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Southern African Shipyards refurbishing Navy strike craft

altDurban-based Southern African Shipyards is refurbishing the South African Navy’s three surviving strike craft, converting them to offshore patrol vessels.

Southern African Shipyards told defenceWeb that the main work being performed on the vessels related to electrical, mechanical and general hull maintenance and involved refurbishment, replacement and repainting.

The first vessel, SAS Isaac Dyobha (P1565), arrived in Durban on 11 October and after discharging all her fuel, oils and stores, was transferred to SA Shipyards’ floating dock and mounted on specially constructed cradles, where refurbishment began. The vessel was due to be brought out of the water yesterday.

The next vessel to arrive is SAS Makhanda (P1569), which because of her present condition, has to be towed to Durban and is due to arrive around 6 November, SAS said. The two vessels will then be moved into SA Shipyards’ maintenance hall, which is insulated from the weather.

Finally SAS Galeshewe (P1567) is due to arrive in Durban in mid-December. All weapons were removed in Simonstown prior to the vessels leaving for Durban. SAS Isaac Dyobha will finish its re-fit first so its departure from SA Shipyards’ premises is planned to be synchronized with SAS Galeshewe being brought into the maintenance hall.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of March 2013, when both Makhanda and Galeshewe are re-floated and complete their respective sea trials.

“At the end of the programme the Navy will have three serviceable reliable vessels that it will be able to use effectively for their relevant missions,” SAS said. “This programme is a home coming for all three vessels as this was their original birth place and a number of the supervisors and other staff at SA Shipyards remember building vessels almost 30 years ago.”

A decade ago it was announced that the South African Navy’s strike craft would be withdrawn in preparation for the arrival of four Meko 200 frigates from Germany. These were gradually retired, leaving the three remaining boats.

Lucinda Creamer, PRO/Marketing Officer at Southern African Shipyards, said her company received the contract to refurbish the strike craft in October 2012. “We would like to commend the South African Navy and Department of Defence for their commitment to New Growth Path and National Development Plan by awarding the contract to a South Africa based Company, therefore enhancing local content, job creation and industrial technological stimulation.”

The South African Navy received nine Warrior class (ex-Minister class) strike craft in the 1970s and 1980s. Three were built by Israeli Shipyards in Haifa while the other six were built by Sandock Austral in Durban (now Southern African Shipyards).

The main contract with Israel was signed in August 1974. Due to the arms embargo put in place against the apartheid-era government in 1977, an order for two corvettes and two submarines from France was cancelled, leaving the strike craft as the Navy’s only surviving warship project. The three craft built in Israel were delivered in 1977 and 1978 while the South African Navy received the six locally built vessels between 1978 and 1986.

The South African strike craft were fitted with6-8 Gabriel Mk II surface-to-surface missiles, known locally as the Scorpion, and two Oto Melara 76 mm guns. Secondary armament comprised two 20 mm Oerlikon cannons and two 12.7 mm machineguns.

The 58-metre long strike craft displace 415 tons, or 450 tons fully loaded. Four MTU diesel engines developing 12 000 hp give a speed of at least 34 knots (60 km/h) and a range of around 4 800 nautical miles (8 900 km) at 19 knots (35 km/h).

It is believed that the strike craft, and minehunters, will be partially replaced by inshore and offshore patrol vessels being acquired under Project Biro.

Photo: Martin Venter, Navy News.