The Algerian Navy’s largest new ship, the amphibious transport dock platform Kalaat Beni Abbes, has arrived in Algeria after sailing from Italy on 23 March.
The vessel’s docking was witnessed by Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid-Salah, Deputy Minister of National Defence and Chief of Staff of the People’s National Army, on Saturday 28 March. He then toured the ship and urged its crew to ensure it is well maintained and in a high state of readiness.
In a statement the Algerian ministry of defence said the new vessel would contribute to the improvement of defence capabilities and the development and consolidation of the Algerian National Army.
The vessel was handed over to the Algerian Navy on September 4, but underwent training and working up of its crew with the Italian Navy at Taranto naval base for several months. The Italian Navy said it will provide the Algerian Navy the largest ship in its fleet and that training by the Navy makes the supply of new ships much more attractive for foreign buyers, and provides a positive image of the country as a system supplier.
The Kalaat Beni Abbes is based on the Italian navy’s San Giusto-class, and equipped with a FREMM-like combat system. It was ordered in July 2011 by the Ministry of Defence of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria from Orizzonte Sistemi Navali, a company controlled by Fincantieri in which Selex ES also holds an interest. The vessel was ordered at a cost of more than 400 million euros.
Fincantieri said its most important feature is an internal floodable dock, capable of accommodating a ready-to-go 20-metre landing craft; two landing craft of the same size can travel attached to the ship’s deck, and can be deployed using a system of davits. If necessary, the dock can be emptied to accommodate other types of vehicles.
The vessel can accommodate 15 main battle tanks or 30 light tanks or armoured personnel carriers. Five medium helicopters can be carried in a hangar. Armament includes Aster 15 missiles, a single OTO Melara 76 mm gun at the bow and two 25 mm cannons. Electronics include Selex Sistemi Integrati EMPAR radar, SCLAR-H chaff/flare decoy launchers and Athena-C combat management system.
The Kalaat Beni-Abbes is 143 metres long with a 21.5 metre beam and has a full load displacement of about 8 800 tons. With two diesel engines, it can reach speeds of over 20 knots, and carry more than 430 soldiers, 12 flight service specialists and 152 crew, for a total of about 600 people.
It has a full-length flight deck, with two helicopter landing spots, fore and aft. It is also equipped with a 60-bed hospital and several operating theatres, to provide medical support to both troops and civilians during humanitarian operations.
The order has required Fincantieri not only to build the main vessel, but also to oversee the design and to manage and coordinate the local construction of three smaller Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) vessels, built at the Mers El Kebir naval shipyards in Algeria. These support vessels are able to carry 140 men or a heavy tank, with a maximum weight of 30 tons, and are an integral part of the equipment of the Kalaat Beni-Abbes.
Although Algeria has an option to buy a second vessel, the recent fall in oil prices mean this is unlikely.