The Falaj-3 Class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) built by ADSB (Abu Dhabi Shipyards), part of the EDGE Group, for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Navy will have enhanced air defense capabilities according to the latest model during the IDEX/NADEX 2023 exhibition at the NAVDEX Naval District Navy Platform for service booth presentations.
On 16 February 2023, the keel-laying ceremony for the first Falaj 3 was held ahead of schedule at the ADSB facility under the patronage of Rear Admiral Sheikh Saeed bin Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan and attended by Deputy Commander of the UAE Navy Abdullah Brigadier General Faraj Al Mehairbi and Mansour Almulla, Managing Director and CEO of EDGE, and several other dignitaries presided over the event.
A new model of the Falaj 3 combat OPV unveiled during the NAVDEX exhibition. EDR understands online that this is the latest design for the ship, but no further information has been released by the shipyard or customer. Designed to reduce radar cross-section, IR and acoustic signatures compared to the initial model shown at the last edition of IDEX/NAVDEX 2021, it features a new forward section of the ship that can be mounted on 76/62mm main guns The rear accommodates a row of eight vertical launchers for surface-to-air missiles. EDR online determined they belonged to the MBDA VL MICA system, although the shipyard and missile maker did not comment or confirm.
This represents a significant increase in the multi-layer air defense capabilities of the 60-meter-long design, which according to published figures has a width of 9.5 meters, a full-load displacement of 641 tons, and a maximum propeller draft of 3.4 meters. The propulsion plant is centered around four diesel engines, connected by the same number of shafts to four propellers and two vertical rudders (in the further outer propeller positions), capable of reaching a maximum speed of over 26 knots and 2,000 nautical miles at 16 knots Range. Electricity is provided by four generators capable of delivering 1.2 megawatts. Manning 39 people, the new ships are equipped with an integrated platform management system that enables monitoring of all platform systems from a single point. It is also equipped with a RHIB which is understood to be launched and recovered from a covered station to help reduce ship signatures.
The new model’s integrated midship mast houses a multifunction surveillance radar, various antennas and electro-optical sensors, and a Radar ESM/Communications ESM (RESM/CESM) integrated antenna on top of it. Above the main bridge in front is the artillery fire control system, while the aft part is an open area below the deck, which houses anti-ship missile tilt launchers to reduce the overall ship signature and inner missile defense system. The aft area has two trainable multiple missile launchers (on 2021 models, one is mounted in the bow area of the small superstructure behind the main guns), the electro-optical (E/O) fire control system is located on the integrated mast superior.
Combat system integration and major equipment was provided by Leonardo, although neither the shipyard nor Leonardo commented or confirmed that information. The Italian group will supply and integrate the latest generation of ATHENA C Mk2 CMS hardware and software packages in a custom iteration to meet the requirements of the UAE Navy. Previous versions of the ATHENA CMS were installed on Abu Dhabi’s Faraj 2 and Ghannatha class ships, which are in service with the UAE Navy. The internal/external communications suite should be provided by Rohde & Schwarz and should be based on the NAVICS solution, although the supplier provided no comment or confirmation. It is understood that Leonardo also provides the Multi Data Link Processor (MDLP) used to manage data link interactions and information distribution, as well as a new generation of IFF interrogators and transponders, respectively SIR-MC EVO and M-428 devices.
The sensor suite managed by the ATHENA C Mk2 CMS is centered around the Kronos Naval High Power (Kronos NV HP) main 3D multifunction radar supplied by Leonardo. The C-band Kronos NV HP version is equipped with an active electronically scanned array antenna and has more transmitter/receiver modules based on GaAs technology than the original baseline model of the Kronos family of radars. This allows for enhanced performance as well as higher availability and improved graceful degradation capabilities.
Elettronica is also installed on two Bani Yas class (Gowind 2500) frigates, delivered by Naval Group as prime contractor for the UAE Navy, the EW kit is based on the latest generation RESM/CESM kit and features a new integrated antenna with a limited footprint, Can be installed on small displacement boats with reduced radar cross-section. The sensor suite also features a Leonardo NA-30S Mk2 dual-band radar/electro-optical fire control system for the 76/62mm main gun, as well as an equal number of Halcon LOGIR (low-cost guided imaging rockets) and other electronics. According to the latest model shown, the Falaj 3 OPV is also expected to be equipped with two Rheinmetall Defense MASS (Multiple Ammunition Soft Kill System) decoy launchers in a configuration that also features Dueras rocket decoys.
As expected, the main weapon difference from the previously shown model is the addition of a MBDA VL MICA-based surface-to-air vertical launch missile package. Two Bani Yas-class (Gowind 2500) ships that Naval Group has supplied to the UAE Navy are also equipped with the same system, with the first-class recently undergoing its maiden sea trials. Thus, the Falaj 3 platform is able to handle multiple missiles loaded simultaneously thanks to the VL MICA launcher and the Raytheon Mk 49 RAM launch system for air and asymmetric threat defense, it can launch Block 1A and Block 2 RIM-116 missiles UAE Version procured by the Navy.
Leonardo 76/62mm Super Rapido main gun, EDR online, although the model does not show it, in the latest multi-feed configuration, equipped with a Strales kit consisting of a radio frequency guidance system, mainly used to manage DART guided munitions against countermeasures ship missiles, which are also equipped with Baniyas-class frigates. Multiple simultaneous ground and airborne asymmetric threats can also be dealt with by the two trainable launchers of the Halcon LOGIR missile system, equipped with 12 fire-and-forget IIR-guided shells, supplied by EDGE Group and deployed aboard the UAE Navy Troop ships.For short-range defense, the new model showcases two remote-controlled cannons, which EDR On-Line has identified as Australian EOS R400-M turrets, equipped with Northrop Grumman M230LF 30mm guns, scattered across UAE Navy ships, are shown docked on platforms in the NAVDEX area.
Photo courtesy of L. Peruzzi