By Luca Peruzzi
The fleet renewal and expansion programme for the Qatari Emiri Naval Forces (QENF) led by Fincantieri is progressing according to the schedule and the first two ships will be available in the Arabian Gulf country by this summer, according to sources near to the programme.
Within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the cooperation in the naval sector signed between the Qatari and Italian Ministers of Defence, Fincantieri as prime contractor together with Leonardo as combat system integrator and supplier signed a € 3.8 billion contract in June 2016 for the design and delivery of four corvettes, two combatant offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and a landing platform dock (LPD). In the same date MBDA signed a parallel contract worth € 1 billion for the main missile armament of the new ships.
In October 2021 the first-of-class Al Zubarah (F 101) corvette was delivered by Fincantieri to the QENF, followed by the first of class Musherib (Q 61) OPV in January this year. The two ships, as well as the other classes platforms, were built and are under different fitting-out stages at Fincantieri’s integrated shipbuilding facilities in Muggiano (La Spezia) and Riva Trigoso (Genoa) shipyards. The LPD is under construction at the Palermo shipyard, in southern of Italy.
The overall project is progressing according to schedule for providing the first ships with trained crew this year in Qatar, notwithstanding the pandemic crisis impacting shipbuilding activities and crew training programmes. The Al Zubarah corvette left La Spezia last January to reach Taranto’s Italian Navy main naval base, where the crew is conducting at-sea training provided by Italian Navy. The FoC corvette will soon be reached by the FoC Musherib OPV, which crew will follow the same at-sea training programme. Both ships will also carry combat system integration activities by the industry before leaving Italy.
The second Damsah (F 102) corvette and Sheraouh (Q 62) second Musherib-class OPV are being delivered in 2022 in order to complete at-sea training before reaching Qatar, which milestone is planned in the period between late 2022 and early 2023. The third corvette, the Al Khor (F 103), is planned to be delivered in that same period while the fourth corvette, the Sumaysimah (F 104) which is to be launched shortly, will follow by mid 2023.
The LPD main construction activities were launched late last year at Fincantieri’s Palermo shipyard according to the latest programme developments and the company’s construction share between its shipyards. The largest ship of the QENF fleet renewal and expansion programme, the LPD is to be launched between late 2022 and early 2023 to be transferred and delivered in Muggiano shipyard by late 2024 and complete at-sea training before reaching Qatar.
As part of the two countries MoU, contract and follow-on technical agreements, the Italian Navy is providing education and training for the ships’ crews as well as technical support, in co-operation with the Italian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) Directorate of Naval Armaments, during the shipbuilding phases of the new vessels. Since September 2018, based on the ships delivery schedule, QENF officers, petty officers, and enlisted personnel are being educated and trained at the Naval Academy in Leghorn and the schools in Taranto and Maddalena (Sardinia). Training is then followed by on-job and an after-delivery at-sea crew training in Italy, before the ships sail to the Middle East with their full complement to start operations with the QENF. An Italian Navy liaison office has been established in Qatar to support the programme for QENF and Italian personnel will soon be deployed in the Arabian Gulf country.
Photos courtesy Fincantieri and L. Peruzzi