Project of new Croatian Corvette

Picard

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Project of New Croatian Corvette – Exercitus Imperii (wordpress.com)

Croatian Navy, much like the rest of the military, is in need of updating its hardware. Missile gunships in service are not exactly new, even the ones bought from Finland. At this point, thankfully, it looks like the replacement vessels may be built by the Croatian shipyards.

The first natively-built Croatian corvette is being pepared in Split. While the news about the project had somewhat dried up, some things are still known. Corvette is natively designed, with design work done by the Marine and Energy Solutions DIV, a part of the DIV Group owned by Tomislav Debeljak.

Original Navy requirement was for the four corvettes, but that plan was abandoned for financial reasons. The corvette will be utilized for both protection of Croatian territorial waters as well as international operations in the Mediterranean. Project will also serve as a basis for any potential ships for export.

During the Homeland War, Croatia captured a missile gunboat (RTOP) Vlado Četković (pennant number 402) which was undergoing maintenance in Šibenik. Renamed into Šibenik (RTOP-21) it entered the newly formed Croatian Navy. Yugoslav Navy, having lost the naval battle near Split, was forced to retreat to Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska). While JNA (Yugoslav Navy) still possessed several Russian corvettes, the fear of Croatian possession of RBS-15 forced them to remain in harbour. JNA attempted to mount a sortie only once, but they retreated after Šibenik closed to 20 kilometers and targeted them with RBS-15. Aware that only seconds separated them from being sunk, Yugoslav navy never again sailed the Adriatic.

But RBS-15 missiles, while well-maintained, are nearing the end of their lifespan, and new missiles will have to be acquired. Ships are also over 30 years old, with Dmitar Zvonimir (commissioned in 2001.)and Petar Krešimir IV (commissioned in 1992.)having to have had their engines replaced.

As a result, project of replacement ships became a necessity. Stop-gap solution was found in procurement of Finnish Helsinki class missile gunboats, which became RTOP-41 Vukovar and RTOP-42 Dubrovnik. But the ships – originally called Oulu and Kotka – were comissioned in 1985. and 1986., which makes them significantly older than the Kralj class missile gunboats which form the backbone of the Croatian surface fleet. Thus the new corvette is a clear necessity.

The corvette will serve as a flagship of the Croatian Navy. Fact that it will be built in Croatia is a major advantage. It will give experience to Croatian shipyards in building modern warships, and the process will require cooperation of 38 different Croatian companies, thus having major benefit for the economy as a whole. The corvette will be of a modular design, since three quarters of the cost of the corvette lies in its weapons and electronic systems. As such, the ship will be built with only basic systems, and outfitted later according to the Navy’s requirements and preferences. Gradual outfitting of the ship will allow the cost to be spread out over a longer period of time – a major advantage considering Croatia’s budgetary issues.

Corvette is 90,7 meters long, with beam of 13,2 meters. It will be of a modular design capable of being outfitted with anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine systems. Onboard equipment will also include a 13-mete rigid-hulled inflatible boat (RIB) designed for interception and rescue missions, stored in the stern hangar. Interceptor will be capable of speeds of over 40 knots and transporting at least 10 individuals. Corvette will also have a single helicopter stored on the deck hangar, of either NH-90 or Sea Hawk type, as well as an UAV. Full displacement of the ship is 2 100 tons, with steel hull and aluminum superstructure. Corvette will be capable of enduring the sea state 5 to 6, and have autonomous radius of 3 550 naval miles. It will be equipped with an active stabilization system. Maximum speed will be 26 knots with full crew and equipment, 50% fuel, sea depth of at least 30 meters and sea state no greater than 2 with wind speed of no more than 3,3 m/s. The economical patrol speed will be 22 knots. Maximum speed with the electric propulsion will be 10 knots. Engines will allow maneuverability at low speeds, particularly when navigating narrow passages and channels. Ship complement will consist of 61 crewmen and 10 soldiers.

Armament will consist of 12 vertical launch silos for surface-to-air missiles whose maximum range will be greater than 20 kilometers and two dual launchers for surface-to-surface missiles with maximum range of 130 kilometers. Ship will also be capable of close-range anti-air and anti-missile defence at distances up to 6 kilometers, and anti-submarine activities with torpedoes at distances of no less than 10 kilometers. Helicopter will be used for patrol, reconnaissance and combat activities. Ship will also carry an unmanned aircraft for reconnaissance purposes. It will have 76 mm main gun (optionally 57 mm), two remotely controlled 30 mm autocannons for close-in defense, and two 12,7 mm machine guns. This armament is the only that will be present on the basic variant of the ship.

Ship’s sensors will consist of a 2D surveillance radar and electro-optical surveillance, tracking and fire-control system. Optionally, a 3D radar may also be installed, as well as an CIC. Radar sets will include X-band radar(s) of at least 10 kW and S-band radar(s) of at least 24 kW. Ship will also have an ECIDS electronic map system, VHF and UHF radio devices and AIS system. Electro-optical system will include visual-band and IR-band gyrostabilized sensors. It will also be equipped with two navigational reflectors, radio station and a GPS system.

In order to reduce visual and radar signature, ship will have low silhouette and compact, clean superstructure. Reduction of IR signature will be assisted by redirecting all engine exhaust into the sea. Ship will also be equipped with degaussing systems.

The class will also be available for the export market. Due to modular design and other elements, natively-built corvette will be both cheaper and technically superior to ships that could be procured abroad. The EU corvette, which is being pushed by the France, Italy and Spain, would cost 400 million Euros for the basic ship plus 73 million Euros for the adaptation. This is significantly more than the Croatian corvette project. Of course, the competitors may try to stop the project by the alternative means, such as bribes and lobbying. Croatian corvette also has a superior hull form, allowing for more durable construction and greater propulsive efficiency.

This will be a major step forward for the Croatian armaments industry, which until now was based primarily on the small arms and infantry equipment. The only exception was the stillborn M-95 Degman main battle tank project, which offered performance significantly superior to most other T-72 based main battle tanks thanks to being an essentially new tank. Brodosplit, the shipyard that will be building the ship, is also interested in participating in the EU project such as the European corvette. This however is unlikely as such projects’ primary purpose is to allow the French and the Italians to siphon the money from the EU, and they will not want to share the cake. In contrast to potential foreign alternatives, Croatian corvette has the advantage in that 40% of the money will stay in Croatia.

Basic characteristics are as follows:

  • Length overall: 90,7 m
  • Height of the hull: 7 m
  • Draft: 3,8 m
  • Beam overall: 13,2 m
  • Full displacement: 2100 t
  • Complement: 71
    • Crew: 61
    • Security: 10
  • Maximum speed: 26 kts
  • Economical speed: 22 kts
  • Maximum speed with electric propulsion: 10 kts
  • Range at 16 kts: 3550 nm with 10% fuel reserve
  • Autonomy: 30 days with full complement
  • Full operability to sea state 5
  • RIB interceptor operations to sea state 4
  • Limited operability to sea state 6
  • Sailing at permanent full power to sea state 4 – 5
  • Survivability to sea state 9
  • Combat System: BIS 91
  • Weapons Systems:
    • 76 mm bow gun
    • Vertically Launched Surface-to-Air Missiles (VLS SAM) (bow)
    • Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (AShM) (main deck stern)
    • Light Anti-Submarine Torpedoes (stern)
    • 2 x 30 mm Close In Defense Autocannons (superstructure sides)
    • 2 x 12,7 mm Heavy Machine Guns (superstructure deck)
  • Sensors:
    • 3D Surveillance Radar with IFF capability
    • Radar and EO tracking and fire control system
    • Anti-Submarine sonar in the hull
    • Electronic Warfare system
      • radar detection system (ESM)
      • electronic countermeasures system (ECM)
      • 2 x chaff dispensers (bow and stern)
  • Combat Management System
Croatian shipyard in Split has already started delivery of Coastal Patrol Ships (OOB), which have shown themselves high-quality and modern vessels.

 

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