sets. The Mk36 SRBOC launching system is controlled from the ship’s combat management system (see last paragraph), and it is dependent on information provided by the ship’s detection and threat analysis equipment. The Mk36 SRBOC consists of the Mk137 launcher, firing stations at the bridge and CIC, the Mk160 power supply, Mk5 Mod2 or Mod4 Ready Service Lockers (RSLs), and a selection of munitions. Each vessel carries two Mk137 launchers.

The mast of the vessels; atop the Triton radar (with IFF) and mounted lower at
the middle of the mast the navigation radar. Photo by Πολίτης
The Thomson (now Thales) TRS 3030 Triton is the air/surface surveillance and target indication G-band 2D radar onboard. Triton can detect 2m2 air target at 30-45km. The navigation radars are a Kelvin Hughes Type 1007 and a secondary Furuno radar dome. There is no electro-optical sensor in the equipment of the ships except the sensor mounted on Pollux fire control system which is described in the following paragraph.

View of the bridge with Pollux atop
The upper deck and the crane. In the upper right an LCVP36F

HS Ikaria, from stem-to-stern
Photo by Mario Buhagiar

Jason class LST carrying one more
LCVP on the upper deck

In the electronic equipment of the boats it is included a Thomson-CSF TRS 3220 Pollux Fire Control System (FCS), a  I/J-band (X-band) fire control radar for the Thomson-CSF Vega II weapons control and tactical data system. Pollux is mainly used in gun control applications. It makes use of a 'fast' conical scan pattern and is circularly polarized.

HS Lesvos close to Nauplio. Photo by Μπουγιώτης-Ρασσιάς
HS Ikaria somewhere in the Aegean Sea

The Electronic Support Systems (ESM) of the vessels, is the DR 2000, that links to the decoy launchers. The ships are also equipped with a CSEE Panda; this is an optical fire control system with an onboard ballistic computer. Once the target has been acquired the operator measures its angular velocity by tracking.

Panda optical fire director. Photo: ADM (ret.) A. Panagopoulos (in the photo)
There are photos also that show a vessel of the class, not just been loaded with naval mines, but been completely transformed into a minelayer. In that case, mines are loaded in tank deck and laid from the aft ramp! Exclusive photos below.

Mk6 mines in the tank deck of LST
Mk6 mines in the tank deck of LST

Mk6 and Mk18mines in the tank deck
Mk18 mines in the tank deck of LST

The Jason class landing ships, as it was already mentioned in the introduction,  lead to the decommission of WWII vessels in the LST category. However, there is an urgent need for modernization of the armament and upgrade of their electronics as well as a plan for a successor class. Till today though, the Navy has not announced anything regarding that issue and it seems that the ships will serve for many years, in the same configuration as they were planned in the late '80s, for sure at least 2030.

Jason class vessels during an exercise


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