Fact file: River-class inshore patrol vessel/minehunter

5225

South Africa acquired these German-designed vessels under the guise of “research vessels”. In fact they were very capable minehunters fitted with sophisticated – for the time – unmanned underwater vehicles.

South Africa acquired these German-designed vessels under the guise of “research vessels”. In fact they were very capable minehunters fitted with sophisticated – for the time – unmanned underwater vehicles.

Vessels of the class:

Name

Builder

Laid Down

Launched

Commissioned:

SAS Umkomaas1

Abeking & Rasmussen/Sandock Austral.

nn.

nn.

January 13, 1981.

SAS Umgeni2

Abeking & Rasmussen/Sandock Austral.

nn.

nn.

March 1, 1981.

SAS Umzimkulu3

Sandock Austral.

nn.

nn.

October 30, 1981.

SAS Umhloti4

Sandock Austral.

nn.

nn.

December 15, 1981.

 

Designation:

Coastal Minehunter (MHC5)

Number:

Four

Main contactor:

 

Abeking & Rasmussen, Germany.

Cost:

Not known.

Associated project names:

Biro (replacement programme).

Ship’s company:

40 (including seven officers).

Major dimensions & weights:

  • Displacement:

  • Growth potential:

  • Length:

  • Beam:

  • Draught:

 

  • 380mt, full load.

  • Not known.

  • 48m.

  • 8.5m.

  • 2.5m.

Hull:

The hull is of wooden construction and laminated with plastic glue. The engines are of non-magnetic materials.

Survivability:

Low magnetic and acoustic signature.

Main machinery:

Two MTU 12-valve 652 TB81 diesels, delivering a sustained 3.32mW (4515 hp) to two shafts bearing Voith Schneider props.

Performance:

  • Output, max (diesels):

  • Speed, max:

  • Range, miles:

  • Endurance:

 

  • Not known.

  • 16kts

  • 2000 at 13kts.

  • Not known.

  • Electronics:

    • Countermeasures:

    • Decoys:

  • ESM/ECM:

  • MCM:

  • Combat management system:

  • Weapons control:

  • Radars:

    • Air/surface search:

    • Fire control:

    • IFF:

    • Navigation:

  • Sonar:

 

  • None.

  • None.

  • None.

  • Some.

  • None.

  • None.

 

  • None

  • None

  • None.

  • Decca, I-band.

  • Klein variable depth sonar, side-scan high frequency.

Armament:

  • Missiles:

  • Guns:

 

  • Torpedoes:

  • Autonomous underwater vehicles:

  • Helicopters:

  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV):

  • None.

  • One Oerlikon GAM-BO1, 20mm cannon, two Browning 12.7mm HMG.

  • None.

  • Previously two PAP 104 remote control submersibles.

  • None.

  • None.

Expected life-time:

Not known, but about to be retired.

Comment:

South Africa acquired these German-designed vessels under the guise of “research vessels”. They were ordered as such in 1978 and were to be operated by the Navy on behalf of the Department of Transport. The lead ship Navors6 I was shipped to Durban from Germany in the heavy lift ship Uhenfels in June 1980 for fitting out. She was shortly followed by the second. The last pair was built in Durban. The vessels were painted blue with white upperworks and formed the 1st Research Squadron.

They were painted grey and renamed in 1982 but continued to fly the national flag and not the naval ensign. The prefix RV was only changed to SAS on February 3, 1988, when they were formally accepted as naval ships. Their minehunting capability could be enhanced by substituting the diving container on the after deck with lightweight mechanical and acoustic sweeping gear. They carry a rigid-hull inflatable boat and a decompression chamber.

The PAP104 AUVs have been retired and the class is currently thought to lack a minehunting capability. A new-generation offboard capability is under development as part of Project Mapantsula. These AUVs will be carried aboard the Biro multipurpose offshore patrol vessels (MMOPV) that will replace the River-class after next year. They may also be deployed aboard the Valour-class frigates.

The River class will stay in service until replaced by the MMOPV. In the meantime they are doing duty as OPVs and diving tenders.

 

1 River of whales

2 The river that flows through acacia trees

3 The great river.

4 Indeterminable.

5 Minehunter, Coastal.



6 Afrikaans: “Research”