Angola receives first tank landing craft from CMN; inaugurates refurbished Soyo naval base

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The Angolan Navy has taken delivery of the first of two new tank landing craft built by France’s CMN, five months after launch in Cherbourg.

CMN (Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie) launched the vessel RA 4 de Abril (ND15) at the end of February, after construction began in January 2022. It departed France on 22 June aboard the heavy load vessel MV Yacht Express, and arrived in Luanda on 19 July. It will be fully operational in 2024.

The second vessel will be delivered next year. The two vessels are being built on behalf of Privinvest under a follow-on to a 2016 contract by Privinvest for around 20 vessels destined for Angola (CMN has already delivered Ocean Eagle and HSI 32 vessels to Angola).

The 70 metre long tank landing craft (LCT) will be able to carry 200 tons of payload, including 260 soldiers in addition to the crew of 18. Up to three main battle tanks, or eight heavy or 30 light vehicles can be carried. Watertight bulkheads ensure survivability in the event of damage. A 5.25 metre boat can be launched by a crane. The foredeck provides space for up to 12 20 ft containers.

Each LCT will be powered by two diesel engines driving two fixed-pitch propellers and giving a speed of 16 knots and range of 2 200 nautical miles.

The LCTs are the largest vessels to be built by CMN since the corvette Baynunah (71 metres long), delivered to the United Arab Emirates in 2011.

In 2016, Privinvest announced it would establish a shipyard in Angola and supply several naval vessels under a 495 million euro deal. Privinvest has facilities and shipyards in a number of countries including France (CMN), Germany (German Naval Yards Kiel) and the Middle East.

The 2016 Angolan deal included three CMN HSI 32 patrol craft, which were delivered in 2019, and three Ocean Eagle 43 trimaran patrol boats, delivered around 2021/22.

The arrival of the first LCT came after Angola’s President João Lourenço formally inaugurated the expanded Soyo naval base on 10 July, a date which marked the 47th anniversary of the Angolan Navy.

Upgrading the base, located at the mouth of the Congo River, cost $297.1 million. The contract was awarded to Portuguese company Mota-Engil Group in 2019, with financing guaranteed by the Portuguese government. Expansion work included dredging the access channel, constructing a new wharf and piers, and constructing new buildings. Soyo is now much larger than Luanda Naval Base and covers over 100 000 square metres, with a 330 metre long quay.

Marking the occasion on 10 July, Navy commander, Admiral Valentim António, said in recent years the service has been reinforced with ships and boats and that the arrival of larger combat vessels is expected soon. In addition to these naval platforms, modern maritime surveillance systems and various sensors will enable better planning and decision-making.

An Angolan Ocean Eagle patrol vessel.

Two C295 aircraft are due to arrive later this year, equipped for maritime surveillance, and the first phase of the National Centre for Coordination of Maritime Surveillance will be completed in December in Luanda.

Angola has a 1 650 km long coastline and needs to defend it against external threats like piracy, illegal fishing and smuggling. It also needs to project its offshore oilfields.

Angola has turned to United Arab Emirates (UAE) shipyards for further expansion, in February revealing a billion euro contract with Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB) for a fleet of 71 metre BR71 Mk II corvettes. The Combattante BR71 Mk II an advanced variant of the Baynunah class (BR 71 design) corvette developed by CMN, a part of Privinvest Shipbuilding Group. The vessel is designed for littoral warfare defence operations against air and surface threats, patrolling tasks, law enforcement and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.