ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The sixth and last Baynunah-class corvette was commissioned into service Monday as Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, raised his country's flag over the ship's stern. The ceremony took place at the IDEX/NAVDEX defense exposition here in Abu Dbabi.
The Al Hili is the sixth and last of a class of small yet powerful, French-designed corvettes now in service with the UAE Navy. While the first of class Baynunah was built by Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie, a French shipyard in Cherbourg, the other five were all built by Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding in Abu Dhabi.
As reported by his official news service, the Sheikh told the crew that the "Al Hili corvette was produced by bright national minds and strong arms. It is a 100 percent national product and is another proof that we have long been masters of the sea. Shipbuilding was the craft of our ancestors that will always be an immortalised heritage and a source of pride for successive generations," Sheikh Mohammed, who did not speak publicly at the event, reportedly said.
The 72-meter long Baynunahs displace about 844 tons fully loaded and have a crew of 41. With four MTU diesels powering three Kamewa waterjets, the ships can better 32 knots and cruise for 2,400 nautical miles. Two of the corvettes reportedly are on patrol in the southern Red Sea area supporting anti-Houthi operations in Yemen.
Khaled Al Mazrouei, chief executive officer of Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding, expressed satisfaction in completing the Baynunah class.
"We're very proud, this is a real milestone for us," he said. "Ten years ago this was just an aspiration. Today it is an achievement."
ADSB is a quasi-government-owned entity shared equally between public and private ownership. Founded in 1996, the company has built 268 ships of all kinds for the UAE and for export.
With the completion of the Baynunahs, the ADSB will deliver the new offshore patrol ship Arialah to the UAE government Tuesday and is working on a sister ship. ADSB also is building the last three ships of an 8-ship order of landing ships for Kuwait.
The company is in the hunt to for the contract to build a larger, 2,400-ton version of the Baynunah, big enough to operate Lockheed Martin Sikorsky H-60 helicopters. The UAE could soon award a contract for one ship with an option for at least one more, although ADSB, again partnered with CMN, has competition. DCNS, Daman and Fincantieri all are reportedly also vying for the UAE award.
A new frigate deal would help ADSB keep its 1,200 employees working, but Khaled pointed out that he expects the company to work on 1.5 billion UAE dirhans' worth of work in 2017.
"We're a full-service company," said Khaled. "Not just ship construction, but ship repair throughout the region." And, he added, the company handled the combat system integration for the Baynunah class and other naval programs.
Among the other companies with a strong interest in the Baynunah corvettes is Leonardo, which provides the combat systems integration, and management system, as well as the fire control, optronics, and armament systems. Raytheon also has a strong interest in the Baynunah corvettes, supplying supplies the Rolling Airframe Missile and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile launchers. The company also just announced a deal to sell RAM Block II missiles to the UAE.
"The relationship with the Baynunah corvettes developed over a ten-year-period," said Alan Davis, Raytheon's program director for naval short-range defense systems. The company's success in getting its self-defense systems on the Baynunah, he noted, led to successes in other programs, including warships building for Qatar.
"There is increased demand for a small warship with significant warfighting capability," said Gerard Hueber, a retired US Navy rear admiral whose now Raytheon's vice president for business development in naval and area mission defense.
"A ship like this," Hueber noted, "is right in Raytheon's wheelhouse," where the company can provide effective short-range missile defense systems.
"We part of solutions globally," Heuber said, "whether with Lockheed Martin offering frigates to Saudi Arabia or as an international partner on non-US designs. Our systems are agnostic, they can operate with US combat management systems or radars or international systems in a variety of configurations."
Davis pointed out that Raytheon systems are on ships built by CMN and Thales in France, Damen, Turkey's STM and Aselsan, Italy's Fincantieri and many more.