By Paolo Valpolini
Fincantieri, the Italian major shipyard involved in the cruise, merchant and military segments, is definitely a major international player thanks to its numerous subsidiary and associate companies, among which Fincantieri Marinette Marine in the United States, the Naviris joint venture with French Naval Group, to mention a few. In recent times the group has further evolved adding capabilities that bring it well beyond those of a major shipyard.
With a well-established footprint in the Gulf region, mainly in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, the Italian group took the opportunity of the World Defense Show to further promote its capabilities to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“We have been talking for two years with some important naval players in the country like Scopa and Zamil, as well as with the end user, the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, and local authorities like GAMI and SAMI, and our business is in the process to be created in such a complex country, our efforts being both organizational and financial,” Achille Fulfaro, Fincantieri Senior Vice President Sales, tells EDR On-Line.
Fincantieri is already partly involved in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia through the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) programme, which contract was assigned to Lockheed Martin in mid-2018. While the latter is the prime contractor, Fincantieri Marinette Marine ensures the ship construction. The first cut of steel of MMSC 1 took place on October 24th, 2019 while that of MMSC 2 dates of January 28th, 2021. These ships are based on the Freedom-variant Litoral Combat Ship and feature a 118 meters long hull and a displacement of around 4,000 tonnes. Their combined diesel and gas propulsion system allow a maximum speed of over 30 knots and a range of over 5,000 NM at 10 knots. Their armament will include a 57 mm Mk110 gun, a SeaRAM missile system, two 20 mm remote guns and an 8 cell MK 41 Vertical Launch System equipped with RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. The flight deck can host an MH-60R SeaHawk, providing anti-submarine capacity. A total of four such ship are to be built for the Royal Saudi Naval Force.
However Fincantieri looks at two potential programmes that might soon be launched by Saudi Arabia. “We are definitely looking at a frigate programme that might well fit our FREMMs,” Achille Fulfaro says, “as well as that for Landing Platform Dock (LPD) type units, to which we might respond with a version of the Enhanced San Giusto-class ship, similar to that we provided to Algeria.” Fincantieri has already delivered two FREMM-class frigates, identical to those in service with the Italian Navy, the Al Galala (FFG 1002) and the Bernees (FFG 1003) to Egypt respectively in December 2020 and April 2021, while the Kalaat Béni Abbès (L-474) entered service with the Algerian Navy in 2015.
The FFG 1002 and 1003 are 145 meters long with a 6,700 tonnes full load displacement capable to sail at over 27 knots with a range of 6,800 NM at 15 knots. They are fitted with a Leonardo OTO Melara 127/64 mm gun and a 76/62 mm gun, two 25/80 mm RCWS, two 8-cell Sylver A50 vertical launch system for MBDA’s Aster 15 and Aster 30 air defence missiles, eight MBDA Teseo/Otomat Mk-2/A antiship missiles, and two triple launchers for MU 90 light torpedoes. The L-474 is a 143 meters long ship with a 8,800 tonnes full load displacement, capable to transport up to 440 marines and 30 armoured personnel carriers (or 5 main battle tanks) at a maximum of 20 knots and with a 7,000 NM autonomy at 15 knots.
“However we are also promoting other products, such as our OMEGA360 non-rotating radar developed by our subsidiary Seastema, which is optimised for detecting asymmetric threats and targets with reduced RCS, such as swarms of small drones,” Fincantieri VP Sales points out.
“As a global player we present us as a strategic partner, capable to take on the programme since the mission profile phase up to the ship end of life, not limiting our capabilities to naval units but extending them to cyber defence as well as to infrastructure,” Mr. Fulfaro adds, underlining recent capabilities expansion of the group, i.e. with the addition of Fincantieri NexTech and Fincantieri Infrastructures, “and we are also deeply involved in the unmanned naval field.”
Competition is of course strong in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, numerous shipyards proposing their solutions at the Word Defense Show. “We are well aware that some of our competitors have a strong footprint in this country, but we are confident that we might obtain a breakthrough exploiting our global proposal, which of course includes a transfer-of-technology package, which is typical in all our man export projects,” Achille Fulfaro concludes.
Images courtesy Fincantieri, Lockheed Martin and P. Valpolini