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Fincantieri launches Algerian flagship

The Kalaat Beni-Abbes.Italian shipyard Fincantieri last week launched the Kalaat Beni-Abbes landing dock ship, which will become the future flagship of the Algerian Navy.

The vessel was ordered from Orizzonte Sistemi Navali, a joint venture between Fincantieri and Selex ES, in July 2011 at a cost of more than 400 million euros. It is based on the Italian San Giusto class but is slightly larger.

The launch of the BDSL (Batiment de Debarquement et de Soutien Logistique – landing and logistic support ship) marks the conclusion of two years of intensive work for the design and construction of the ship at Fincantieri’s Riva Trigoso yard, from where it was transferred to Muggiano at the beginning of this month.

In the coming months, the Kalaat Beni-Abbes will perform a series of cruises to complete its functional verification and to fine-tune the settings of the various on-board systems, so as to ensure delivery in November of this year to the Algerian navy of a fully operational vessel, the Italian Navy said. Full operational capability is expected in early 2015.

The Italian Navy is responsible for training the ship’s crew and described the BDSL project as part of Italian-Algerian cooperation. Crew training is currently underway.

The BDSL, with a displacement of 8 800 tons, can accommodate 150 crew and 440 soldiers and their equipment as well as landing craft – three landing craft can simultaneously operate from the stern well. Vehicle and personnel landing craft will be carried, along with a couple of RHIBs. Three Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) are being manufactured in Algeria under license by the Mers El Kebir shipyard.

The vessel can accommodate 15 main battle tanks or 30 light tanks or armoured personnel carriers. A hospital with operating rooms can house fifty beds. Five medium helicopter can be carried in a hangar.

A diesel-based two-shaft propulsion system provides the ship with a 20 knot maximum speed and a range of 4-6 000 miles. Armament includes Aster 15 missiles, a single OTO Melara 76 mm gun at the bow and two 25 mm cannons. Electronics include Selex Sistemi Integrati EMPAR radar, SCLAR-H chaff/flare decoy launchers and Athena-C combat management system.

The Algerian Navy has been undergoing expansion in recent years as it faces problems such as smuggling, illegal migration and indigenous terrorism. These threats mainly affect Algeria's harbours and maritime communication routes and ships passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. Consequently, the Algerian Navy maintains a well-trained and well-equipped fleet to provide security to more than 1000 km of coastline. The country is also maintaining a strong navy to deter its neighbours, notably Morocco.

In April 2012 it emerged that Algeria had signed a contract with the China Shipbuilding Trading Company for three light frigates, after ordering two Meko A-200N frigates from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems in March 2012. The three light frigates will displace around 2 800 tons fully loaded, and will be powered by MTU diesel engines. Algeria has also ordered two new Tiger class corvettes from Russia. The Tiger corvette (Project 20382) is an export model of the Project 20380 Steregushchy class, which is the Russian Navy’s newest corvette class. Algeria may order a second BDSL in the coming months.

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