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Al-JUBAIL, the first of five AVANTE 2200-class corvettes under construction for Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF), was launched at Navantia’s San Fernando shipyard on 22 July. The ceremony was attended by the Commander of the RSNF, Vice Adm Fahad Bin Abdullah Al-Ghofaily; Susana de Sarriá, Chair of the Navantia Board; the Acting CEO of SAMI, Eng Walid Abukhaled; and the Admiral of the Spanish Navy’s Cadiz Logistics Support Bay, Vice Adm Ricardo A Hernández López (Alardiz).

Adm Al-Ghofaily highlighted the importance of the ALSARAWAT Project – contracted to Navantia – one of the largest capability-acquisition programmes for the RSNF, which reflects a strong strategic relationship between the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Spain, increasing cooperation between their respective navies in shipbuilding, education and training. The Admiral also indicated that success in this project is a key factor for ambitious future projects and an enduring partnership.

Eng Abukhaled commented on the strong relationship between SAMI, the RSNF and Navantia, as well as the valuable partnership of SAMINavantia, reflected by the launch of the first Saudi Combat Management System. He pointed out that taking delivery of the first corvette – and the AVANTE 2200 project in general – represents a key pillar of the Saudi defence ecosystem, which will enhance local capabilities in line with the goals outlined in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. This achievement will lead to the building of solid foundations for original manufacturing and enhancing local content. He also stated that this step falls within the framework of SAMI’s strategy to support development of military industries in the Kingdom, as well as enhancing its strategic independence and military readiness.

Susana de Sarriá highlighted Navantia’s commitment to the RSNF: to replicat the successful model implemented with the Spanish Navy for decades and more recently with other services, such as the Royal Australian Navy; and to provide a high level of capability to the RNSF and to Saudi military industries, both in the corvette programme and also for future projects.

The AL-JUBAIL has a length of 104m, a beam of 14m and will accommodate 102 people crew and additional personnel. It will achieve a maximum speed of 27 knots and  it has the capacity to carry 21 days’ supplies on board.

The corvettes are the latest generation of Navantia-designed combatants. They incorporate state-of-the-art products such as the CATIZ Combat System, DORNA Gun Fire Control System, NAVCOMS/HERMESYS Integrated External and Internal Communications System, MINERVA Integrated Navigation and Bridge System, or COMPLEX-SIMPLEX Integrated Platform Management Platform – all of which are Navantia designs – plus license-manufactured equipment such as the Leonardo SUPER RAPID 76mm main gun, Rheinmetall Air Defence MILLENNIUM 35mm close-in weapon system, MTU engines and diesel generators, and RENK gearboxes.

Steel was initially cut for AL-JUBAIL in January 2019, since when the Navantia workshops in San Fernando and Puerto Real have been working tirelessly despite the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the follow-on vessels, the objective is to recover time and meet the initial milestones, so that the second corvette can be launched in November this year.

The corvette programme, implemented in November 2018, strengthens Navantia’s immediate future and benefits all the company's shipyards and its auxiliary industry, especially in the entire Bay of Cádiz. Specifically, it will suppose a global workload of around seven million hours – which translates to an annual 6,000 jobs over the next five years – of which over some 3,000 will be indirect, generated by other suppliers. More than 100 companies will collaborate on the programme.

The last vessel is scheduled to be delivered by 2024 and, in addition to construction, the programme includes: Life Cycle Support for five years from delivery of the first ship, with an option for another five additional years; integrated logistical support; operational and maintenance training; provision of training and training centres for the combat  and platform control systems; and maintenance systems for use at the RNSF’s Jeddah Naval Base.

AL-JUBAIL was launched at Navantia’s San Fernando shipyard on 22 July. (Photos: Navantia)

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