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The momentum came certainly unexpected after the postponement of the decision in January: on July 2, French Naval Group has been officially informed by Bucharest that it had been selected to build four multi-purpose corvettes and overhaul two Type 22 frigates (ex HMS LONDON – REGINA MARIA, ex HMS COVENTRY – REGELE FERDINAND) for the Romanian Navy. The package, of which the cost was originally estimated at €1.6 billion, also includes a training centre and the development of a maintenance centre for the Romanian fleet.

The focus is on four corvettes of the GOWIND series, equipped with the combat management system SETIS and anti-air-, anti-surface- and anti-submarine warfare capabilities. So far known, sensors and effectors will include hull-mounted and towed array sonar from Thales, MICA-VL and Exocet from MBDA. The contract (now in value of €1.2 billion (four GOWIND plus two overhauls; the extent to which the two centres are included remains open) is to be negotiated and finalized in the coming months. The first corvette is expected by 2022 while the entire program is to be completed within seven years.

Naval Group prevailed against Damen (Netherlands) and the Italian Fincantieri. The Trieste-based company, with which Naval Group intends to enter into a joint venture, contested the bidding by its French partner. This even after signing the Letter of Intent to cooperate (June 14).

Naval Group, which expects the programme to consolidate more than 400 jobs over the next five years, will work with the Santierul Naval Constanța (SNC) shipyard in Constanța on the west coast of the Black Sea. According to a communiqué issued by the French Ministry of Defence (July 3, 2019), “the main equipment will be supplied by the Naval Group Lorient and Toulon-Ollioules sites.” At the same time, “great importance will be attached to local partnerships:

– The design studies required for Romanian particularities are carried out in collaboration with the Icepronav Design Office (author’s note: Icepronav Engineering SRL Galati is a private company for design, research and technological development in shipbuilding in Romania, since 2002 part of the International Contract Engineering (ICE) Group in the United Kingdom, which owns 98.3% of the company’s shares.)

– The communication system is created by Interactive as a know-how transfer. (Author’s note: Interactive, founded in 1966, headquartered in Bucharest, is a privately held company for communications and information systems including software and hardware development and systems integration of battle management systems. It introduces itself as the leading company for C4ISR solutions in the Romanian defence industry.)

– Platform construction and final assembly will be carried out in technology transfer at Constanța SNC.” – outlines the communiqué. Naval Group does not present this in such detail in its own press release. Which could be an indication of a possible intervention by the French government.

The tender for four corvettes and the modernisation of two frigates was launched in 2016. It stalled several times (already in October 2018 it was awarded to Naval Group) due to allegations of corruption and appeals from competing companies. All competitors integrated cooperation and a workshare with Romanian shipyards into their bids. Damen (€1.25 billion offer) with Damen Shipyards Mangalia (in Mangalia) and Șantierul naval Galați (in Galati), Fincantieri (€1.3 billion offer) with its subsidiary Vard in Tulcea and Braila.

Hans Uwe Mergener