French Build Warships for Oman and Kuwait

By Antony Preston

After a brief Islamic ceremony and formal naming, the SNV Al Najah went slowly down the slip way on the launching cradle and half an hour later put to sea with a party of visitors. As a piece of showmanship it was hard to beat-although yard spokesmen admitted that the ship had been in the water before. Even allowing for a bit of stage management, it gave a new meaning to the phrase "turnkey operation."

Like her sisters Al Bushra and Al Mansoor , she was completed with a single refurbished 40-mm/60 caliber Bofors gun forward as interim armament. Plans to retrofit OtoBreda 76-mm L/62 Compact guns from decommissioned units of the old Al Bushra class have, however, been dropped. Instead, the dockyard at Muscat will install the more powerful 76-mm L/62 Super Rapid guns. The CelsiusTech 9LV Mk 3 single-console combat system and its tracker have not yet been installed, nor have the GAM-BOl single 20-mm guns been installed at the after end of the superstructure.

The twin MTU 16V538 TB93 diesels, each developing 4,200 brake horsepower, should give a maximum speed of 24.5 knots, and the ships have sufficient fuel for a range of 4,200 nautical miles at 15 knots. The design is an expansion of the French Navy's P 400 patrol craft, intended to provide year round ocean surveillance, i.e., weatherly enough to cope with the monsoon weather encountered off the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The ships are scheduled to get a shallow-water antisubmarine warfare system, although funds are not yet available for the active towed array system (ATAS) and twin launchers for ASW torpedoes.

CMN also supplied more details of the eight PB-37BRL patrol craft ordered by Kuwait in 1995 through prime contractor DCN international. The designation takes its name from Patrol Boat 37-meter, Blue Riband, Lengthened, a reference to a CMN-designed, gas-turbine driven vessel built in Italy to contest the transatlantic speed record. Machinery of the Kuwaiti craft is identical to the French Navy's former experimental surface-effect ship Agnes -2000: two MTU 16V538 TB93 diesels for lift and two MTU BV 396 units driving KaMeWa waterjets.

The building program was delayed because of design changes from the Kuwaiti Navy. The ships are to be armed with light antiship missiles but the Kuwaiti Navy has not yet selected the type. The favored choice is the ship-launched variant of the British Aerospace Sea Skua in twin canister on the fantail, but Aerospatiale (backed by strong French government pressure) is trying to sell the MMIS mounted in twin pannier launchers on either side of the bridge. Norwegian-supplier Kongsberg has proposed the Penguin Mk 3.

Currently the ships are being fitted "for but not with," French Sadral infrared-guided, air-defense missiles, and there is similar provision for Dagaie decoy launchers. Generating capacity is sufficient for the additional systems and stability margins allow for the installation of a Seaspray or Agrion radar on the foremast. The gun armament includes a single OtoBreda 40/70 single Fast Forty, controlled by a Najir Mk 2 optronic director.

Thomson-CSF DR-3000 electronic support measures will be fitted without a jammer. The combat system is a derivative of the Thomson-CSF Tavitac 2000, using Calisto consoles. Deliveries are scheduled to begin this November and run through August 1999.

 

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