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22 June 2016

South African Navy VALOUR-class Frigates to be Upgraded

A mid-life update (MLU) programme for the South African Navy’s (SAN) four VALOUR-class frigates is already under way, with work on the first of the class, SAS AMATOLA, completed in South Africa last year. The major surface combatants of the South African Navy (SAN), SAS AMATOLA, ISANDLWANA, SPIOENKOP, and MENDI are frigates of the German MEKO A-200SAN design and entered SAN service between 2005 and 2007.

South African Navy AMATOLA and ISANDLWANA frigates. 

The intention of the MLU is to extend service life of the vessels beyond 2035, although work on the second vessel, ISANDLWANA, has been put on hold pending funding availability. The last two vessels will be upgraded over the next decade, according to programme manager Cpt. Michael Girsa, speaking to a surface warships conference in Romania earlier this year. He indicated work is expected to commence in 2017 or 2018.

The primary role of the class is anti-surface warfare and the EXOCET Block 2 anti-ship missile will be enhanced or replaced and the guns (Leonardo-Finmeccanica [ex-OTO Melara] 76/62 forward and Denel 35mm aft) will also be upgraded. For anti-air warfare the Denel UMKHONTO missile system will be modernised to cater for evolving treats and the existing Thales KINGCLIP sonar is expected to be retained, since anti-submarine warfare is a low priority for the class.

From a systems perspective, lessons learned in anti-piracy operations dictate the addition of a bow thruster for station keeping and manoeuvring and the African Defence Systems combat management system upgraded or replaced. The embarked Super LYNX helicopters are slated to receive improved self-protection systems and new Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats with better communications will be embarked.

The sensor suite is now reaching the end of its useful life and includes a Thales MRR G-band surveillance radar, a Grintek EWASION EW suite, and a Saab Avitronics ESM system, all of which will be replaced, as will the electro-optic tracking system, although the Reutech RTS 6400 optical radar tracker is to be retained.

Threat evolution has persuaded planners to consider the addition of a close-in detection system for the VALOUR-class, to deal with the increasing threat from swarming manned or unmanned vessels.