25 February 2019
By Luca Peruzzi
Italy’s Leonardo and UAE naval company Abu Dhabi Ship Building have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at IDEX/NAVDEX 2019. Building on years of positive partnership for the development of UAE naval capabilities, under the new MoU, ADSB and Leonardo will work together to create a Combat Management Systems Integration Laboratory that can undertake work in testing, maintaining and developing the existing Leonardo CMSs on board UAE Naval Forces vessels.
“This will be an important milestone in the process to deliver the UAE the necessary expertise and know-how to ensure operational availability of its fleet as well as serving other regional customers”, said Luca Gennaretti, Leonardo’s Middle East marketing regional manager for Land and Naval Electronics to EDR On-Line. In addition to this laboratory, “the two companies will work together on establishing a logistic support package for preventative and corrective maintenance, and establish a spare parts inventory for Leonardo’s naval systems in the country”, he added.
Leonardo has installed the IPN series family of CMSs and naval systems including sensors and other equipment on board the six Baynunah multirole corvettes, the twelve Ghannatha fast patrol boats, the two Falaj-2 stealth patrol vessels and the Abu Dhabi ASW corvette.
The MoU which is expected to evolve in a joint-venture, together with the success that Leonardo has reached in the Middle East area, especially with the renewal of Bahraini Navy vessels, it is the logical starting point for future naval upgrading activities as well as new shipbuilding procurement in the UAE, the Leonardo representative told EDR On-Line. The UAE Naval Forces has been long looking to the possible Falaj 3 patrol vessel procurement and already in-service platforms will need to upgrade their system in the future. This could open the way to the new sensors, systems as well as the new family of Athena CMS, based on the Italian Navy’s fleet renewal programme developments.
The areas covered by the MoU will pave the way for increased technology and knowledge transfer to the benefit of UAE industries sustaining the development of local skilled workforce as well as satisfy local offset requirement. One of the main priorities for the UAE Defence is increasing the ability to undertake potentially extensive maintenance activities in the country, that will allow to improve the availability of Emirati vessels as well as electronic systems.
Outside the UAE borders, Leonardo is working on the combat system upgrading programme for the core combatant vessel belonging to the Royal Bahrain Naval Forces, represented by the two 65-meters Al-Manama class and the four 44-meters Ahmed Al Fateh class vessels. Awarded to the Italian group in September 2015 and including training and in-service support, the program is developing with satisfaction of the customer, according to schedule and on budget, the Leonardo representative highlighted. “We have already delivered back two ships, while working progressively on the following ones”. Leonardo representative haven’t disclosed details about the combat system equipment and upgrading activities but EDR On-Line understood the latter include the CMS, radar fire control and surveillance sensors and other systems as testified by the presence of the first-of-class Al-Manama guided-missile patrol combatant vessel at NAVDEX 2019’s pier. The identified sensor suite provided by Leonardo includes the newest solid-state surveillance SPS-732 X-band 2D main radar, the NA-25X radar/electro-optical fire-control system and the Medusa Mk4/B electro-optical director.
Leonardo is today looking to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries for both new shipbuilding as well as upgrading activities. The Kuwait Naval Forces have a programme for six new fast offshore patrol vessels to which the Italian industries headed by Fincantieri are tendering together with other international shipbuilders. Leonardo is to provide the combat system main equipment, from the CMS to the gun weapon systems. The Kuwait Naval Forces are also looking to the upgrade of in-service vessels. Among other potential programmes, in addition to new vessels, Saudi Arabia has a requirement to upgrade its frigates. Together with Fincantieri and other companies, Leonardo is however onboard Italian Navy’s Margottini FREMM frigates which has been visiting Dammam in Saudi Arabia in these days (23-25 February) to show its capabilities and systems.
Photos by Luca Peruzzi