PARIS — Spain has officially joined the European Patrol Corvette program to design and develop a prototype of a modular 3,300-ton ship responsible for a number of tasks and missions, including those performed by ocean patrol vessels and light frigates.

Spain announced Feb. 8 that it was interested in joining the EPC program, which was made up of France, Italy and Greece. Despite the strict lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic in all four countries, the Spanish shipyard Navantia managed to push its application through.

Official confirmation came April 2, according to official sources quoted by Infodefensa.com, a Spanish media outlet covering defense issues.

The objective of the four-nation EPC program is to develop a modular design that each country can personalize to meet its own specific requirements.

The suggested configurations of the EPC are:

  • A limited warship optimized for surface warfare and able to counter airborne attacks as well as undertake anti-submarine missions.
  • A limited warship for lengthy missions (10,000 nautical miles at 14 knots) that can conduct surface warfare missions.
  • An offshore patrol vessel in various configurations.

The EPC project was officially approved in the framework of the European Union’s Permanent Structured Cooperation initiative on Nov. 12, 2019. PESCO is a framework and process to deepen defense cooperation between EU member states “who are capable and willing to do so,” according to the bloc. Commitments made through PESCO are legally binding.

The prototype will be the first project undertaken by Naviris, the joint venture launched by France’s Naval Group and Italy’s Fincantieri, which has been operational since Jan. 14, 2020.

The EPC is an essential requirement for both the French and Italian navies. The former needs to replace its six Floreal-class ships while the latter must replace four Cassiopea- and Minerva-class vessels as well as four Comandante-class ships.

It is expected that each country’s shipyards will build their own EPCs, with France building 9-11 vessels and Italy building eight.

The first-in-class would be Italian and operational in 2027, while the first French one would be delivered in 2030.

Portugal and Bulgaria have also expressed interest in joining the effort.