Second SA Navy inshore patrol vessel on track for month-end handover

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The South African Navy (SAN) will at the end of this month commission into service its second multi-mission inshore patrol vessel (MMIPV) as part of Project Biro.

State defence materiel agency Armscor told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) last month that Project Biro is 71% complete, with the first of three MMIPVs (SAS King Sekhukhune I) delivered from Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) to the SA Navy (in May 2022) and the second vessel 99% complete. The second vessel, named SAS King Shaka Zulu, has completed its acceptance trials, and is being prepared for delivery to Naval Base Durban at month-end.

Construction of the third vessel, to be named SAS Chief Adam Kok, is 55% complete and will be finished in August 2024. This is slightly later than the schedule originally called for – the second vessel was due for delivery in April 2023 and the third in April 2024.

All ashore training has been completed, and training of the second MMIPV almost done, while training of the third MMIPV crew is in progress.

Armscor further revealed that progress has also been made with the boarding and sea boats for each MMIPV, with the first sea boat delivered, second accepted and sea trials on the third completed. Similarly, the first boarding boat has been delivered, the second has completed sea trials and the third recently finished construction.

The entire Project Biro is due to be completed in August 2025 at a cost of R3.8 billion. To date R2.9 billion has been paid. An option to order additional MMIPVs has been extended by DSCT to 31 December 2023.

The three new vessels acquired under Project Biro are multi-role and will be used for missions such as patrol, mine counter-measures, deep diving training, search and rescue, submarine torpedo recovery, humanitarian assistance and anti-pollution tasks, amongst others. They will be integrated into the SAN as the older strikecraft are taken out of service. The MMIPVs will be a major boost to the SA Navy, which last took into service large vessels in the early 2000s (the four Valour class Meko frigates).

Project Biro was originally for six inshore patrol vessels and six offshore patrol vessels, but due to budget constraints, the SAN had to settle for three inshore patrol vessels.

All three MMIPVs are DSCT Stan Patrol 6211 design platforms. The 62 metre long, 750 ton vessels have a 20 knot economical speed and a range of 2 000 nautical miles. Each vessel is fitted with a Reutech 20 mm Super Sea Rogue marine gun and Reutech FORT (Frequency Modulated Optical Radar Tracker) Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) optronics radar tracking system.

New hydrographic survey vessel

More good news for the SA Navy is coming in the form of Project Hotel, for a new hydrographic survey vessel (A187) to replace the ageing SAS Protea at a cost of R2.9 billion (to date R2.2 billion has been paid). Sandock Austral Shipyards will deliver this vessel in January 2024 (initial delivery date was September 2022, with contract awarded in December 2017 but the project experienced delays due to Covid-19 as well as civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal).

The vessel is 55% complete, Armscor reported, with all vessel blocks completed and being assembled. The funnels, foundations and other cut-outs will be finalised once the large equipment has been installed. Piping is 40% complete and cable tray laying 77% complete. All South African Hydrographic Office upgrades are completed, as are the three survey motor boats for the hydrographic survey vessel.

Sandock Austral cut the first steel for the Vard Marine 9 105 design in November 2018. The 95 metre long ice-strengthened vessel will have a 10 000 nautical mile range and top speed of 18 knots. She will carry a pair of integrated inshore survey motorboats (supplied by Veecraft) and a sea boat. These have been completed and will be delivered along with the hydrographic survey vessel.