A South African Navy appreciation on the role it can play in combating piracy off the northeast coast of Africa is receiving the “necessary attention” at the highest level.
“We could and are ready to participate in any such effort,” the Navy`s chief director maritime strategy Rear Admiral Bernard Teuteberg says.
He was speaking at a media conference on the Navy`s upcoming 3rd Sea Power for Africa conference being held next week where it was said that no African navy has yet joined the international effort that has seen China, India, Japan, Russia, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the US deploy ships there.
Egypt, Kenya and SA are rated as having the capacity to contribute. Teuteberg says that capacity to contribute should, however not just be measured in terms of ships but also in terms of support.
The SA Navy is perhaps unique in having available an ISO container-based transportable logistic system that can support its frigates, patrol vessels and submarines in austere ports. The Navy also has the Maritime Reaction Squadron available to protect such a facility.
The Navy will use next week`s symposium to again promote its vision for an African multipurpose patrol vessel similar to, but at least interoperable with its planned Project Biro fleet. Under this scheme the Navy intends purchasing three offshore patrol vessels to replace the Israeli Warrior (ex-Reshef, ex Sa`ar IV, ex Minister-class) “strike craft”.
It will also purchase three inshore patrol vessels to replace the remaining River-class minehunters and City-class minesweepers.
Teuteberg says the six ships will be built in SA to an international design. “They must be cheap to build and operate and will be used to patrol and control the seas around Africa.”
The ships will be built in series, not parallel, he adds. “We have experience with building single ships and building up an industry just to see it die.” Building the ships one after the other, either at Cape Town or Durban, will sustain the industry, as will further African orders.
Such acquisitions could lead to a single training, and logistics system for the vessels, Teuteberg adds. “That`s our dream,” he said.
Previous reports have indicated an OPV costs some R400 million and an IPV about R250 million, depending on electronics and weapons fit.
The size of the OPV is dictated by a requirement that they be helicopter capable in addition to being able to handle the seas off southern Africa, some of the roughest in the world. This means a hull of about 90m. The inshore craft will likely be about 50m in length.
The SAN hopes to have the vessels in service from 2012.
Speculation is that the OPVs will likely have telescopic hangars to shelter embarked helicopters as a fixed hangar would take up too much space. They will also have stern ramps to allow for the launching and recovery of rigid inflatable boats in rough water.
The ships will be modular with ISO containers containing specialised loads. In this way the Navy will quickly be able to configure the vessels as minesweepers, minehunters or patrol vessels. Teuteberg has previously refuted speculation that the ships would carry missiles, though it is likely they will carry 76mm and 20mm cannon taken from the Warrior ships.
As off-shore vessel is typically 75-95m, while an inshore vessel is typically 40-55m in length.
Speaking at a media conference in Cape Town this morning, Flag Officer Fleet Rear Admiral “Rusty” Higgs added the Navy is no longer contemplating the acquisition of a fifth Meko A200SAN frigate but will instead focus on a acquiring an amphibious dock ship-style strategic support vessel as contemplated under Project Millennium.