Corvettes, Submarines on Track : SA Navy
The process of building four new patrol corvettes and three submarines for the SA Navy as part of the country's strategic defence package was on track, project leaders said in Pretoria on Tuesday.
The first complete corvette is to be delivered to the navy by mid-2004, and the last a year later, they told reporters. The first submarine would be commissioned by July 2005, and the third two years later.
SA Navy chief Vice-Admiral Johan Retief said efforts to prepare the navy for receiving and operating the new equipment were also on track.
"We understand the projects we are involved in are extremely costly. It is important that we ensure they can be properly received by a navy that can operate and maintain them," he said.
To this effect, staff were receiving specialised training, and the curricula of trainee technicians were being changed.
The navy was also beefing up its infrastructure such as dockyards and simulators in order to use the new equipment to their full potential.
Corvette project director Jonny Kamerman said the construction of the four vessels was "on schedule, on performance and on cost".
This was the largest and most complex project ever undertaken by the SA Navy, he said.
After being built in Germany, the ships are to be brought to South Africa for their combat suites to be fitted.
All four would be under construction in Germany by Christmas, he said.
The corvettes are designed to counter aircraft, submarines and surface vessels, and to conduct sustained operations in sea conditions like those off the South African coast. They will also carry helicopters.
Kamerman said the country could not afford to fit the vessels with a full combat component, but they have been constructed so they could be upgraded when necessary. Seventy-five percent of the combat systems were supplied by local industry.
Captain Guy Jamieson, assistant corvette project officer, said the design of the combat suites would be completed by December.
The core teams have already been staffed, and were being prepared for deployment to Germany for training.
A total of 250 people are to be trained for the corvette and submarine projects over the next few years.
Submarine assistant project officer Commander Gary Kretschmer reported that construction of the pressure hull of the first vessel was 90 percent complete. Construction of the second started last month.
The submarines could be used to prevent enemy ships from disrupting South Africa's sea trading routes, sink enemy submarines, serve as a deterrent against would-be aggressors, and protect the country's natural fishing resources.
The acquisition of the new vessels form part of the country's controversial multi-billion arms deal, which also involves the acquisition of 30 light utility helicopters, 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainers and 28 Gripen advanced light fighter aircraft.
The corvettes' combat suites formed part of the controversy, with arms contractor Richard Young alleging a conflict of interests involving the government's acquisitions chief Shamin "Chippy" Shaik.
Shaik's brother, Schabir, was a shareholder in the Thomson Group and African Defence Systems which were awarded the contract to provide combat technology for the four corvettes.
Young has threatened litigation.
SA Navy officials declined to comment on what impact it could have on the corvette project.
With acknowledgements to Sapa.