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European Patrol Corvette: new permanent structured cooperation seeks partners

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The projects selected as part of the third wave of Permanent Structured Cooperation (CSP or PERmanent Structured COoperation (PESCO) in English) unveiled this Tuesday, November 12 include the launch of the European Patrol Corvette carried since 2018 by Paris and Rome. This program will be the first achievement of Naviris, a joint company between Fincantieri and Naval group. Other countries could potentially join it.

The European Patro l Corvette appeared at the latest in 2017 under the name of European Light Frigate (EFL), a 4,500 ton vessel. For Fincantieri and Naval group, of materializing their industrial rapprochement initiated by the Magellan plan (2015) which initiated discussions between Fincantieri and Naval group . The Poséïdon plan (2017) includes the repurchase of STX Saint-Nazaire by Fincantieri as part of a major Franco-Italian naval cooperation in order to provide assurances to Paris. This project presented in the summer of 2017 received a favorable reception and was sanctioned by the signing of an agreement on September 27, 2017 for the purchase of STX St Nazaire by Fincantieri .

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Pattugliatori Polivalenti d'Altura ( PPA program for the seven buildings ordered (2 Light , 3 Light + and 2 Full ) and therefore not to confirm the option for three additional units (1 Light , 2 Full ). The French Navy was proposed to stop the series of Intermediate-Size Frigates (FTI or FDI (Defense and Intervention Frigates since January 1, 2019) after two or three units and to complete them with the ELF program in order to reach the format of 15 first-rate frigates then replace the surveillance frigates of the Floréal (6). This is why the ELF had to be launched in 2021, or even 2022 so as not to cause an interruption in programming French and Italian with respect to the calendars then in force.

Thaon di Revel PPA program Defense News | Industrial consolidation Defense | Military naval construction
The Thaon di Revel Pattugliatori Polivalenti d'Altur program in its Light version (5,800 t at full load) equipped with operational self-defense capabilities and which will be used for patrol missions. Trieste L-band AESA radar via L16 link) . A PPA Light + (5900 t) has most of the capabilities of Full minus certain equipment and the ATBM mission.

The European Light Frigate is rejected, in France, with annoyance by the government and the French Navy on the grounds that Naval group had already asked for and obtained a lot with the launch of the FTI program between 2013 and 2015 by the termination of the FREMM program. The Italian side did not seem hostile to the project at first glance but the Italian navy did not seem unhappy to let the PPA come to an end (7 + 3).

The second stage of the merger between Fincantieri and Naval group is the signing on Tuesday October 23, 2018 of a new agreement, resulting from the Poséïdon plan, providing for the creation of a future joint company ( joint venture ) to carry out three activities: programs bi-national surface ships, the coordination of the efforts of the two manufacturers on foreign markets and the development of a new combat system to equip these same future ships more probably the four frigates of the Horizon program during their renovation at mid-life ( midlife update ).

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The European Light Frigate is dead, long live the European Patrol Corvette ! This new 3000 ton building project will be carried out by the future joint company. It is repositioned on the PP(X) program of the Military Marina and replacement of the Floréal of the French Navy.

The Military Marina must ensure the succession of offshore patrol vessels of the Comandanti (4 units, 1500 t), Sirio (2 units, 1500 t) and Cassiopea (4 units, 1500 t) classes within the framework of the PP(X) program. Common Anti-Air Modular MissileExtended Range ( CAMMER missiles with a range of around 50 km and a towed sonar.

Comandante Foscari ranks Comandanti on May 28, 2010 Defense News | Industrial consolidation Defense | Military naval construction
The Comandante Foscari (Comandanti class) during a joint exercise with the US Navy in the Mediterranean Sea on May 28, 2010.

In France, it had been imagined that the FTI program would include a version adapted to maritime patrol for the succession of Floréal , even before the European Light Frigate proposed to do so. The current Chief of Staff of the French Navy, Admiral Christophe Prazuck, in line with his successor, specified that he wanted “frigates” built to military standards rather than merchant marine standards in order to replace the Floréals . .

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Fregate Prairial July 2016 Defense News | Industrial consolidation Defense | Military naval construction
The Prairial of the Floréal class in July 2016.

This project changed its nature when Rome submitted a file in the summer of 2019 in order to propose it as permanent structured cooperation, therefore open to the participation of other member states. This is probably a way for France and Italy to strengthen, or even impose, the European character of the rapprochement of their two military naval industrialists as a tool for a European reorganization of which they would be the pivot. . Together, France and Italy represent more or less 420,000 tons of combat vessels. The immediately following German (~100,000 tonnes) and Spanish (87,000 tonnes) navies in the European Union do not even reach half.

At the same time, the joint company, planned by the agreement of October 23, 2019, was launched on June 14, 2019. Named Naviris , name revealed during the organizational committee of October 23, 2019 in Genoa where the company is domiciled, the new structure is ready to carry the European Patrol Corvette officially selected for the third wave of CSP/PESCO projects, the list of which was revealed on November 12, 2019. Only France and Italy are participating in this project to date.

The description of the permanent structured cooperation project carried out by the European Patrol Corvette allows us to learn a little more thanks to the presentation of the objectives. This future building will be the “prototype” of a “common platform” that can be adapted to the needs and used by several European countries. The characteristics of the future building will be decided as part of the permanent structured cooperation approach and this future base will therefore be adapted to the military needs of each of the participants in this project.

The European Patrol Corvette is defined by both parties as having to belong in the NATO typology to “second line ships” whose project description clearly specifies that it is a “ Limited Warship Unit ”. Some nautical characteristics are even decided because the maximum tonnage should be “around 3000 tonnes” for a hull of “around 110 m” in length and a draft of less than 5.5 meters. Propulsion will consist of diesel and/or electric engines.

The future naval platform will be designed with the aim of “hosting several systems and payloads, in order to carry out, with a modular and flexible approach, a large number of tasks and missions. »

On the commercial and industrial level, the European Patrol Corvette appears, first, to succeed Gowind 2500 (designed at the very beginning of the 2000s) since Fincantieri and Naval group are joining their efforts on foreign markets where they will offer the vessels designed in common. Reasons why Naval group Fincantieri 's proposal to develop the EPC from the Doha class corvettes selected by Qatar as part of the Protector . Having transformed industrial cooperation into permanent structured cooperation is perhaps a way of securing the national programs of France, Italy but also potential future partners, the most likely of which are, in alphabetical order, Bulgaria, Greece and Portugal.

Corvette El Fateh Gowind 2500 in 2017 in Lorient Defense News | Industrial consolidation Defense | Military naval construction
The corvette El Fateh (Gowind 2500) during its delivery to the Egyptian navy on September 22, 2017.

The timetable for this program will depend on the time left for potential interested parties to join the permanent structured cooperation, plus the necessary time to define the characteristics of the platform, then adapt it to national requirements. This institutional phase will then give way to detailed design studies carried out by Naviris according to an industrial sharing to be agreed with possible partners. Rome is already planning to withdraw its patrol boats of the Comandanti (4 units, 1500 t), Sirio (2 units, 1500 t) and Cassiopea (4 units, 1500 t) classes between 2022 and 2025. Based on a duration of 30 years of service, the Floréal (6) could have been decommissioned between 2020 and 2024. but this is not provided for by the current military programming law (2019 – 2025).

The European Light Frigate could have been launched in 2021, or even as early as 2020. The European Patrol Corvette would take the same path in order to respect even the Italian calendar.

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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