American-built naval vessels operated by the fledgling Iraqi navy are playing a crucial role in providing maritime security within Iraq’s territorial waters and defending critical maritime infrastructure – in this case, the offshore oil platforms known as Al Basra Oil Terminal (ABOT) and the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT).
Key to the Iraqi navy’s recapitalization efforts are a dozen Swiftships-built, 35-meter, 97-ton Coastal Patrol Boats (CPB); four Italian-built, 53.4-meter, Fateh-class large patrol ships; 26 Safeboats Defender interceptor boats – known as Fast Attack Boats; and, soon, two 60-meter, 1,400-ton Riverhawk multirole Offshore Support Vessels (OSV) – offshore patrol vessels really – that will be the largest Iraqi naval vessels when they enter service.
The OSVs are being built under a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract that was awarded to prime contractor RiverHawk Fast Sea Frames (RHFSF), a Tampa, Fla., shipbuilder in late 2009/early 2010. The total contract value, including vessel construction and a support package that includes crew training, is $113.5 million. Of this, the vessel construction contract is worth $70.14 million, with $22.5 million in funding from the Iraqis and $47.6 million from the U.S.-funded Iraqi Security Force Fund.
RHFSF subcontracted the production design and lofting for the OSVs to Genoa Design International, a Canadian firm based in St. John’s, Newfoundland, while construction was subcontracted to Gulf Island Marine Fabricators (GIMF) of Houma, La., for approximately $40 million, according to media reports.
The launching of the first OSV, Al Basra (pennant 401), took place at Houma last late last year, on Nov. 4, 2011, and the second ship, Al Fayhaa (pennant 402), followed about two months later on Feb. 1, 2012. It is understood that a considerable amount of outfitting remains to be completed before the vessels can begin sea trials.
Given that the delivery time line has moved to the right – originally both OSVs were scheduled for delivery by December 2011, which was subsequently changed to early 2012 – both NAVSEA and RHFSF are reluctant to provide delivery dates other than saying that “the ships are scheduled for delivery to NAVSEA in Spring and Summer.” Delivery to the Iraqi navy would be toward year end.
Principal particulars of these OSVs, which have a steel hull and an aluminum superstructure, are a length of 60 meters, a beam of 11.2 meters, and a design draft of 3.9 meters. They are powered by two Caterpillar 3516C engines developing 3,150 BHP @ 1,800 rpm each for a speed of 16 knots. Range is 4,000 nautical miles at 10 knots. Ship’s complement is 42 with room for another 40 troops or passengers. Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine supplies the navigational system and the comprehensive communications suite.
Armament is to be a 30 mm MSI Seahawk DS-30 remotely operated gun mount and up to 10 machine guns – four M2 heavy machine guns and six M240 light machine guns. Each OSV will also carry two fast attack boats (FABs) to defend itself and the offshore platforms. A small platform enables vertical replenishment of men and supplies if required.
“These two ships will play a central role in rebuilding vital maritime security mission capability, focused primarily on support and defense of off-shore oil terminals. These are not simple, single-purpose boats: They are multi-mission ships that will be the centerpiece of the Iraqi navy,” says Jake Ross, RiverHawk’s chief strategy officer, adding that they will be relied upon to execute a wide range of critical tasks. Operational requirements include pollution control, external firefighting, SCUBA diving operations, helicopter vertical replenishment operations, and towing ships.