PARIS --- Saudi Arabia has decided to order five Spanish corvettes, marking a major victory for Spain’s Navantia shipyards in a naval market that has hitherto been dominated by France.
The contract is worth over €2 billion and is expected to be signed during Spanish King Philip VI’s first official visit to Saudi Arabia, which begins Nov. 12. It also includes the construction of a new naval base at a location to be decided, according to Spanish press reports.
Most details of the contract, and of the related inter-government agreement, but Saudi authorities apparently want Spain to provide a political impetus to bilateral relations before signing. This explains why the contract was delayed for several months while Spain resolved its government crisis, which was keeping the King at home.
However, the visit is opposed by many in Spain, who decry Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights, and other who think that country is not an appropriate destination for King Philip VI’s first state visit.
The corvettes will be built to the Avante 2200 design, a variant of the Patrulleros Oceánicos de Vigilancia offshore patrol vessels that Navantia built for Venezuela. These ships are 98.5 meters long, displace 2,450 tonnes and have a crew of 72 officers and ratings; their range is of 3,500 nautical miles at 18 knots.
The vessels will be built at Navantia’s shipyards in San Fernando and Ferreol, in Southern Spain, and represent about 8 million man-hours, Andalucian government delegate Antonio Sanz said during a Nov 7 press conference. Construction will take about five years, and will provide over 2,000 direct jobs.
The Saudi Navy is predominantly equipped with French-made frigates, including Sawari (Al Riyadh-class) and Sawari II (Al-Madinah-class) built by DCNS. The Spanish corvettes will replace the US-built Badr-class corvettes based in the Persian Gulf.