The French offshore patrol vessel FNS L’Adroit has arrived in Cape Town, where it will be showcased to the South African Navy, which is seeking new offshore patrol vessels under Project Biro.
The DCNS built and funded Gowind class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) was made available to the French Navy as part of DCNS’s ambition to win a larger share of the markets for small- and medium-displacement surface ships. L’Adroit arrived in Cape Town on Wednesday.
L’Adroit was handed over to the French Navy in October 2011 for a three-year trial period. Commissioned on March 19 this year, she is carrying out a wide variety of naval missions such as anti-piracy patrols, fisheries inspection and protection, anti-drugs operations, environmental protection, humanitarian assistance and search and rescue at sea.
By demonstrating L’Adroit’s qualities, DCNS said the French Navy would help it win the coveted ‘sea proven’ seal of approval that international customers seek when reviewing a new design’s innovations and efficiency.
The importance to DCNS of the visit to Cape Town is highlighted by the South African Navy’s ambition to acquire several offshore and inshore patrol vessels under Project Biro. These are to be built locally to replace the remaining strike craft and mine hunters.
DCNS said its presence in South Africa is part of an ongoing partnership with local shipbuilder Nautic Africa (formerly KND) covering promotion, construction and sales of the Gowind class. “This type of arrangement is key to DCNS’s ability to compete in export markets, and an operational presence in South Africa helps the Group understand the needs of the South African Navy and meet its local shipbuilding requirements,” DCNS said. The company earlier signed a memorandum of understanding cementing the cooperation with Nautic Africa. The two companies are promoting the vessel in South Africa and seven other African countries.
“The Gowind is the most technologically advanced of all the vessels proposed for the South African OPV programme,” said James Fisher, CEO of Nautic Africa. “We’re convinced that DCNS is the Navy’s ideal partner in this highly competitive marketplace and that the DCNS OPV is the best platform for naval missions in Africa.”
Having completed a general and anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Guinea, L’Adroit arrived in Cape Town after completing a 19 day, 4 500 nautical mile patrol from Dakar, Senegal, down the west coast of Africa to the Cape.
The oceans around the southern tip of Africa are renowned for their rough conditions and high seas. Any vessel purchased under Project Biro will have to take routinely operate in such conditions and the French saw the opportunity to test the ship during the Cape winter.
“We have been at sea for three weeks,” Captain Loïc Guyot, commander of FNS L’Adroit, told defenceWeb, “We had calm seas at first, then very rough ones for two days.”
These rough seas included a Sea State of 7 that included waves over six meters in height.
“The ship handled very well,” was how Guyot described the conditions. Other members of the crew agreed that the ship fared much better in the conditions to what they expected.
Innovations of the new patrol ship include a panoramic bridge offering 360° visibility, a single enclosed mast offering 360° sensor visibility, covert deployment of fast commando boats in less than five minutes, a hangar capable of accommodating a helicopter up to the size of a South African Oryx and full provision for unmanned aerial and surface vehicles (UAVs and USVs).
The modular construction of the vessel allows for the adaptation of the ship to various missions, from patrol and anti-piracy to mine warfare and the transportation of freight. The ship can carry two 20 ft containers and still accommodate a helicopter such as the Super Lynx. Should no helicopter capability be required for a particular mission, a maximum of 20 containers can be carried on the aft deck.
Apart from showcasing the ship to the South African Navy and strengthening the partnership between DCNS and Nautic Africa, the visit will also maintain the South African Navy’s international contact with the French Navy and provide the opportunity for France and South Africa to share lessons learnt about piracy operations and related Offshore Patrol Vessel missions on a Navy to Navy basis.
“During previous stopovers, navies around the world have been impressed by L’Adroit and recognised the operational benefits of the Gowind range,” said Marc Maynard, head of Gowind program department. “We’re looking forward to working with South Africa to meet its requirements for offshore patrol vessels.”
With a crew of only 32 officers and ratings, the ship is highly automated. The L’Adroit has been at sea for 80% of the time since October last year and this has required two French Navy crews to be rotated every four months. Thus, the crew are looking forward to some rest and relaxation whilst enhance contact between the French Navy and the local South African community.
L’Adroit will be in Cape Town’s Table Bay Harbour from September 5 to 9 before docking at Simon’s Town from September 9 to 11.
When she departs Simon’s Town for her return to the Gulf of Guinea, the L’Adroit will undertake exercises with members of the SA Navy onboard.
The ship will be open to the public on Saturday morning, 8 September 2012 (09:30 to 11:30) in Cape Town harbour where the public will be afforded the opportunity to go onboard and interact with the crew of FNS L’Adroit.
DCNS will also exhibit at Africa Aerospace & Defence from 19 to 23 September at Air Force Base Waterkloof outside Pretoria. The DCNS exhibit will feature the L’Adroit, Gowind Combat, Mistral 140, Polaris mission system and F21 torpedo.