Bucharest, Romania – A central focus of Romania’s efforts to modernize and upgrade its military forces—and a key element of its goal to invest at least two percent of its gross domestic product in national security as a NATO member—is the procurement and fielding of new multi-purpose corvettes to boost Romania’s presence in the Black Sea.
Under current planning, Romania will purchase four new corvettes for its Navy—and refurbish its two existing Type 22 Broadsword-class frigates, the Regina Maria and Regele Ferdinand, in a program estimated to be worth a total of €1.6 billion (U.S. $1.89 billion) over a period of seven years.
Romania’s requirement is for a flexible, modular littoral combat ship in the 2,500-tonne range capable of executing the following missions: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti Surface Warfare (ASuW), Anti Air Warfare (AAW), Electronic Warfare (EW), Naval Gun Support (NGS), Search and Rescue (SAR), and Aviation Operations (shipboard UAV and helicopter integration).
The Romanian legislation approving the program’s funding, passed in February 2018, stipulates that the selected contractor must own a shipyard in Romania, located “on the Black Sea and/or on the Danube river” shore, and must be operated by an entity based in a European Union or NATO member state. DSJ is told that four shipbuilding consortia have thus far been approved by the Romanian Government to submit formal proposals:
- Dutch group Damen Shipyards, which owns the Galati shipyard and is in the process of acquiring the Mangalia shipyard;
- French Naval Group, which has associated with local Constanta Shipyard;
- German group ThyssenKrup Marine Systems; and
- Italian group Fincatieri, which controls the Tulcea and Braila shipyards.
With Romania’s naval modernization program on a fast track towards source selection and contract award later this year, it was no surprise to see the various competitors exhibiting their concepts at this year’s Black Sea Defense & Aerospace (BSDA) Exhibition and Conference.
DSJ spent time at BSDA in the booth of leading contender Damen Shipyards, which intends to offer its proven Sigma 10-514 littoral combat ship.
Damen relates that, based on discussions, documentation and photographs received, the company has integrated the IAR 330 PUMA helicopter on its Sigma 10-514 concept. As the PUMA is a large-scale, cargo air vessel, any other modern helicopter model may be integrated not only on deck but also in the dedicated hanger, as well as in other facilities. Two helicopters may be fitted, one on deck and one inside the hanger, where an additional unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) may also be fitted because the storage area will be fitted with a roller shutter door. With regards to helicopter maintenance, the hanger will be fitted with an overhead crane, as required.
Damen notes that its Sigma Multi Mission Bay responds to the specific requirements of the Romanian Navy and that the company proposes three specific, differentiated configurations of this area:
- Special Forces Support, fitting two 10′ containers and three 9-meter interceptor boats;
- Mine Countermeasures/Anti-Submarine Warfare (MCM/ASW), fitting two 10′ containers, one 20′ towed array, one 9-metre interceptor boat or towed array sonar, and one 20′ container;
- Multi-Purpose Configuration of two groups of 20 SeaMines, on rails and one 9-meter interceptor boat.
Boeing Company is tasked with providing offensive capability to the Damen corvette offering, providing its proven Harpoon Block II missile and its Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System (AHWCS). Daman notes that the GPS/INS Guidance of the Harpoon Block II significantly decreases non-target impact collateral damage, greatly reducing the search area, while also identifying enemy vessels and ruling out dry-land impact. Block II provides ten times the improvement in target-land separation from earlier Harpoon variants, discriminating targets very close to shore.
Raytheon Company is responsible for the Damen offering’s ship self-defense capability and a combination of autonomous protection systems including:
- The Phalanx Block 1B Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) supports multiple roles in ship self-defense, with the primary mission of terminal defense against anti-ship missile threats and high-speed aircraft penetrating outer fleet defensive envelopes.
- The Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Guided Missile System is a system dedicated to anti-ship missile defense against current and evolving threats, guaranteeing the defeat of the most advanced complex threats.
- Based on successful weapons systems programs (Phalanx CIWS, RAM, RAM Guided Launcher System/GMLS), SeaRAM enhances ship self-defense capability, keeping pace with emerging and future threats.
- The NATO SeaSparrow is a modified version of the air-to-air Sparrow missile, designed to provide ship self-defense. The Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) benefits from kinematic upgrade to RIM-7P missile, with both subsonic low altitude and supersonic high altitude capabilities, in order to meet asymmetric and threats.
General Dynamics is the proposed provider of the Damen team’s fully Integrated Sonar System, providing flexible solutions tailorable to any mission.
Damen Shipyards, citing recent performance of this same offering for the Mexican and UAE Navies, guarantees on-time and on-budget delivery for the Romanian Navy and argues that its proven Sigma design, in combination with proven US combat equipment described in the foregoing, guarantees operational superiority and ensures a balanced maintenance planning for Romania. Damen asserts that the offered US combat systems are being used NATO-wide and provide unique technical and operational cooperation with the greatest NATO compatibility and increased NATO integration.
Damen promises that the Royal Netherlands Navy will provide for the transfer of required know-how on fleet management and from an industrial base perspective, argues that the modular design of its offering enables ship construction on Romanian yards and increases employment, supporting Romania’s objective to become a regional shipbuilding hub via a professional and proven transfer of technology.