SOUTH AFRICAN NAVY WARSHIPS
The Amatola, in keeping with a naming convention depicting acts of valour, was named after the Amatola Mountains where British forces fought the Xhosas in late 1852. Mrs Zanele Mbeki, named the vessel at the Blohm & Voss Thyssen Rheinstahl, Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft (HDW) and Thales shipyards in Germany just after noon on 07 June 2002. The ship only took to the water the next day. The first of the MEKO A-200 Class ships is due to sail for home waters in December, with outfitting of the combat suite and associated subsystems to be undertaken locally. Proposed subsystems include system engineering, combat team trainer, consoles, video switching systems, link control systems and surface-to-air missiles Other subsystems include 35mm dual-purpose guns, 76/62 guns, radar, electro-optical trackers, rotating mechanisms, external communications systems, electronic warfare systems and tilt measurement systems.
Artists impression of the Meko 200 frigates
Each vessel is designed around a single GE LM2500 gas turbine, with a maximum output of 20 000 kW, plus two MTU 16V 1163 TB93 diesels, each of 5 920 kW. Advanced stealth principles have been applied to the design of the ships and this gives the vessels a small radar signature, something which is vital in modern combat. All new automated bridges outfitted with GPS, electronic charts and management systems will be one of the characteristics of the new ships. The new look South African Navy is hoping to attract and train the new breed of electronic and computer familiar seamen.
In January 2003, it was confirmed that delivery of the SA Amatola would be delayed due to the supply of faulty cable for the ship's communications system. It had been reported that there could be a delay of as long as five months in the handover of the first corvette, which would cost millions of rands. A SA Navy crew was being trained in the operation of the vessel, and the delay from the original handover date of December 28 was reportedly "minimal, we are not talking about months".
on 25 September 2003 the first of four the corvettes ordered under the controversy-plagued arms deal, was officially handed over to the SAN at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg.
The second of the four corvettes, SAS Isandlwana left Kiel in Germany on 31 January 2004. She stopped over in Brest, France, to pick up equipment before sailing to Algericas, Spain where she refuelled. She finally arrived in late February of 2004. After arriving in Table Bay, she was scheduled to perform some manoeuvres in Table Bay before heading for False Bay and a rendezvous with other navy vessels at Simon's Town where work would begin on fitting the weapon systems and combat suites.
Corvette number 3, SAS Spioenkop, arrived in False Bay on 31 May 2004, where she was welcomed by her first sister SAS Amatola and a host of other ships. The ship was named in June 2003 by North West province speaker Thandi Modise. The Spioenkop handed over to the navy on 16 February. Her sister ships SAS Amatola and SAS Isandhlwana, are currently being fitted with their weapons and electronics, with Amatola due to start weapons and combat system acceptance trials in October.
SAS Mendi, the 4th ship, was named by Mrs Helena Retief, wife of the Chief of the Navy Rear Admiral John Retief. She was due to sail for home from Kiel, Germany, on Friday 20 August 2004.