Hellenic Navy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Hellenic Navy
Πολεμικό Ναυτικό
Hellenic Navy Seal.svg
Hellenic Navy Seal
Active1821 (de facto)
1828 (official)
Country Greece
RoleNational Defense
Sizec. 30,000 active personnel
98 Warships including:
13 Frigates
11 Submarines
17 FAMCs
8 Gunboats
9 Tank-landing Ships
6 Patrol Boats
Fleet Support & other Auxiliary Ships
21 Aircraft
Part ofHellenic Armed Forces
PatronSt. Nicholas
Motto(s)Μέγα τὸ τῆς θαλάσσης κράτος
"The rule of the sea is indeed a great matter"[1]
ColorsBlue, White & Gold             
MarchThe Aegean sailors.
EngagementsGreek war of independence
Balkan wars
World War I
World War II
Operation UNIFIL
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Desert Shield
Operation Sharp Guard
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Active Endeavour
Operation IFITOS
Operation Atalanta
Operation Ocean Shield
2011 military intervention in Libya
Operation Aginor
War on Terror
WebsiteHellenic Navy
Chief of the Navy General StaffVice Admiral Nikolaos Tsounis
Chief of the Fleet CommandVice Admiral Ioannis Pavlopoulos
Andreas Miaoulis
Konstantinos Kanaris
Pavlos Kountouriotis
Naval ensignFlag of Greece.svg
Naval jackNaval Jack of Greece.svg

PennantHellenic Navy Masthead pennant.svg

The Hellenic Navy (HN; Greek: Πολεμικό Ναυτικό, Polemikó Naftikó, abbreviated ΠΝ) 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 Navy (Βασιλικόν Ναυτικόν, Vasilikón Naftikón, abbreviated ΒΝ).

The total displacement of all the navy's vessels is approximately 150,000 tons.

The motto of the Hellenic Navy is "Μέγα τὸ τῆς θαλάσσης κράτος" from Thucydides' account of Pericles' oration on the eve of the Peloponnesian War.[2][3] This has been translated as "The rule of the sea is a great matter".[1] 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.

The Navy during the Revolution[edit]

The destruction of the Ottoman flagship at Chios by Constantine Kanaris. Painting by Nikiphoros Lytras.

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: πυρπολικά or μπουρλότα), 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[citation needed] 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.[4]

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.[5] Capodistrias was assassinated a few months after.

The Royal Hellenic Navy of King Otto[edit]

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.[4]

Growth of the Navy under King George[edit]

Navy uniforms in the 1890s.
Battleship Psara.

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 (Γενικό Επιτελείο Ναυτικού) 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.

Balkan Wars 1912–1913[edit]

Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis and the crew of Averof, 1912

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.

World War I and after: 1914–1940[edit]

Greek battleship Lemnos and torpedo boat Dafni during the occupation of Constantinople, 1919.

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,[citation needed] 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.

World War II[edit]

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.[6]

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).[7]

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.

"RHNS Georgios Averof" in camo paint, RN Bombay Station, 1942, while serving under UK Royal Navy Command.

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 Gümüşlük 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.

Post-war era[edit]

The destroyer Kanaris (D212), a few weeks before decommission.

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 (Θηρία), while withdrawing the British ones.

Gunboat HS Aittitos P-268 (Ospray HSY-56A class) at the port of Kos
Frigate Psara (F454) sailing down the Firth of Clyde at the start of Neptune Warrior multinational training exercise.

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.

1980 to present[edit]

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).

Chain of Command[edit]

Hellenic Navy organisation.jpg[8]

Main Commands[edit]

Greek Name English Name Location
Γενικόν Επιτελείον Ναυτικού (ΓΕΝ) Hellenic Navy General Staff Athens
Αρχηγείον Στόλου (ΑΣ) Fleet Headquarters -
Ναυτική Διοίκηση Αιγαίου (ΝΔΑ) Aegean Sea Naval Command Piraeus
Ναυτική Διοίκηση Ιονίου (ΝΔΙ) Ionian Sea Naval Command Patras
Ναυτική Διοίκηση Βορείου Ελλάδος (ΝΔΒΕ) Northern Greece Naval Command Thessaloniki
Διοίκηση Ναυτικής Εκπαίδευσης (ΔΝΕ) Naval Training Command -
Διοίκηση Διοικητικής Μέριμνας (ΔΔΜΝ) Logistics Command -
Διοίκηση Αεροπορίας Ναυτικού (ΔΑΝ) Navy Aviation Command -
Ναύσταθμος Κρήτης Crete Naval Base Souda Bay
Ναύσταθμος Σαλαμίνας Salamis Naval Base Salamis Island
Υδρογραφική Υπηρεσία Hydrographic Service[9] -
Υπηρεσία Φάρων Lighthouse Service[10] -

Combat Arms[edit]

Combat Support Arms[edit]

  • Διοίκηση Ναρκοπολέμου (ΔΝΑΡ) Minesweeper Command

Combat Service Support[edit]

  • Σχολή Εξάσκησης Ναυτικής Τακτικής (ΣΕΝΤ) Naval Tactical Training School (under Fleet Headquarters)


Ships and submarines[edit]

Ranks and insignia[edit]


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
Greece Greece
No equivalent GR-Navy-OF9.svgGR-Navy-OF9-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-OF8.svgGR-Navy-OF8-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-OF7.svgGR-Navy-OF7-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-OF6.svgGR-Navy-OF6-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-OF5.svgGR-Navy-OF5-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-OF4.svgGR-Navy-OF4-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-OF3.svgGR-Navy-OF3-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-OF2.svgGR-Navy-OF2-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-OF1b.svgGR-Navy-OF1b-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-OF1.svgGR-Navy-OF1-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-ΣΕΑ.svgGR-Navy-ΣΕΑ-sleeve.svg No equivalent
Admiral Vice Admiral Rear Admiral Commodore Captain Commander Lieutenant Commander Lieutenant Sub Lieutenant Ensign Officer Designate
Ναύαρχος Αντιναύαρχος Υποναύαρχος Αρχιπλοίαρχος Πλοίαρχος Αντιπλοίαρχος Πλωτάρχης Υποπλοίαρχος Ανθυποπλοίαρχος Σημαιοφόρος Σημαιοφόρος Επίκουρος Αξιωματικός

NCOs and enlisted[edit]

NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Greece Greece
GR-Navy-Ανθυπασπιστής.svgGR-Navy-Ανθυπασπιστής-sleeve.svg GR-Navy-Μόνιμος Αρχικελευστής.svg GR-Navy-Αρχικελευστής ΕΜΘ.svg GR-Navy-Μόνιμος Επικελευστής.svg GR-Navy-Επικελευστής ΕΜΘ.svg GR-Navy-Μόνιμος Κελευστής.svg GR-Navy-Κελευστής ΕΜΘ.svg GR-Navy-Κελευστής ΕΠΟΠ.svg No equivalent GR-Navy-Δίοπος ΕΠΟΠ.svg
GR-Navy-Δίοπος ΕΠΟΠ-female.svg
No equivalent
GR-Navy-Ναύτης ΕΠΟΠ.svg
GR-Navy-Ναύτης ΕΠΟΠ-female.svg
Warrant Officer Chief Petty Officer Petty Officer first class Petty Officer Senior Seaman Seaman
Ανθυπασπιστής[note 1] Αρχικελευστής Επικελευστής Κελευστής Δίοπος Ναύτης

Hellenic Navy Flags[edit]

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greece has only one level of Warrant Officer. According to the current issue (2010) of STANAG 2116, the Greek Warrant Officers are included in OR-9, however they are afforded the privileges of an officer. See STANAG 2116 note 16.


  1. ^ a b Thucydides (1910). "1.143.5". The Peloponnesian War. London; New York: J. M. Dent; E. P. Dutton. At the Perseus Project.
  2. ^ Thucydides (1942). "1.143.5". Historiae in two volumes (in Greek). Oxford: Oxford University Press. At the Perseus Project.
  3. ^ Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 1.143.
  4. ^ a b Official website of the Hellenic Navy Archived 2007-08-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Politics and Statecraft in the Kingdom of Greece, John Anthony Petropulos, Princeton University Press, 1968.
  6. ^ Vice Admiral C. Paizis-Paradellis, HN (2002). Hellenic Warships 1829-2001 (3rd Edition). Athens, Greece: The Society for the study of Greek History. p. 205. ISBN 960-8172-14-4.
  7. ^ Pier Filippo Lupinacci, Vittorio Emanuele Tognelli, La difesa del traffico con l'Albania, la Grecia e l'Egeo, Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, Rome 1965, pp. 47-49.
  8. ^ Heyman, Charles (2011). The Armed Forces of the European Union 2012-2013. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. p. 53.
  9. ^ http://www.hnhs.gr/
  10. ^ "Υπηρεσία Φάρων". Hellenicnavy.gr. Archived from the original on 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2009-08-06.

Further reading[edit]