Morocco's Sultan Moulay Ismail, Oman's Al Shamikh and Greece's Psara lined up at Doha on March 27. In the background is the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Cardigan Bay. (Christopher P.Cavas / Staff)
DOHA, QATAR — The ships tied up alongside at the port here for the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition (DIMDEX) are an eclectic mix, representing new and recent designs like Spain’s high-end Aegis frigate Cristobal Colon and Oman’s impressive British-built corvette Al Shamikh, to old classics like the Italian destroyer Francesco Mimbelli and a trio of Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates.
The Cristobal Colon is one of the newest ships, having been commissioned in 2012 as the fifth and last of Spain’s Alvaro De Bazan-class frigates. A third smaller than the US Navy’s Aegis destroyers, the 6,400-ton ships are the smallest to operate the Aegis combat system with SPY-1D radars.
Remarkably for a complex ship barely over a year old, the Colon is on her first overseas deployment, having left Ferrol in northern Spain in late February. After duty with NATO’s Combined Task Force 508 and the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean-2, the ship will return home in late June.
Morocco’s Sultan Moulay Ismail is the second of three Sigma-type light frigates from Dutch shipbuilders Damen. Displacing just over 2,000 tons, the ships give small navies a relatively inexpensive yet modern small combatant. Sigma variants have also been built or are on order for Indonesia and Vietnam.
The Al Shamikh has been in active service for only a few months, having arrived in Oman in October. The ship is the first of the long-troubled Project Khareef trio of frigates built by BAE Systems, but nevertheless is the most modern ship in Oman’s efficient Navy. A second unit, Al Rahmani, was delivered in November but remains in Britain undergoing trials and training.
Among about 17 warships here, the low-lying Francesco Mimbelli was sometimes hard to pick out. Little of the ship was open to visitors, but those who got aboard and visited the bridge saw a mahogany-railed pilot house sprinkled with classic fittings that only the Italians seem able to pull off with style. ■