Publication: defenceWeb Issued: Date: 2010-11-17 Reporter: Reporter:

Heavy seas damage frigate engine, Navy short of submariners




Date 2010-11-17
Web Link

Minutes after hearing that the four 121-metre long Meko A200SAN frigates operated by the South African Navy (SAN) were the "perfect ships for our type of coast", MPs were told the rough seas had irreparably damaged an engine on one of the warships. This will now have to be replaced at a cost of R16 million.

Briefing the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on the frigates, Teuteberg said the “starboard propulsion unit on one of the frigates is broken. An investigation subsequently discovered a shortcoming on an underwater exhaust valve, the South African Press Association reports. "We believe this to be a design shortcoming, but particular to the sea states we operate in. It happened when the vessel was rolling excessively and therefore the pressure changed as the exhaust went down. And there was water ingress... to the engine, [which] damaged the crankshaft of this engine," he said.

The discovery of the faulty valve had led to an investigation of the Navy's three other frigates. "An... engineering change was done in order to improve the closing of the valves under extreme conditions," Teuteberg said.

Earlier, he told members South Africa had got "the best value for money ever" when it bought the frigates from Germany, SAPA reported. "They are brilliant. At sea they are capable, they've got long legs, they've got speed when you require them, the sensors work beautifully... I tell you, perfect ships for our type of coast." Teuteberg said the damaged frigate – which he did not name – would need a new engine. "A new engine will cost us R16 million. We have to remove the [damaged] engine and replace it. We have the necessary money, and we're ordering the new engine."

The operation would involve cutting open the vessel's hull, in what he described as a "major evolution" set for next year. The frigate was currently operational, propelled by its port engine and gas turbine-driven water jet, but confined to coastal waters. "We would not send her beyond that," Teuteberg said.

The ships are fitted with a CODAG-WARP (COmbined Diesel And Gas turbine-WAter jet and Refined Propellers) propulsion system consisting of a General Electric LM 2500 gas turbine delivering 20 MW (26 820 hp) and two MTU 16-valve 1163 TB93 diesels, each delivering 5,9 kW or a combined 11,8 MW (16 102 hp). It is one of these latter machines that have been damaged.

The class was acquired for R9,6 billion as part of Project Sitron,a component of the controversial Strategic Defence Package signed on December 3, 1999. The contracts became effective on April 28, 2000. The Amatola arrived in South African waters in November 2004, the Isandhlwana in February 2005, the Spioenkop in May and the Mendi in September 2005.

 With acknowledgements to defenceWeb.

Very funny.

But not of the ha ha variety.

But I heard that the engine "blew up" because of an operator fault, not a design fault.

And it simply makes no sense at all that is was a design fault, because if it was, then Blohm+Voss would pay.

But the SAN is paying and so it is a tautology that it is not a warranty fault.

And this incident didn't happen last week - it happened several years ago.

I am sorry, but in this instance I simply do not believe the admiral.

I believe that it was a procedural fault cause by under trained onboard staff.

In fact I believe that there is a person's name to this incident. It's recorded in the electronic log.

As for the rest, it's also a whole lot of baloney.

The SAN simply cannot afford to run such sophisticated vessels.

That's why it wants six new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) and Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPVs) to do the day-to-day tasking given to the SAN.

The frigates are for conducting blue water warfare, not patrolling the exclusive economic zone (OPV) or the coastline (IPV).

The frigates are technically perfect, albeit costly, for anti-piracy operations, but the SA Government won't go there because the frigates are in such a poor state of repair and manning that they can't.

Also the SA Government has no political will to fight their black brethren in the Horn of Africa, who are probably also shareholders in Chancellor House.

The admiral also talks codswollop about the other great features of the vessel.

The WARP system is causing the hulls to disintegrate due to galvanic corrosion, caused either by poor design (stainless steel and mild steel) or poor maintenance (replacing sacrificial anodes)or both

The gas turbines of the CODAG propulsion system use so much fuel that the SAN simply cannot afford to run them and they are never used.

He says the sensors are excellent. Maybe the sensors.

But there was a huge blind spot aft for the French Multi-Role Radar (MRR) due to its poor positioning on the mast and their disinclination to change this due to cost (this after a perfectly good South African mast design done previously).

And there is just one little sonar, the Hull Mount Sonar (HMS), which is only good for self-protection and not anti-submarine warfare (ASW), for which a frigate is normally used and was designed for this frigate, but excluded because the French and Chippy raped the combat suite budget and ate up its children. Normally a Towed Array Sonar (TAS) is required for ASW. The planned torpedo system was also excluded as a result of French greed, as was I think the Torpedo Decoy.

I can't really comment on the Electronic Warfare (EW) side because this a sensitive area and I simply do not know and if I knew I would not say, because otherwise they would kill me or cut out my tongue and drop a log down my windpipe or a stake through my ears.

The 35 mm Dual Purpose Gun (DPG) still does not work properly after being in design and development for over 25 years. Other than reliability problems it cannot track a very modest air target, almost surely because of the latency and jitter of target data and inertial data getting to the gun and to the tracker, and almost surely caused by the French Spaghetti System (FSS) masquerading as a combat suite architecture and combat management system design.

The SAN is using 20 year old Exocet MM40 Block 1 missiles (after the Project Officer testified that he purchased 17 x Block 2 missiles - should have been 32 +1 = 33). These have a range of about 70 km. Everyone else is trundling about with anti-ship missiles with ranges between 150 and 350 km. But they're French.

Actually, being frank and rude (I hope my dear mother - who is on my mailing list - will first wash out my mouth with Lifebuoy soap at Christmas time and then forgive me), it's all one big sorry fuck-up.

As system engineer on the SAN Patrol Corvette (SANPC) Design Advisory Committee responsible for system integration, I am not sure whether to weep or hang my head in shame as to what DoD and French FSS expediency did to 10 years (maybe 500 to 1 000 manyears) of corvette combat suite system engineering.

Di's 'n skande.