Algeria Switching Frigate Order, Buying Helicopters from Italy?
According to London’s Asharq Al-Awsat, Algeria has shifted negotiations for 6 FREMM multirole frigates from France’s DCNS to Italy’s Fincantieri, while negotiating a contract with AgustaWestland for about 100 helicopters. The paper reports that Algeria will receive the frigates in 2011:
“…equipped with American anti-submarine missiles following a deal with Italy worth 4 billion euros. The deal replaces a similar agreement with France… Algeria concluded another deal with Italy to sell 100 helicopters.”
Or are there deals at all? The latest report comes from UPI, which says the frigate order is now an international competition…
Reports indicate that the deal involves AgustaWestland’s popular AW109 light utility helicopter, including both AW109A and AW109 LUH models. Larger twin-engine AW139 helicopters are also reportedly part of the deal.
The basic AW109A flown by the Italian military uses a pair of Rolls Royce 250-C20 engines, but Algeria’s hot conditions may suggest an upgrade to the A109 Power’s Pratt & Whitney PW206C or Turbomeca Arrius 2K-1 engines. It carries about 6 military passengers.
The twin-engine AW109 LUH uses uprated engines – a pair of Pratt & Whitney PW207C or Turbomeca Arrius 2K-2 engines. It can carry about 6 passengers, as well as a wide range of mission equipment for roles including training, troop transport, medical evacuation, search and rescue, maritime patrol, observation/ scout, and attack/escort roles. The AW109 LUH can also be armed with rocket pods, machine gun pods, pintle-mounted machine guns, anti-tank missiles, and air-to-air missiles.
The AW139s can carry up to 15 civilians, and their capacity and twin-engine design make them suitable for Search And Rescue.
The helicopter deal’s value was not reported, and the deal has yet to be announced by AgustaWestland. It would fall under a 2002 drive for broad modernization of the armed forces, whose signature deal thus far has been a $7 billion set of contracts with Russia.
The bilateral helicopter agreement was reportedly executed during the Algerian delegation’s visit to Italy. An Algerian delegation reportedly met with senior officials in the Italian Defense Ministry, including Naval Forces Commander Admiral Andrea Camprelgheri. The delegation also inspected the frigates’ manufacturing facility in Pisa, and talked to officials from Finmeccanica’s Fincantieri group.
In October 2007, “Morocco to Buy a French FREMM Frigate” announced a confirmed agreement to buy one of the EUR 500 million multi-role frigates, making Morocco the first confirmed international customer. Its rival Algeria had also indicated intent to buy 4-6 French FREMM frigates in 2007, but had not concluded a contract.
While the Algerian contract shift is described in Asharq Al-Awsat as punishment for an Moroccan contract placed 2 years ago, the time delay lends credence to interpretations that it’s a response to deadlocked negotiations, en route to a final deal.
Italian FREMM frigates are broadly similar to the French designs, but with an Italian Empar radar (instead of the French Herakles) and different mast, along with Italian electronics and Otomat/ Marte anti-ship missiles (instead of French Exocets). MBDA’s Aster 15 missiles are the main air defense armament for French and Italian ships alike, and the FREMM air defense variant can reportedly be armed with longer range Aster 30s as well.
With respect to American anti-submarine missiles (VL-ASROC), Asharq Al-Awsat refers to an “Algerian source acquainted with military affairs” who referred to “US reservations in principle” about selling the frigates equipped with US equipment. If that’s true, MBDA’s MILAS system is based on the Otomat/Teseo anti-ship missile, offering similar capabilities without VL-ASROC’s vertical-launch flexibility.
Contracts and Key Events
Oct 2/09: UPI reports that the FREMM order is now a competition, with other candidates beyond the FREMM:
“Fincantieri never actually submitted a bid, despite being asked to do so twice by an Algerian committee in the summer of 2008,” [Intelligence Online] reported. But Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi intervened in August and discussed the issue with Algeria’s president, Abdulaziz Bouteflika, in Tripoli during the celebrations marking Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s 40th year as Libya’s president. Bouteflika allowed Fincantieri to enter the bidding.
The Italians now compete against France’s DCNS shipbuilders, Germany’s
Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems and Britain’s BAE Systems, which is offering its Type 23 frigate… Industry sources say that Algeria would like to purchase two frigates, with the other two built in Algeria as part of a program to revive the Mediterranean shipyard at Mers el-Kebir.”
“Nothing has seemingly reported on the deal since. ADIT now questions the reports regarding an Italian deal. It notes that neither Algeria nor Italy has announced such deal: “AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica refused to confirm anything, while Fincantieri even denied the deal. Most observers we got in touch with consider that no deal has been signed yet, be it as regards helicopters or frigates.”
These caveats are worthwhile, especially when dealing with low-transparency countries like Algeria. ADIT’s own language represents the uncertainty surrounding even the denial of such reports, which can sometimes be true even without corporate confirmation. Continued tracking while waiting for other yes/no indications is the only open-source course of action.
Sept 15/09: London’s Asharq Al-Awsat reports that Algeria has shifted negotiations for 6 FREMM multirole frigates from France’s DCNS to Italy’s Fincantieri, while negotiating a contract with AgustaWestland for about 100 helicopters, based on sources in Algeria. The paper reports that:
“Algeria will get in 2011 modern warships equipped with American anti-submarine missiles following a deal with Italy worth 4 billion euros. The deal replaces a similar agreement with France which Algeria decided to cancel because of negotiations between Paris and Rabat to sell FREMM frigates. Algeria concluded another deal with Italy to sell 100 helicopters.”
See also StrategyPage report.