The Falaj-3 class combatant Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) being built for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Naval Forces by ADSB (Abu Dhabi Ship Building), part of the EDGE Group, will have enhanced air defence capabilities according to the latest model of the platform shown at the Naval Service’s stand at NAVDEX naval area during the IDEX/NADEX 2023 exhibition.
A keel laying ceremony for the first-of-class Falaj 3 vessel was held ahead of schedule on 16 February 2023 at ADSB facilities under the patronage of Rear Admiral Pilot Sheikh Saeed bin Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, Commander of the Naval Forces, and attended by Naval Staff Brigadier Abdullah Faraj Al Mehairbi, Deputy Commander of UAE Naval Forces, and Mansour Almulla, Managing Director and CEO of EDGE, among several other dignitaries.
The new model of the Falaj 3 combatant OPVs that was unveiled during NAVDEX exhibition. EDR On-Line understood this being the latest design of the ships, however no additional information were released by the shipyard or the customer. Designed to have a reduced radar cross section, infrared and acoustic signatures, compared to the initial model shown during the previous 2021 edition of IDEX/NAVDEX, it features a new ship forward section which accommodates behind the 76/62 mm main gun a single row of eight vertical launchers for surface-to-air missile. EDR On-Line identified them as belonging to the MBDA VL MICA system, although no comment or confirms come from the shipyard and missile manufacturer.
This represents a significant boost of multi-layer air defence capabilities for the 60 meters long design which according to released data has a 9.5 meters breadth for a 641 tonnes full load displacement and a 3.4 meters max draft at the propellers. The propulsion package is centred on four diesel engines connected through the same number of shafts to four propellers with two vertical rudders (on the more external propellers position) capable to attain maximum speed in excess of 26 knots and a range of 2,000 nm at 16 knots. Electrical power is provided by four generators capable of providing 1.2 MW. With a complement of 39 personnel, the new vessels are fitted with an integrated platform management system to monitor and control all platform systems from one single point. It is also equipped with a RHIB, which is understood being launched and recovered by a covered station to contribute to reduced ship signature.
The new model features an integrated mast amidship accommodating the multifunction surveillance radar, various antennas and electro-optical sensors, and the radar ESM/communication ESM (RESM/CESM) integrated antenna on top of it. The forward main bridge is surmounted by the gun fire control system while the stern ship section sees an under deck open area housing the anti-ship missiles inclined launchers to reduce the overall ship signature and the inner layer missile defence system. The ship stern area is occupied by two trainable multiple missile launchers (on the model presented in 2021, one them was installed in the bow area on a small superstructure behind the main gun) which electro-optical (E/O) fire control systems are positioned on the integrated mast.
The combat system integration and main equipment are provided by Leonardo, although neither the shipbuilder nor Leonardo comment or confirm the information. The Italian group will provide and integrate the latest generation ATHENA C Mk2 CMS hardware and software package in a customized iteration to satisfy UAE Naval Forces requirements. The previous model of the ATHENA CMS is installed on board the Abu Dhabi Falaj 2 and Ghannatha class of vessels in service with the UAE Naval Forces. The internal/external communication suite should be provided by Rohde & Schwarz and should be based on the NAVICS solution, although no comments or confirmation is provided by the supplier. Leonardo is understood to also supply the multi datalink processor (MDLP) for managing data link interaction and information distribution, as well as the new generation IFF interrogator and transponder, understood being respectively the SIR-M-C EVO and M-428 equipment.
The sensors suite managed by the ATHENA C Mk2 CMS is centred on the Kronos Naval High Power (Kronos NV HP) main 3D multifunction radar supplied by Leonardo. The C-band Kronos NV HP version is equipped with an actively electronically scanned array antenna featuring a higher number of transmitter/receiver modules based on GaAs technology, compared to the original baseline model of Kronos family radars. This allows to provide enhanced performances as well as higher availability and improved graceful degradation capacity.
Also being installed by Elettronica on the two Bani Yas-class (Gowind 2500) corvettes to be delivered by Naval Group as prime contractor to the UAE Naval Forces, the EW suite is based on the latest generation RESM/CESM suite characterized by a new integrated antenna with limited footprint to be accommodated on small displacement vessels with reduced radar cross section. The sensors suite also features Leonardo NA-30S Mk2 dual-band radar/electro-optical fire control system for the main 76/62 mm gun, together with two E/O fire control systems for the same number of Halcon LOGIR (LOw-cost Guided Imaging Rocket) and other electronics. The Falaj 3 OPVs are also expected to be equipped with two Rheinmetall Defence MASS (Multi Ammunition Softkill System) decoy launchers in a configuration also equipped with Dueras rocket decoys, according to the latest model shown.
As anticipated, the main armament difference with the previously exhibited model is the addition of a surface-to-air vertically-launched missile package which is based on the MBDA VL MICA. The same system was also identified as equipping the two Bani Yas-class (Gowind 2500) being provided by Naval Group to UAE Naval Forces, of which the first-of-class has recently conducted its first sea trials. The Falaj 3 platforms are therefore capable to deal with multiple and simultaneous attaching missiles thanks to both the VL MICA launchers and the Raytheon Mk 49 RAM launching system for air and asymmetric threats defence, which can fire both Block 1A and Block 2 RIM-116 missile versions procured by UAE Naval Forces.
The Leonardo 76/62 mm Super Rapido main gun, EDR On-Line understood although the model do not show it, comes in the latest multi-feeding configuration equipped with the Strales kit consisting of the radio frequency guidance system to manage DART guided munitions mainly countering anti-ship missiles, which also equips the Bani Yas-class corvettes. Multiple and simultaneous surface and aerial asymmetric threats can be dealt also by the two trainable launchers for the Halcon LOGIR missile system equipped with 12 fire-and-forget IIR-guided rounds, which is provided by the EDGE Group company and diffused on the UAE Naval Forces vessels. For shorter range defence, the new model shows two remotely operated guns which EDR On-Line identified with the Australian EOS R400-M turrets armed with the Northrop Grumman M230LF 30 mm cannon, which is diffused on UAE Naval Forces vessels as shown on board platforms docked in the NAVDEX area.
Photos courtesy L. Peruzzi