Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding for the first time displayed a scale model of its Mission Flex Combatant vessel at the DIMDEX show. (Christopher P. Cavas)
DOHA, QATAR — Showcasing a wealth of new designs and featuring a major tie-in with a local shipyard, Dutch shipbuilder and design firm Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding is continuing its aggressive moves to become a major supplier of small warships and auxiliaries to burgeoning navies.
Among the innovative designs is a new Mission Flexible Combatant (MFC), a versatile design aimed at smaller navies that lack bigger ships.
“The whole concept is aimed at getting a credible combat capability into a multimission ship,” said Rene Hoogenboom, production manager for amphibious support ships at Damen.
Shown for the first time here at the Doha International Maritime and Defence Exhibition (DIMDEX), the MFC is similar in concept to the larger Danish Abselon-class flexible support ship, which offers major gun and missile weapons and a mission bay capable of transporting military equipment, including tanks.
Koen Audenaert, a Daman naval architect working on the MFC, acknowledged its similarity to the Absalon, but he pointed to significant changes.
“The difference is in the aft part,” he said, pointing to a model of the ship.
The MFC, while smaller, features a fixed stern ramp, offering direct access for rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) and smaller landing craft. The Absalon, Audenaert pointed out, has no boat ramp, and it can only launch small craft via an overhead boom.
“This is a simple, elegant design,” Audenaert said. The ship’s multimission bay can be configured to handle a variety of missions, including mine laying and countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare and special forces support. Equipment is moved via two overhead gantry cranes.
Boats are retrieved on the ramp via an automatic wire system. RHIBs come up the ramp and trip a crosswire, which then secures the craft.
“It’s a hands-free operation,” Audenaert said.
Like many Damen designs, the MFC can be configured in a variety of sizes and patterns, emphasizing different missions, capabilities and costs. Brochures describe ships ranging from designs 115 meters to 139 meters in length, displacing from 4,500 metric tons to 5,600 metric tons. Mission sets range from a low end of security versions, to combatant, amphibious and logistic variants.
Damen also is a partner in a shipyard venture here with Nakilat, a major transporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) products.
Nakilat Damen Shipyards Qatar is co-located in the port of Ras Laffan with Nakilat-Keppel Offshore and Marine Ltd. (NKOM), a repair facility able to handle the largest LNG tankers.
The facilities are situated in deep water on reclaimed land at the end of an 8-kilometer-long breakwater. Nearly 3,000 employees work at the side-by-side facilities, said Fairuz Aledroos, a marketing executive with NKOM.
Since 2010, the Nakilat Damen facility has built smaller ships for commercial work, as well as tugboats for the Qatari Navy. The shipyard is able to build ships up to lengths of 170 meters in a covered building, launching vessels via a level transfer facility.
Damen officials said the yard can build steel, aluminum or fiber-reinforced plastic ships. They said the yard positions the company to strongly compete for naval designs in the Gulf region.■