The Equatorial Guinea Navy has commissioned a new 107-metre long frigate which was partially built at the navy’s floating dry dock in the port of Malabo, as the island nation continues with a steady build-up of naval power.
The frigate (F073), which has since been named ‘Wele Nzas’ was commissioned into service on June 3 by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who declared it the ‘flagship’ of the Equatorial Guinea Navy and stated that the country has plans to build more vessels to ensure national security.
“This warship is the flagship of the Equatorial Guinea Navy and it will [help] to ensure security in the Gulf of Guinea. This is not our last project. The fact we [built] this warship means we can build more.”
IHS Janes reports that although the ship was modified locally, it was designed by the Ship Research and Design Center in Nikolaev, Ukraine and built by MTG Dolphin at a shipyard in the Bulgarian port of Varna as a ‘salvage and rescue vessel’. The keel was laid in May 2012 and it was launched in Varna in February 2013.
It was later outfitted with combat systems at a naval shipyard widely believed to be the Astilleros de Guinea Ecuatorial (ASABA GE) in the capital Malabo. The 107-metre long ship has a beam of 14 metres, a draft of 3.7 metres and an estimated displacement of 2 500 tonnes.
The Wele Nzas is powered by four Caterpillar C280 diesel engines and can cruise to a top speed of 25 knots with a full operational range of 5 000 nautical miles. The ship’s weapons include two MS 227 multi-barrelled rocket launchers, 76.2 mm AK-176 guns which are fitted on the fore and aft and two close-defence 30 mm AK-630M guns mounted besides the funnel stack.
According to IHS Janes, the ship’s sensor systems include a dome-enclosed radar set on the fore-mast, two navigational radars and a Delta-M radar on the funnel stack. It is also fitted with electro-optical devices which include two optical target designators, an electronic support measures (ESM) antenna and a Satellite Communication (SATCOM) antenna.
The ship also has raised helicopter landing decks and carries a number of boats which can be launched by a swinging davit. Equatorial Guinea already operates two PV 50 patrol vessels and two 62 m offshore patrol vessels which were all imported from Bulgaria in recent years.
It also operates two Israeli-made Shaldag fast attack boats, designated Isla de Corisco and Isla de Annobon, and a 91.45 m Salamandra roll-on/roll-off landing ship which was ordered from China and designated Osa upon delivery in 2009. The country also took delivery of two Saar-4 patrol craft in 2011, the OPV-88 Reklama (delivered 2012 and designated Bata) and two Kie Ntem class OPVs delivered from Israel in February 2011.
The nation faces maritime security threats which include piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and a need to secure its massive offshore oil and gas wealth. It also faces massive problems of international human and drug trafficking operations.