Bulgaria Selects Lürssen to Provide OPV with ASW and ASuW Capability

Lürssen 90 meter OPV

NavyRecognition reports that Bulgaria has approved the purchase of two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) from the German firm Lürssen. This is the same company that designed OPVs for Australia and Brunei, but these will be different from the earlier ships.

“…the Bulgarian Navy has a requirement for two modular, multi-role patrol vessels, which would be capable of performing various types of tasks, such as anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.”

“According to local media, the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has requested a ship that will be armed with one 76mm naval gun, anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, lightweight torpedos and close-in weapon systems for self-defence. The ship will also have a flight deck to accommodate a medium-sized helicopter.”

Lürssen’s descriptions of their OPV offerings make no mention of an ASW capability, but they do have space for containerized systems that might include some type of towed array sonar. Because of the capabilities required, along with the larger crew required to support them, I would assume that the chosen design is based on the larger 85 or 90 meter offerings. According to the company web site the 90 meter OPV is typically equipped with:

  • 1 X 76/62 COMPACT OR 1 X BOFORS 57 MK3
  • 4 X MM40 EXOCET OR 4 X RBS 15 MK3 OR 4 X NSM
  • 1 VLS MK56 OR RIM-116 RAM
  • 2 X DECOY (E.G. MASS OR SWKS)
  • 2 X 20MM REMOTE CONTROLLED
  • 2 X .50 M2HB MACHINE GUNS
  • 1 X 3D SEARCH RADAR
  • 1 X FIRE CONTROL RADAR
  • 2 X NAV RADAR
  • EO/IR SENSORS
  • 1X HELICOPTER
  • GUIDANCE RADAR
  • ESM / ESM
  • IFF
  • LINK 11/16
  • HELICOPTER HANGAR
  • HELICOPTER LANDING DECK (11T)
  • 2 X 9 M RIB
  • 2 X 5,5 M RIB
  • STERN RAMP
  • 2 CONTAINER SPACES

(Bulgaria does already have Exocet and Sea Sparrow missiles in their inventory.)

Physical Characteristics are:

  • DISPLACEMENT: 2,100 T
  • LENGTH: 90 M (295 ‘)
  • BEAM: 14 M (46′)
  • DRAUGHT: 3.5 M (11.5′)
  • CREW: 86 (+4 EMBARKED)
  • TWO DIESEL ENGINES
  • 6,300 KW  (8448 HP) (That should result in 21-22 knots–Chuck)

Bulgaria’s Navy is small but growing. They still have a lot of Soviet/Eastern Block equipment. Bulgaria’s coast is on the Black Sea. Other nations bordering the Black sea are Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Of these Russia has the strongest naval presence.

No indication yet where the ships will actually be built.

A map showing the location of the Black Sea and some of the large or prominent ports around it. The Sea of Azov and Sea of Marmara are also labelled. Created by User:NormanEinstein, Wikipedia

“British Army drone to fly over English Channel to monitor migrant boats” –Independent

Thales Watchkeeper WK450

Like the US Coast Guard, the UK Border Force conducts Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations. They are reportedly getting some assistance from the British Army in the form of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) being used to patrol the English Channel.

The UAVs are Thales Watchkeeper WK 450s (manufacturer’s brochure here) an improved version of the Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 with the addition of a dual-mode synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indication system, providing all weather target acquisition.

The Watchkeeper program has not been cheap, about 1.2 billion pounds to provide and support 54 drones, and it has had its problems. They were supposed to have been operational in 2010, but apparently only reached Initial Operational Capability in 2014. Five have crashed. Regarding the current fleet,

“45 Watchkeeper airframes were in service as at 23 July 2020. 13 have flown in the past 12 months and 23 have been in storage for longer than 12 months. Of those flying, 10 have been operated by the Army from Akrotiri in Cyprus and Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, three have been used for test and evaluation. The airframes in storage are held at specific, graduated, levels of readiness. This is commensurate with practices used on other Defence capabilities and assets.”

The airframes are:

  • Length: 19.69 ft (6 m)
  • Span: 34.45 ft (10.5 m)
  • Engine: Winkel rotary, 52 hp
  • Max Speed: 95 knots
  • Operational Radius: 200 km; 108 nm (Line of Sight)
  • Endurance: 16+ hours
  • Service ceiling 18,045 feet (5,500 m)

This means, it is about half the size of the familiar MQ-1 Predator, also a bit slower and their service ceiling is lower.

The British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has selected Israel’s Elbit to demonstrate the capabilities of their larger Eblit Hermes 900 UAVs. which has capabilities similar to those of the MQ-1. Meanwhile the RAF is also flying surveillance over the English Channel. 

“Croatian Brodosplit Shipyard held cutting-steel ceremony of new coastal patrol boats for Croatia Coast Guard” –Navy Recognition

Scale model of the coastal patrol boat for the Croatian Coast Guard. (Picture source Brodosplit Shipyard)

Navy Recognition Reports that first steel has been cut for a new class of patrol boat for Croatian Coast Guard.

The Croatian-made patrol boat will have a length of 43,16 meters (142 feet) and a wide of 8 meters. She will be armed with one 30mm automatic cannon mounted at the front deck and two 12.7mm heavy machine gun, as well as four portable anti-aircraft missiles.

This makes it only slightly smaller than the 154 foot Webber class WPCs. Closer still to the Damen Stan 4207 patrol design (used by at least eleven nations), like the Canadian Coast Guard Hero class.

Two 2525 kW engines would provide 6772HP. That is well under the 11,600 HP of the Webber class, but it should still be good for 24 to 25 knots rather than the 15 knots the report seems to indicate, in apparent confusion with range specification (“…maximum speed of 15 knots with a maximum cruising range of 1,000 nautical miles.”)

Range is notably less than that of the Webber class (2,500 nmi), but Croatia has an EEZ of only 17,211 nautical miles square.

It is unusual in having a CBRN (Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) protection system).

Map: Adriatic Sea. Created by Norman Einstein, May 20, 2005.

 

France Allocates One Billion Euros to Build Ten Offshore Patrol Vessels

Marine Nationale photo, FS Lieutenant_de_vaisseau_Lavallée, one of seven 80 meter (263′) 1,270 ton D’Estienne d’Orves-class avisos or corvettes being used as Offshore Patrol Vessels that are to be replaced.

France has been building a lot of Coast Guard Cutter like vessels recently and it looks like they will be building more. Naval News reports:

Ten new generation OPVs will replace the A69 type (D’Estienne d’Orves-class) PHM (formerly Aviso / light frigates and then reclassified as patrol vessels) based in Brest (Atlantic Coast–Chuck) and Toulon (Mediterranean- Chuck) and the PSP patrol boats based in Cherbourg (English Channel-Chuck).

Cormoran (P677), one of three 23 knot, 54 meter (177′), 477 ton French navy PSP patrol boats. Brest, Finistère, Bretagne, France. Photo by Gary Houston (Notice the striping similar to that carried by USCG cutters)

The one billion Euro contract awarded to Naval Group (formerly DCNS) would mean a unit cost of approximately 100M Euros ($112M).

Rendering of the future “POM” OPV of the French Navy.

Apparently, based on price, they will be larger than the six recently contracted 70 meter, 22knot “POM” patrol vessels. (224 million euros, 37.3 Euros or about $42M each)

Not long ago Naval Group and ECA group was given a 2B Euro contract to produce twelve 2800 ton Mine Countermeasures ships for the Dutch and Belgium Navies. Given that ship yard prices for similarly complex ships tend to be proportional to their displacement, and that these ships are probably less complex than the MCM, I would suspect that the new OPVs will be about 1,680 tons. That would make them similar in size to the WMEC 270s. Given the ships they are replacing and the character of recent construction, they will probably a bit longer and faster than the 270s, probably about 90 meters long, at least 20 knots but probably more, with a flight deck for a medium helicopter like the NH90, a hangar for a smaller helicopter similar to the H-65 and probably the 700 kilo rotary wing unmanned aircraft planned for POM. There will probably be space for containers. The crew will be small by Coast Guard standards, maybe less than 50, but will likely have additional accommodations for about 30 in addition to the crew.

Weapons: It will almost certainly have the Nexter Narwhal 20 mm cannon and .50 caliber machine guns, but there is no indication if they will have anything larger. French Navy vessels that wear the “Coast Guard Stripe” apparently have no weapons larger than .50 cal. (12.7mm). The seven A69 corvettes to be replaced have 100mm guns, but these ships were not originally designed as law enforcement vessels, and once also had Exocet anti-ship cruise missiles, so a medium caliber gun may not be seen as a requirement. If they wanted to put a medium caliber gun on these at small cost, the French Navy almost certainly has numerous, surplus, still very effective 100mm guns, but their newer ships mount the Super Rapid 76mm, which weighs less than half as much. The quoted French Ministry of Armed Forces statement might suggest they see a need for stronger armament.

“In a context marked by the increase in maritime traffic and the toughening of threats at sea, patrol boats fulfill a very broad spectrum of missions: support for deterrence, presence in areas of sovereignty and interest, evacuation, protection, escort and intervention in the framework of State action at sea.”

The linked Naval News post mentions the European Patrol Corvette program as a possible basis for this program, but given their projected displacement of 3000 tons, they would be beyond the projected budget.

There is a good chance these ships will emerge as an upgraded version of the the 87 meter (285′), 1450 ton L’Adroit (above) which was sold to Argentina along with three similar ships. The Naval News post indicates that the projected cost of the new OPVs is almost twice the cost so of the L’Adroit class, but they were designed for export. Meeting Navy standards with better equipment and improved survivability can substantially increase cost. When the Royal Navy built their River Batch II OPVs it was based on OPVs originally ordered by Trinidad and Tobago. Modifying the design to meet Royal Navy standards caused a great increase in price. The three vessels were built for Trinidad and Tobago cost £150M pound (US$237.8 M). When the Royal Navy contracted for three ships that met their standards, the outwardly almost identical ships came in at a fixed price of £348 million–a few years later, but more than double the price.

“Spain seen joining Greece, France, Italy on European Patrol Corvette program” –DefenseNews

Defense News reports that it appears likely that four European countries and perhaps more will join forces to build a class of 3000 ton patrol vessels.

The two firms (Italy’s Fincantieri and France’s Naval Group–Chuck) are hoping to match Italian and French navy requirements with a jointly built, modular vessel that can handle patrol and surveillance missions as well as taking second-tier roles in anti-submarine and anti-surface missions.

The vessels these ships are to replace, perform their respective countries offshore coast guard missions.

The project is one of many being supported by an EU initiative called “Permanent Structured Cooperation” (PESCO) that is to be supported by the entire EU community. It sounds like this may be heading toward a shipbuilding version of Airbus.

According to this report, Bulgaria and Portugal are also joining the program.

French Navy Floreal class surveillance Frigate, FS Ventose

The French Navy intends to replace the six ships of the Floreal class. These “surveillance frigates” are scattered among France’s overseas territories. They have no ASW capability, but are equipped with a pair of Exocet anti-ship missiles (ASCM).

Italy expects to retire the ten ships of the Cassiopea, Sirio, and Commandanti classes 2022-2025. These ships are all about 1500 tons. They have neither ASW equipment or ASCMs.

The Greeks don’t seem to have any ships in this class, but may now see a need.

Spanish Navy Meteoro class OPV Tornado. Photo from Sergio Acosta, via Wikipedia

I was a bit surprised that Spain would join in this effort. They have their own OPV designs supplied by Navantia, and they have been doing pretty well. They have been produced a class of six referred to as BAM, and were expected to procure six more of the same class. In addition they have produced corvettes for Venezuela and have been contracted to produce five corvettes for Saudi Arabia. Navantia had teamed with Bath Iron Works to provide BIW’s proposal for the USCG OPC program, and they are on BIW’s FFG(X)  team. It may be that they feel they have to join now or risk being excluded in the future.

If these ships come equipped as indicated in the diagram at the head of the article, they will be significantly better armed than the ships they replace. They will be a bit larger than the French ships being replaced and more than twice as large as the Italian ships being replaced.

It appears they will be very close in size to the Coast Guard’s Argus Class OPCs, being the same length (110 meters or 360 feet) and only slightly narrower.

“”Narcosubmarine” a First for Europe -Spanish Officials” –Marine Link

Marine Link reports.

“The discovery of a submarine carrying 3,000 kg (3.3 tons) of cocaine off the coast of Spain marks a “historic” turning point in the battle against drug trafficking, Spanish authorities said on Wednesday.”

That looks like an awful long way for a Self Propelled Semi-Submersible (SPSS), about 4,000 nautical miles. Have to wonder if the goods were not shipped first to Africa and perhaps the SPSS was built there? Alternately could the SPSS have been transported part of the way by a larger vessel?

NarcoSPSStoSpain

“Vestdavit to equip Norwegian Coast Guard’s Next Gen Polar Vessels” –News Release

Earlier we talked about the Norwegian Coast Guard’s new large (9,800 ton) ice strengthened patrol vessels.

(These will be very large, about twice the size of a Bertholf class National Security Cutter and about three times the size of the ships they will replace. Because the Norwegian Coast Guard is structured as part of their Navy, other than a single logistics ship, these will be the largest ships in the Norwegian Navy.)

Now we have a report on their choice of boat handling equipment, in the form of a news release from Vestdavit. Not surprisingly they are using Vestdavit equipment, as they have consistently used equipment from this manufacturer, but it also appears, they, like many recent designs, will provide a multiple boat hangar or garage amidships, and for this they will employ Vestdavit’s MissionEase multi-boat transfer system

Vestdavit “MissionEase” launch and recovery system

Each vessel will come complete with one telescopic TBD-10000L davit system plus two PLR-5003KV units, built to Vestdavit standards for minimum availability of 330 days a year up to upper Sea State 5, based on actual North Sea conditions 1958-2018. In line with the areas of operation envisaged, the davits will be winterized for full functionality in temperatures as low as -25deg C, as required in the Polar Code.

These systems should also permit launching of unmanned surface and sub-surface systems.

In addition,

The Vestdavit PLR-5003KV units also specified within the contract are A-frame, all-steel davits with a 5 ton SWL, which will feature Vestdavit’s wave-compensation system and shock absorber system. The solution will feature 50m/min lifting and lowering speeds. The units installed are designed to handle FRBs of up to 8.5m in length..

Vestdavit A-Frame All-Steel Davit seen here on HMNZS OTAGO (P-148)

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

“Hellenic Coast Guard Testing Tethered Aerostat for FRONTEX Mission” –Naval News

Aerostat being tested by the Hellenic Coast Guard for FRONTEX.

Naval News reports that the Hellenic Coast Guard is doing something of a 28 day comparison test between land based and Aerostat based surveillance systems on the island of Samos.

Putting a radar at 1000 meters should provide a radar horizon of about 70 nautical miles and allow detection of a 50 foot high target at up to 79 miles.

Britain Seizes Iranian Tanker Suspected of Breaking Syrian Embargo, Iran Threatens Retaliation

MSN reports, British Royal Marines seized an Iranian owned oil tanker near Gibraltar. They landed on the ship by helicopter during the night and customs authorities are detaining the mostly Indian crew as witnesses.

Meanwhile Iranian official are saying they will be obligated to retaliate against a British tanker.

Note this action was taken because the cargo was believed to have been destined for Syria, in violation of a EU imposed embargo.

Norwegian Coast Guard’s New Ice Strengthened Cutters –They Will Be Big

Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel Svalbard. Currently the largest Norwegian Coast Guard ship. The new ships will be about 50% larger. Photo by Marcusroos

Just received information on the new Norwegian Coast Guard cutters that will be replacing the three ships of the Nordkapp class in the form of a 26 page pdf that appears to have been briefing graphics from August 2014.

We discussed these ships briefly in an Oct. 5, 2016 post. June 25, 2018 Marine Log reported that VARD had won a contract to build three ships at a cost exceeding NOK 5 billion (about $618 million).

Deliveries of the three vessels are scheduled from Vard Langsten in Norway in 1Q 2022, 1Q 2023 and 1Q 2024 respectively. The hulls will be built at Vard’s Tulcea, Romania, shipyard;

According to the presentation they are going to be relatively big ships, about three times the size of the ships they will replace at 9,800 tons, and 136.4 meters (447.4 ft) loa, 19 meter (62.3 ft) beam, and 6.2 meter (20.3 ft) draft. Later information puts the beam at 22 meters (72.16 ft). That makes them larger than the icebreaker Glacier, although they are not icebreakers, only ice strengthened. It does not have an icebreaker bow.

They are expected to hangar two NH90 helicopters (10,600 kg/23,370 lb max TO weight) with deck space to land an AW101 (14,600 kg/32,188 lb max TO weight). They are expected to have a speed of 22 knots, endurance of eight weeks, accommodations for 100, collective CBRN protection, and space for containers on deck.

They will have a single medium caliber gun, apparently a 57mm, with an all weather fire control system, plus machine guns, sonar, and torpedo and mine storage for the helicopters. Since these ships will be armed very much like the Nordkapp class that they replace, there will all probably be provision for mounting Naval Strike Missile, although that is not mentioned in the briefing.

They will also be equipped with pollution abatement systems.

These ships were designed by VARD, also the designer of the US Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter and Canada’s Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel. This might be a design we should consider as an Arctic Patrol Cutter. Certainly the Norwegian Coast Guard should be able to provide some good advice once they have had some experience with these.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.