Spanish shipyard group Navantia is currently building SA’s sporting rival Australia four sophisticated Aegis air defence destroyers and recently secured an order to build that country’s navy two landing ships
, helicopter and dock (LHD).
Some experts believe SA and Australia enjoy a similar strategic situation with like challenges and solutions. Both have a need to project expeditionary forces at great range – and then support them in low infrastructure environments.
The SA Navy currently has an improvised ability in this sphere using the fleet replenishment vessel SAS Drakensberg. The SA Navy`s Project Millennium has found the sea service in need of an amphibious capability and indications are that one or more “strategic support ships”, capable of military as well as humanitarian missions will be acquired in the medium term.
Navantia is one of a number of vendors anxious to secure the strategic support ship contract. Another is DCNS, whose Mistral design lost to Navantia in the Australian competition.
Miguel Martínez, Navantia`s vice president for communications and institutional relations says the company is also keen to take further the SA Navy`s requirement for a new class of multi-mission offshore patrol vessels.
The Spanish company displayed a model of its “Maritime Action Vessel” at the recent Africa Aerospace and Defence show in Cape Town, which with its 35-man crew and highly automated systems may be a cost effective solution to anti-poaching and counter-piracy patrols of the African coastline.
The SA Navy is already involved in the former and judging by comments by defence minister Charles Nqakula on Friday is about to engage in the latter.