Fact file: Warrior-class offshore patrol vessel


South Africa contracted with Israel for six of these vessels in 1974 – three to be built in Israel and the rest at Durban. The vessels were based on the Israeli Sa’ar IV type, also called the Reshef (flame) class, itself derived from a Lürssen design.

Vessels of the class:



Laid Down



SAS Isaac Dyobha

(ex-Frans Erasmus) P1565

Sandock Austral, Durban

16 Mar 1979

27 July 1979

SAS Galeshewe

(ex-Hendrik Mentz) P 1567

Sandock Austral, Durban

26 Mar 1982

11 Feb 1983



Offshore patrol vessel, previously: Missile/Gun Fast Attack Craft (PCFG1)


Nine built or purchased, two remain.

Main contractor:

Israeli Aircraft Industries



Not known, but two Israeli vessels were reportedly sold to Sri Lanka in 1999 for US$26 million.

Associated project names:

Japonica, Coupé

Ship’s company:

52 (including seven officers).

Major dimensions & weights:

  • Displacement:

  • Growth potential:

  • Length:

  • Beam:

  • Draught:


  • 450 full load.

  • Not known.

  • 62.2m.

  • 7.8m.

  • 2.4m.


Not known.


Not known.

Main machinery:


Four Maybach MTU 16-valve 965 TB91 diesels delivering, sustained, to four shafts.


  • Output, max (diesels):

  • Speed, max:

  • Range, miles:

  • Endurance:


  • 11mW.

  • 32kts.

  • 1500 at 30kts; 3600+ at economical speed.

  • Stores for 10 days.


  • Countermeasures:

    • Decoys:.

    • ESM:

    • ECM:.

  • Combat management system:

  • Weapons control:

  • Radars:

    • Air/surface search:

    • Fire control:

    • IFF:

    • Navigation:

  • Sonar:



  • 4 ACDS launchers for chaff

  • ADS/Sysdel Delcon EW system

  • Saab/Grintek Rattler jammer

  • ADS Diamant (after upgrade). Mini action data automation with link

  • As above.

  • Elta EL/M 2208; E/F-band.

  • Selenia RTN 10X; I/J-band

  • Not known.

  • Not known.

  • Not known.

  • Not known.


  • Missiles:

    • SSM:



  • Guns:



  • Torpedoes:

  • Helicopters:



  • Previously: Skerpioen (Israeli Gabriel II) with active radar or optical guidance; semi-active radar homing to 36km at Mach 0.7.

  • Two OTOBreda 76mm/62 compact; two Oerlikon GAM-BO1 20mm; and two 12.7mm Browning HMG.

  • None.

  • None.

Expected life-time:

To 2010.


South Africa contracted with Israel for six of these vessels in 1974 – three to be built in Israel and the rest at Durban. The vessels were based on the Israeli Sa’ar IV type, also called the Reshef (flame) class, itself derived from a Lürssen design.


The cost of the programme is not known but a University of Stellenbosch research paper on Project Japonica, as the acquisition was called, suggests there was “much overspending”2. Two more were ordered after the failure of Project Taurus – the acquisition of two French A69-class corvettes, due to the coming into effect, on November 4, 1977, of a mandatory United Nations Security Council arms embargo against South Africa as punishment for its continued racist policies.


The duo was built under the name Project Coupé. A ninth was subsequently ordered “to the local shipbuilding facility going3“. Taurus, itself, followed the failed acquisition of six, then four, Spanish-built corvettes based on the João Coutinho-class due to the 1974 revolution in Portugal. Portugal eventually took the four into service as the Baptista de Andrade-class.


The class was at first known as the “Minister” class, and named for various ministers of defence. In 1997 the ships were renamed and the class altered to the “Warrior” class. Each commemorates a figure from South Africa’s military past.


Isaac Wauchope Dyobha was a Lovedale Mission-educated religious minister who joined the SA Native Labour Corps during World War One as a clerk-interpreter. He was aboard the troopship, the SS Mendi when she collided with the SS Darro in the English Channel on February 21, 1917. As the Mendi sank, he called on his doomed shipmates to die like warriors. “Be quite and calm my countrymen, for what is taking place now is what you came here to do. We are all going to die, and that is what we came for. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Zulu, say here and now that you are all my brothers… Xhosas, Swazis, Pondos, Basotho and all others, let us die like warriors. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war cries my brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais back in the kraals, our voices are left with our bodies…”4


Galeshewe was a Tihaping chief who was imprisoned in 1878 for ten years after some of his subordinate chiefs, apparently without his permission or knowledge, attacked Cornforth Hill near Kimberley. He was again imprisoned from 1897 to 1903 when he clashed with police trying to enforce precautions to prevent the spread of the deadly animal disease, Rinderpest.


The other vessels were named for Griqua chief Adam Kok, Xhosa prophet Makhanda, Boer general Jan Smuts, Zulu king Shaka, Bapedi king Sekhukhune and World War Two heroes Job Masego and René Sethren.


The cancellation of plans to build a local class of frigates or corvettes – Project Falcon – on the basis of experience gained building this class of boats and the SAS Drakensberg – led to the expansion of an ongoing upgrade programme into a major ship-life extension programme (SLEP) in the 1990s. This included fitting the communications suite, improving EW sensors, fitting a “third-generation target designation assembly”, a computer-assisted action information system served by datalinks, improvements to fire control, a complete overhaul of the Skerpioen missiles, and a new engine room monitoring system. The Dyobha completed its SLEP in April 1999 and the Galeshewe in March 2000.


The vessels will be replaced in coming years by new multi-mission offshore patrol vessels, to be acquired under Project Biro.


1 Patrol, Coastal, Fast, Guided (missile). The vessels have recently been downgraded to offshore patrol vessels. It is understood the move follows the depletion of the Navy’s stock of Skerpioen (scorpion) surface-to-surface missiles in 2008.

2 Cdr Thean Potgieter, The Secret South African Project Team: Building Strike Craft in Israel, 1975-79, www.academic.sun.ac.za/mil/scientia_militaria/internet%20vol%20vol/2032(2)05%potgieter.pdf, accessed January 12, 2006. But then, pariahs can’t be choosers.

3 Ditto.