Latest Developments in Europe, North America and Australia
Sinan TOPUZ / firstname.lastname@example.org
The increasing tension in the global maritime environment, from the South China Sea to the Persian Gulf, and from the Eastern Mediterranean to the North Sea, has given momentum to the competition in the combat platform field. The global trade potential for warships, which was $39 billion in 2017, reached $40 billion dollars in 2018 and is expected to rise to $45 billion dollars in 2024. Following on from the article series published in MSI TDR last year, we again share with you the latest developments in the global warship sector. This year’s series was launched in the previous issue, and covered the 2019–2020 period, with the United States, the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. In this part, we are continuing with the developments in Europe, North America (excluding the US), South America and Australia.
In 2020, surprising news came from Germany in the form of an announcement that the contract for the construction of MKS 180 frigates had been awarded to Damen – a Netherlands based company. The company announced that construction of the four ships covered under the €5.6 billion project would take place at the Blohm+Voss shipyards and the shipyards of Lürssen in Germany, with 80 percent of the construction works carried out in Germany. Damen also announced that it would be cooperating with the Thales’ Netherlands branch in the project.
Another important development was German company thyssenKrupp Marine Systems’ (TKMS) objection to the tender results. It was announced, however, that the project budget, including design and construction, had been approved by the German Budget Committee on 17 June, and that a contract had been signed with Damen on 19 June. Now that Damen has become the prime contractor in the project for the German frigates, it is not so difficult to predict that it will catch the same wind in projects in the Netherlands and Belgium in the future and become the leading frigate manufacturer in Northern Europe, leaving behind the days when it was only the leading corvette shipyard in the Netherlands.
Thanks to their low maintenance requirement and advanced automation, the 155-metre-long vessels, weighing some 9,000 tons, are aimed to operate actively for two years in their areas of duty. Deliveries are expected to start in 2027 and to conclude in 2032.
The second ship in the €2.4 billion F125 project, which has been on the agenda because of the problems encountered last year, was delivered to the German Ministry of Defence in March 2020 and was commissioned on 10 June. To conclude the programme, the third ship is scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2020, and the fourth in 2021.
In addition to the five 1,850-ton K130 corvettes in its inventory, Germany has also purchased five corvettes in the same class. Keel laying of the second ship of the new batch hastaken place in January 2020. Deliveries of the ships to the German Navy are expected to begin in 2022, with one planned to serve as a testing ship for the laser system developed by Rheinmetall and MBDA Germany.
It was announced in November 2019 that Bulgaria is to purchase two used Tripartite class mine countermeasures ships from the Netherlands for a total of €3.5 million, and it is on public record that Bulgaria has earmarked a further €1.5 million for the modernisation of the ships.
The procurement of four corvettes under the Squadron 2020 project was approved by the Finnish government in September 2019, while in 2017, €7.5 million was paid to Rauma Marine Constructions, the contractor of the project. The projected budget of the ice-breaking Pohjanmaa-class ships, to be built between 2022 and 2025 under the project is €1.3 billion. Aiming to increase its power in the Baltic Sea, Finland has allocated € 1.5 billion to the Squadron 2020 project, which includes also surface-to-air missile systems.
The construction of France’s new frigate (Frégates de taille intermédiaire / FTI), in other words, the first of the BELH@RRA class ships, started in October 2019. The project covers the construction of five ships, with the first planned to enter the inventory of the French Navy in 2023. The attendance of the Commander of the Greek Navy, as well as the attaché’s of both Poland and New Zealand, at the steel cutting ceremony of the first ship, weighing 4,960 tons, was considered a strong indication of the interest of these countries in the FTI class.
France launched the first of its 5,000-ton Barracuda-class submarines in July 2019, and this first ship, named Suffren, started sea trials in April 2020. The Barracuda-class project is currently behind schedule, and the budget has already been exceeded. The total cost of the six ships, all of which are to have joined the French Naval fleet by 2030, is expected to be €9.9 billion.
In other news, it was reported on 12 June that a fire had broken out in the forward part of a Rubis-class nuclear submarine during maintenance and had burned for 14 hours. It’s unclear if the submarine is repairable and decision will be done after complete assessment to damage on the hull.
The Netherlands announced in December 2019 that Navantia, one of the companies competing for the replacement of its four Walrus-class submarines under a programme scheduled to begin in 2025, had been excluded from the tender. The Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands announced that Navantia’s local participation rate was found to be insufficient for the project, the tender results of which are expected to be revealed in 2022. The remaining competitors in the tender and their respective products are as follows: Saab/Damen partnership’s A-26, TKMS’ Type 212; and Naval Group’s SSK class Barracuda.
In May 2019, it was announced that the €2 billion tender of Belgium and the Netherlands for 12 mine countermeasure ships had been awarded to the Naval Group and ECA Group partnership. The project will see the navies of Belgium and the Netherlands each gaining six ships, as well as unmanned vehicles dubbed “Toolbox” that will be deployable for mine search and destruction missions in mined areas.
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom’s Type 31 frigate tender was awarded to Babcock Engineering in September 2019, thus breaking BAE Systems’ long-term monopoly in the field in the country. The project, valued at €1.36 billion, covers five ships that are expected to be delivered between 2023 and 2026. It is believed that ships of this class have considerable export potential.
The Type 31 (Arrowhead 140) was developed based on Denmark’s Iver Huitfeldt design, and the same hull was used previously on Denmark’s Absalon class support ships. To keep the costs down, the design was made as simple as possible. For example, wherever possible, straight lines were chosen for cable and pipe routes, while passages permitting the entry and exit of large materials were prepared in advance. The tonnage of the ship is 5,700 tons, excluding it from being referred to as a light frigate. However, the free space left during construction will allow for new equipment and material updates on board. According to the Royal Navy, the Arrowhead 140 was considered the most suitable design in terms of potential for future expansion among the competing designs.
The €3.3 billion Prince of Wales, the second ship in the Queen Elizabeth class, was commissioned by the Royal Navy in December 2019, giving the United Kingdom the luxury of having two aircraft carriers in its fleet at the same time that it has long been without.
It was announced that the project for the Offshore Logistics Support Ship, which has long been a subject of heated discussion, will return to the agenda in the autumn of 2020. The point of contention is whether or not the vessel constitutes a warship, in that a tender could be opened only in the United Kingdom. Politicians and industrialists in the United Kingdom continue to advocate that $1.9 billion project, covering a total of three ships, should be considered warships, and so the tender process should be carried out in the United Kingdom.
Fincantieri launched its 10th and final FREMM frigate in January 2020, with delivery to the Italian Navy expected in 2021.
Spain and Greece have joined the European Patrol Corvette (EPC) project launched by Italy and France for a 3,000-tons corvette-class vessel. Germany, Europe’s locomotive in terms of industry, has yet to show any interest in the project.
A total of five Hunt-class mine hunting vessels, decommissioned by the United Kingdom, will join the Lithuanian Navy through a lease deal. It is stated that the transfer will not only bring in revenues of ₤2.5 million, but will also contribute to UK industry through maintenance, repair and modernisation works.
It was announced that Norway and Germany had entered into talks at the end of April to discuss the joint-production of submarines under the Type 212 CD submarine project. TKMS will assume the lead responsibility under the joint production project. While details of the ship’s design have yet to be revealed, it is planned for two ships to be built for Germany and four ships for Norway. The first ship under the project is aimed to be delivered to Norway in 2026.
Sources reported in November 2019 that Poland is planning to replace its Kobben-class ships, which have come to the end of their lifecycle, with two used Södermanland-class submarines to be procured from Sweden. Meanwhile, the future of Poland’s $2.7 billion Orka submarine project, for which Naval Group, TKMS and Saab all submitted proposals, is unclear.
Portugal has launched the mid-life upgrade of the second of its M-class (Karel Doorman) frigates in the Netherlands, with the upgrade due for completion by the end of 2020.
In July 2019, it was announced that the Romanian government signed a $1.4 billion agreement with Naval Group for the construction of four new Gowind-class multirole corvettes, the modernisation and maintenance of Type 22 frigates, and the construction of training centres.
Last year, Greece continued its negotiations for the procurement of the FTI/BELH@RRA frigate from France, and it is understood that the Hellenic Navy, which was also invited to FTI’s steel cutting ceremony, has made progress in this regard.
In addition, Greece has joined Spain in the European Patrol Corvette programme, for which Naval Group and Fincantieri have launched a joint venture.
In June 2020, Greek Parliament approved the following actions and their respective budgets:
- The procurement of four MH-60R helicopters;
- The modernisation of MEKO HN frigates, with a budget of €160 million euros;
- The upgrading of Type 214 submarines to allow them to be able to fire Sub-Harpoons.
It was announced in June that an agreement had been made between the Greek ONEX Shipyard and Israel Shipyards for the construction of a 77-metre, 800-ton Themistocles-class corvette.
Canada announced that the Lockheed Martin-BAE Systems partnership had been awarded the $45 billion project covering a total of 15 ships. We covered this issue in depth in our series of articles last year, however criticisms of the project have started to emerge. Over the past seven years, the Canadian central government has spent $700 million on the design, and that the appropriate contracts for the 15 frigates and two offshore refuelling ships have yet to be concluded. The Type 26 design was selected as a result of a process that was conducted in the framework of a self-proven ship concept, with the first steel cutting ceremony of Type 26 scheduled to take place in 2023.
Another project being followed in Canada is the Joint Support Ship (JSS) project, for which a contract was signed in June 2020. Under the 2.4 billion dollar project, two Joint Support Ships will be built, the first of which is expected to enter into service in 2024. The Canadian press has already started to criticise the project due to the $570 million increase in the budget.
The maritime acceptance tests of the second of the eight Long-Range Ocean Patrol (POLA)-class ships built by a partnership of Damen and Mexico’s state-owned shipyard Astimar, in accordance with the design of SIGMA 10514, were completed in December 2019. While four of the six modules that make up the vessels are being built in Mexico, the mechanical components and bridge modules are being built in the Netherlands, and then integrated in Mexico.
Argentina is set to replace the ARA San Juan (S-42) submarine it lost in 2018 with a submarine to be procured from Norway. The Argentine Navy is considering the procurement of the 1,150-ton Ula-class (UBK Type 210) submarines that are currently in the inventory of Norway.
In August 2012, the Brazilian Navy announced a requirement four corvettes incorporated with low detectability technologies, for which a request for proposals was issued in December 2017. The related contract for the vessels, to be named Tamandare-class ships, was signed with TKMS in March 2020. The corvettes, to be built based on TKMS’ MEKO concept, will be delivered to the Brazilian Navy between 2025 and 2028.
Meanwhile, in September 2019, Brazil started sea trials of the first of the four Scorpene submarines it is building with the support of French Naval Group. The ship is expected to be delivered to the Brazilian Navy in 2020. The remaining ships in the 8.9 billion dollar project are planned to be delivered at 12–18-month intervals.
It was reported in February 2020 that the Republic of Korea would be donating its decommissioned Pohang corvettes to Colombia, having made similar donations to other countries in the past, including Pohang-class corvettes to Peru, Egypt and the Philippines after various modifications.
The Peruvian Navy, in cooperation with TKMS, is continuing with the modernisation of the first of the four submarines scheduled, it announced in December 2019 that it has also launched an upgrade programme for the second submarine. The first vessel, which started to be upgraded in 2017, is planned re-enter service soon.
On 15 April, the Chilean Navy took delivery of two Adelaide (Perry)-class ships from Australia after ESSM modernisation. It has been further reported that Chile is also working on the upgrade of the three British Type-23 frigates in its inventory, and that following the completion of the modernisation work, the sea acceptance tests of the first ship have been completed.
As mentioned in our previous article series, in addition to its Type-26 frigate, Australia has completed tenders selecting Shorfin Barracuda (Suffren) submarine and Lürssen offshore patrol vessel. However, what we read about Australia this year has been limited to dissatisfactions and the progress in tenders. The progress in the ongoing projects merit special attention.