The United Arab Emirates are interested in buying a small, corvette-sized combatant, between 60 and 85 meters in length. A number of shipbuilders recently received a letter from the UAE government seeking interest and proposals, and at least three have responded.
Lockheed Martin, prime contractor for the U.S. Navy’s Freedom-class littoral combat ships, is offering a scaled-down version of its 116-meter LCS. According to sources, the mini-LCS would retain a waterborne mission zone aft, keeping some of the parent design’s modularity.
While in the past, Lockheed has adapted its basic LCS design into more heavily outfitted ships — including an “international LCS” fitted with the Aegis combat system — it’s believed this is the first time the design has been scaled down to adapt to a potential customer’s desires.
The Australian firm Austal is offering its 80-meter Multi-Role Vessel (MRV), an aluminum trimaran similar to its commercial ferries, and the LCS built for the U.S. Navy by its U.S.-based subsidiary.
Although smaller than the 128-meter LCS built for the U.S., the MRV would be more heavily armed and feature surface-to-air missiles. It would have a launch-and-recovery ramp aft for small boats and vehicles, a mission bay, and a hangar sized for a Sikorsky H-60 helicopter. With three engines, it could hit 36 knots.
The MRV also could be fitted with a sensor package from Australian CEA Technologies, which handled the anti-ship missile defense upgrades for the Australian Navy’s Anzac-class frigates.
The contender with perhaps the biggest inside bid, however, could be Italy’s Fincantieri. The company already is fitting out the Abu Dhabi, a sophisticated, 89-meter-long large corvette, and is building the first two 56-meter Falaj 2-class patrol boats for the UAE.
Fincantieri also signed a deal in 2010 to develop a new shipyard in the UAE. Located at Alsadr Port in Al Taweelah, the Etihad Ship Building facility will initially provide repair facilities, than transition to production as part of a technology transfer agreement between Fincantieri and the UAE.
According to sources here at the Euronaval naval exposition, the UAE is seeking final input from contenders by the end of November and hopes to announce a decision in February.