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Upgraded strike craft nearly finished with sea trials

altThe three upgraded Warrior-class strike craft that were converted into offshore patrol vessels have almost completed sea trials prior to acceptance by the South African Navy, with trials due for completion by the end of the month.

At the end of February this year, SAS Isaac Dyboha (P1565) completed its SATS (Sea Acceptance Trials), according to Southern African Shipyards, which refurbished the vessels. SAS Galeshewe (P1567) has completed HATS (Harbour Acceptance Trials) and is scheduled to undergo SATS by the end of this week. SAS Makhanda (P1569), which had to be towed to Durban, is currently undergoing pre-HATS and is expected to have completed SATS by the end of May.

It was revealed last year that the Navy was keen to retain three Warrior-class (ex-Minister-class) strike craft as offshore patrol vessels (OPV), of nine originally received in the in the 1970s and 1980s. The first vessel, SAS Isaac Dyobha, arrived in Durban in October last year. The next vessel to undergo refurbishment was SAS Makhanda, which left Simon’s Town under tow on November 3. SAS Galeshewe arrived in Durban in mid-December, having just completed a patrol off the east coast.

According to Southern African Shipyards, a range of work was done on all three vessels, which can be broken down into electrical and mechanical. The electrical part included the replacing of alternators, air circuit breakers and engine monitoring systems. The company repaired cabling and serviced the switchboards. On the mechanical side, storage tank and hulls were inspected and corroded areas and all doublers were replaced with inserts.

“At the end of the programme the Navy will have three serviceable reliable vessels that it will be able to use effectively for the next five years,” said Lucinda Creamer, Southern African Shipyards PRO/Marketing Officer.

A fourth fast attack craft has been towed to Durban, but as the tender for its refurbishment has not yet been awarded, it is not with Southern African Shipyards. The stripped hull of SAS Adam Kok (P1563) left Simon’s Town for Durban on May 8, under tow by the hydrographic and oceanographic research vessel SAS Protea.

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).

Since the commissioning of the four Valour-class frigates in 2004/5, strike-craft have been used in the OPV role. Late last year, Rear Admiral (JG) Bravo Mhlana, South African Navy Director Force Preparation, told defenceWeb that “what we are building with those patrol vessels is for the future acquisition of offshore patrol vessels under Project Biro. That is why we must keep those vessels as long as we can when we can transfer crews from those to the new patrol vessels.”

A further four ex-Mine Hunter vessels are also being operated in the OPV role. These include SAS Umkomaas (undergoing maintenance), SAS Umhloti (operationally available), SAS Umzimkulu (operationally available) and SAS Umgeni (undergoing refit).

The OPVs have also been used for fishery patrols when the patrol vessels operated on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) could not go to sea.

The patrol vessel fleet will be home-ported once the newly upgraded Naval Base Durban at Salisbury Island in the Port of Durban has been re-commissioned.

Rear Admiral Hanno Teuteberg, Chief Director Maritime Strategy, mentioned to defenceWeb in April this year that early Indications are that the life of the OPV vessels can be extended until for at least five years, to coincide with Project Biro, the new build Offshore/Inshore patrol vessel project.

Photo: Martin Venter, Navy News.


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