French shipbuilder DCNS is hungry for SA business, so hungry in fact, that it last month launched an offshore patrol vessel design in SA rather than wait for the Euronavale exhibition in Paris later this month.
DCNS vice president Middle East and Africa (MEA) Jacques Deville says his design bureau has “several solutions” suitable for the SA Navy`s multipurpose offshore patrol vessel (MM OPV, Project Biro) and strategic support ship (SSS, Project Millennium) requirements.
Deville says DCNS the launch of the “Gowind” family in SA “shows the importance of Biro”. He adds that it`s the first time ever DCNS had not unveiled a new design at Euronavale first. This year`s edition of that exhibition begins 27 October.
The MEA executive says the design is flexible both in design and operation. The ship`s architect, Jean-Pierre Cruciani, adds the design, though new, is “sea proven and safe” and can launch rigid-hull inflatable boats through a stern hatch in conditions up to sea state 4.
“It is a simple design, but very cost effective.” Cruciani adds the stealthy look was somewhat inspired by the architecture of space ships in the Star Wars trilogy, though he hastens to add “not those of Darth Vader”.
“This is not an aggressive design. And the vessels can be fitted with both water cannon and SA-developed Rogue unmanned 12.7mm machine guns.” One pertinent feature is the 360 degree bridge, which Cruciani explains allows the captain to supervise activities on the flight deck – and quarterdeck – without leaving the navigation deck.
SA would also have full choice on subsystems should it choose the Gowind, he adds. That will help ensure maximum commonality and interoperability with the Navy` existing German built MEKO A200SAN frigates.
The Navy has not yet publicly said what it wants in the MM OPV stakes. Media reports suggest about 10 vessels at R300 million each with possible follow-on orders for other regional navies. There is an expectation the ships will be built in SA.
Cruciani says DCNS is ready to match that requirement, including the necessary skills and technology transfer. “Gowind is designed to be compliant with this type of industrial requirement.”
For the Millennium requirement, Deville proposes the “proven Mistral family.” France currently has two of these 21 500t ships in service, the Mistral and Tonnerre. Both proved their mettle shortly after entering service in 2006 when they were hastened to Beirut to evacuate civilians in the face of the latest outbreak of war there. The French Navy evacuated over 10 000 refugees in two weeks in during Operation Baliste.
Deville adds that the Mistral is a multi-mission platform equally adept at assisting civilians as landing or supporting peacekeepers. The 200m ship is also ideal for Africa as it approaches the “Afromax” size, the maximum size ship that can enter most African ports.
Aviation Week last year reported the Mistral and her twin sister together cost “just” 685 million euros roughly the price the US Navy pays for a single LPD-17 San Antonio-class ship.