New delivery dates for SAN patrol vessels

7417

The first new multi-mission inshore patrol vessel (MMIPV) is flying the fleet ensign as she undergoes operational testing and evaluation but it’s going to be months before number two – SAS Adam Kok (P1572) – is delivered to the SA Navy (SAN).

Indications the second new hull in the embryonic SAN patrol squadron would be handed to the SAN this year were dispelled by Armscor, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) acquisition agency which handles project management, among other tasks. Chief executive Solomzi Mbada, writing in the latest Armscor newsletter, has it “construction of the two remaining vessels as part of Project Biro is underway with delivery expected in April 2023 and April 2024 respectively”.

Armscor in February said Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) was contracted in January 2018 to deliver three Biro vessels, with the first (P1571) to be handed over to the Navy in March this year, followed by P1572 in June 2023 and P1573 in September 2024. Deliveries were originally scheduled to start from mid-2021 – the first keel was laid in February 2019, and the second in September 2020.

P1571, SAS Sekhukhune, was handed to the SA Navy on 18 May. At the time of handover, delivery of the second vessel was reported as scheduled for September 2022, but this will not be the case.

Mbada said the overall shipbuilding contract awarded to Damen Shipyards Cape Town “demonstrates Armscor’s capability to provide the SANDF with state-of-the-art defence materiel required to provide safety and security for South Africa, its citizens and the continent at large.”

In February it was reported MMIPV number two had reached 75% completion of hull construction with 33 of 46 main equipment factory acceptance tests also done. At that time Armscor noted initial delivery dates were amended to cater for delays due to COVID-19 and a request from the SAN to conduct final crew training at the contractor’s premises rather than Navy facilities as initially contracted.

Armscor “expects” the second and third vessels will be delivered ahead of the revised schedule. “Risk of further delays is considered low and are not foreseen,” the defence and security acquisition agency said, adding sufficient funding was available to complete the project.

Hull number three is named SAS King Shaka and will carry pennant number P1573 continuing the Warrior Class. Her delivery date, according to Mbada, is April 2024, rather than September 2024 as earlier envisioned.

Sekhukhune is, as far as can be ascertained, still undergoing operational testing and evaluation ahead of her first mission deployment. It will cost an estimated R80 million a year to operate and maintain the three MMIPVs.

Project Biro was 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. An appreciation review to exercise an option for a fourth MMIPV has been done with formal approval not yet received.

All three MMIPVs are DSCT Stan Patrol 6211 design platforms. The 62m long, 750 ton vessels have a 20 knot economical speed and a range of 2 000 nautical miles. Besides a 9 and 7 m RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) for boarding operations, 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.