The Algerian Navy’s new landing platform dock (LPD) Kalaat Beni Abbes is undergoing training and working up of its crew with the Italian Navy ahead of its delivery voyage to Algeria in April 2015.
The Italian Navy said the Kalaat Beni Abbes arrived at the Taranto naval base in southern Italy on November 17 after having sailed from the La Spezia shipyard, some ten months after the ship was launched and two and a half months after handover to the Algerian Navy.
The ship will now remain in port until the end of February 2015, while its crew attends the last and most difficult part of their training syllabus.
Training will be conducted by the Italian Navy at Taranto, where the Algerian crew has already followed initial instruction courses when they first arrived in Italy in October 2013. Training will take place at sea and in port and is part of a training package ordered with the amphibious warfare ship.
The Italian Navy said the Kalaat Beni Abbes’ maiden voyage took place in November, under the best weather conditions possible, under the watchful eyes of a group of Italian instructors and involved the ship’s commander, Colonel Makhlouf, and his crew in the first difficult sailing exercise. The vessel passed through the Straits of Messina in a precision navigation exercise.
The ship is scheduled to sail home after having completed testing of its missile systems in April 2015. 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, thus enhancing both the competitiveness of the domestic shipbuilding industry and the prestige of the Italian Navy.
This cooperation has already produced its beneficial effects, since Algeria has shown its intention of buying a new minesweeper under the same formula that was pioneered with the Kalaat Beni Abbes.
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.