BAE Systems has launched the Al Rasikh, the third and final corvette currently on order for for the Royal Navy of Oman (RNO). Once deliveries begin next year, Oman’s newest warships will substantially increase the size and reach of the Sultanate’s maritime capabilities, and will enhance its counter piracy efforts in the Arabian Sea.
The vessel was on Monday named by Lieutenant General Hassan Mohsin Al Sharaiqi, Inspector General of the Police and Customs of the Sultanate of Oman, during a ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base. Also in attendance were BAE Systems employees and guests, including senior representatives from the Royal Navy of Oman and UK Royal Navy.
“We have developed a close working relationship with the Royal Navy of Oman as we work in partnership to deliver the Khareef corvettes,” said Mick Ord, Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Surface Ships division. “These highly sophisticated ships are fitted with complex weapons and high quality accommodation with exceptional sea keeping ability. I have no doubt that Al Rasikh, and her sister ships, will be a valued asset within the Royal Navy of Oman’s surface fleet.”
Al Rasikh is part of Project Khareef, signed with BAE Systems in 2007, for the design and construction of three 99 metre corvettes for the RNO. BAE Systems is also delivering training for RNO personnel, as well as an initial logistics support package for the ships as part of a continued commitment to providing through-life support and services.
BAE Systems said that Al Rasikh and her sister ships will be used to protect Omani territorial waters, conducting coastal patrols in peacetime, with the ability to conduct search and rescue, as well as disaster relief, while providing ocean going capability for use in deterrent operations during times of tension.
Following hand over to the RNO next year, the first of class Al Shamikh and her crew will undergo the UK Royal Navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training programme before sailing to Oman for hot weather trials. Al Rahmani, the second ship of the class, was officially named in July 2010 and will undertake sea trials later this year. Deliveries have been delayed slightly due to unspecified technical problems discovered during sea trials, according to Muscat Daily.
The 400 million pound contract to build the three corvettes for the RNO was signed on January 15, 2007, between VT Group and the government of Oman.
“Possession of such vessels will undoubtedly support the role of the Fleet and its readiness to carryout its tasks, such imposing national sovereignty over territorial waters, maintaining safety of navigation in the Gulf and the Arabian Sea, hence, positively impact trade, and securing sea lanes and oil tankers not only in the strait of Hormuz but also in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean,” the Commander of the Royal Navy of Oman said at the time the deal was signed.
In July 2008 BVT Surface Fleet was formed and the project transferred to the company. BVT Surface Fleet was a joint venture between BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions and VT Group. In October 2009 BAE Systems bought VT Group’s share of the joint venture and renamed the business BAE Systems Surface Ships.
Once they enter service, the 99 metre long Khareef class vessels will be the largest warships in the RNO fleet and the first new class of corvettes to enter service since the Qahir class in 1996.
The corvettes will be armed with a 12 unit VL Mica launcher, Exocet Block 3 surface to surface missiles, an Oto Melara 76/62 gun and two 30 mm guns.
Other vessels in Oman’s navy include two Qahir corvettes, four Dhofar fast attack craft, three Al Bushra class patrol craft, three amphibious ships and three other vessels, including a royal yacht.
The new vessels will play an important role in Oman’s naval ambitions, which were demonstrated in February this year when Iranian and Omani naval forces staged their second joint exercises in the Gulf of Oman.
Four Omani vessels, two fighter aircraft and one coastal helicopter as well as four Iranian surface vessels participated in the joint drill, which was aimed at enhancing regional cooperation and readiness for rescue operations and relief services.