ThyssenKrupp banks on inside edge for Biro, Millennium

German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) is hoping to capitalise on its previous success with the SA Navy to gain the advantage in bidding for the sea service’s upcoming requirement for a strategic support ship and a new class of offshore patrol vessels (MM OPV).     
TKMS have in the last decade supplied SA with four state-of-the-art MEKO A200SAN frigates and three sophisticated Type 209 littoral submarines. Bernd Wölfer, the company`s vice president for sales says the commonality between the frigates and their offering for the strategic support ship (Project Millennium) and the MM OPV (Project Biro) could be persuasive.
Regarding the latter, Wölfer says they are suggesting a design similar to that recently completed for the Malaysian Navy. Speaking generally – the specifics of the SA requirement is not yet in the public domain – Wölfer said he expected a design optimised for coast guard duties. “I assume SA wants a coast guard capability,” he says, adding that he expected a further requirement being the local construction of the ships. “I could imagine local manufacture would be a requirement” and would involve co-design and technology transfer.
TKMS, he says, is well versed in building such vessels abroad. “Our shipyards have great experience building ships in customer countries. Of our more than 60 frigates and corvettes around 30 have been built in the customer country. If the requirement is to build in Africa and export into Africa, we can do it.”  
The Malaysians are currently commissioning the Kedah-class OPV based on the MEKO A100 design, similar to but smaller than the SA Navy`s MEKO A200 ships. The German Navy is also currently receiving corvettes, the K130 Braunschweig-class, based on the A100 design. The Malaysians intend using their 91m ships for coastal surveillance and for countering piracy as well as drug and people smuggling that is prevalent in their waters.            
Turning to the strategic support ship, TKMS is proposing a 192m, 20 000mt full displacement “multi-role helicopter dock ship”, dubbed the MHD200. The design, he says, will be “as flexible as possible” and will be sized to fit the Simon`s Town dock. 
“This design was the centrepiece of our MECON 2006 conference for the international market and we`ve adapted it for what we believe is necessary for the African market. It is a basic design for a LHD (landing ship, helicopter and dock) that takes into account the special requirements of the African continent, including the small size and limited capacity of most ports.”
“You want a ship that can operate completely independently of shore facilities; and more importantly on the humanitarian side, a ship that can help with ameliorating the impact of disasters.”
“For this we`ve made space for helicopters to operate off the deck in simultaneous operation, a quite huge amphibious component and an additional possibility for loading containers, with an onboard crane…”
Wölfer says the MHD can carry up to 54 standard containers and for a pure humanitarian mission can accommodate several thousand people aboard for short periods.
For peace support missions, the MHD can carry up to 900 fully armed troops and can accommodate 850 lane metres of vehicles. The hangar can house up to nine helicopters and the well dock two large landing craft.   
To protect itself, the ship can be fitted with up to 16 vertical launch surface-to-air missiles of the type fitted to the SA frigates, a 35mm dual purpose gun and – around the periphery of the vessel – six SA-developed Rogue weapons stations featuring a remotely controlled 12.7mm machine gun.    
Wölfer says both the MHD and Biro offering would be built to MEKO standard, thereby ensuring for SA maximum commonality in spare parts, maintenance regimes and training with the Valour-class frigates.
“A high level of commonality will allow for the exchange of crews between the frigates, the OPVs and the MHD with little re-training.”
Asked about competitor criticism that TKMS has never built any ship in the MHD class, Wölfer said: ”I understand what they say. It is always less risk for the customer to have a proven design. No doubt about that.”
“But anytime an existing design is customised to suit local requirement, it is no longer an off-the-shelf acquisition; costs increase and risk escalate. We have been in the business 130 years. We give a performance guarantee on specifications. So there is no risk; we build exactly to design. Others can do this too. What others cannot offer is commonality with the frigates as we were the designers and builders of that.
“That is becoming a bigger advantage when you consider the navies` skills challenge. The guys who are the technicians on the one are also the technicians on the other; it is not just the savings in cost that is an advantage, but also having the skills available.”
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