The Royal Saudi Navy frigate Al Riyadh began sea trials this September. To be delivered next July by France's DCN, Lorient, the 4,650-ton, 25-knot, diesel-powered ship is not scheduled to enter active service until April 2003. Also ordered in 1994, the second ship, the Makkah, was launched on 20 July 2001 (see inset). The Al Damman, added to the three-ship program in 1997, was laid down on 26 August for launch next April. The 436-foot-long design is an expanded version of the French La Fayette-class "stealth frigate" but with a heavier armament that includes an antisubmarine warfare capability. Two eight-cell vertical launch groups for Aster-15 surface-to-air missiles are installed, and the ships also will carry eight MM 40 Exocet antiship missiles. Plans to install two launchers for Mistral heat-seeking point-defense missiles have been abandoned on cost grounds. The 100-mm gun seen forward will be replaced by a 76-mm OTOBreda gun prior to the Al Riyadh's delivery, and the other two ships will have the less-expensive gun from the outset. Also fitted will be four fixed 21-inch torpedo tubes and a hangar for two AS.365F/AS Dauphin helicopters.
By A. D. Baker III