Portuguese-language reports suggest Equatorial Guinea is to purchase a Barroso-class corvette from Brazil. The reported deal follows a visit to the authoritarian former Spanish colony by Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The defensa.com website reports initial discussions apparently started in February 2010. The site adds Lula da Silva’s visit coincided with a visit by the corvette, which was visited by a delegation of “six members of the Navy and Equatorial Guinean Department of Defence. A memorandum of understanding for the acquisition was signed July 6 with Emgepron, “a private company linked to the Ministry of Defence through the General Staff of the Brazilian Navy.”
Emgepron also built a 46.5 metre patrol vessel, the Brendan Simbwaye, for the Namibian navy. The defensa.com continues the final contract “should be signed” at the Euronavale 2010 exhibition, to be held in October at Le Bourget outside Paris, France.
The website ansa.it adds that Equatorial Guinea has also signed for the purchase of Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano aircraft and a Embraer 190 passenger transport that can seat up to 114. The latter is likely to serve as a VIP transport, while the former is a light attack and training aircraft.
The wikipedia notes the Barroso was ordered in 1993, was lai down at the Arsenal de Marinha do Rio de Janeiro in December 1994, launched in December 2002 and commissioned in August 2008. The ship displaces 1785 tons standard and 2350 tons at full load. It has a length of 103.4m, a beam of 11.4m and a draught of 5.3m. Propulsion is one General Electric LM2500 gas turbine (27 490 shp) and two MTU 1163 TB93 diesel engines driving two shafts with controllable pitch propellers in CODOG configuration at a speed of up to 27 knots (around 50km/h). Range is said to be 4000 nautical miles (7000 km) at 15 knots. The crew numbers 154. Weapons include a single 4.5 in (113mm) Vickers Mk.8 gun, single 40 mm Bofors Trinity Mk.3 gun, four MBDA Exocet MM40 Block 2 anti-ship missiles and twin 324mm ARES SLT Mod 400 triple-tube launchers for Mk.46 Mod 5 ASW torpedoes. The ship also carries a Westland Super Lynx Mk.21A.
As a new African oil power with a Gross Domestic Product of US$15.7 billion in 2008, Equatorial Guinea can arguably afford such a ship, but its ability to operate or maintain it is highly suspect. The authoritative Military Balance annual of the International Institute for Strategic Studies put the size of the nation’s navy at just 120 in 2009. Its air force musters 100 and its army 1100. The navy, based at Bata on Malabo Island is listed as owning two inshore patrol craft, one larger patrol vessel as well as two river patrol boats. The Guardia Civil also owns an inshore patrol vessel. The operational status of these vessels are unknown but is unlikely to be high, even though the country seemingly spends a considerable amount on defence, an estimated US8.4 billion in 2007.
Corruption and political repression is said to be rife in the 616 000-strong nation, with most people living in extreme poverty. The US Center for Public Integrity on a November 2002 report said “oil companies do not view Equatorial Guinea’s military – a product of decades of brutal dictatorial rule – with much confidence… Seven of the army’s nine generals are relatives of the president [Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who took power in 1979 after deposing and executing his uncle]; the other two are from his tribe. There is no clear command structure, the level of discipline is low, and professionalism and training are almost non-existent, according to locals and foreign oil workers. Even the presidential guard – an indication of the lack of trust in the country’s forces – is composed of 350 Moroccan troops.” The IISS does not list the Moroccans.