IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly
19 June 2014
Equatorial Guinea took another step towards becoming a major naval power in the Gulf of Guinea on 3 June when it inaugurated a new frigate in the capital Malabo. “This warship is the flagship of the Equatorial Guinea Navy and it will [help] to ensure security in the Gulf of Guinea,” President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said during the inauguration ceremony.
The Equatoguinean media claimed the frigate, Wele Nzas (F 073), was built locally.However,IHS Jane’s understands that it was largely built by MTG Dolphin in Varna, Bulgaria, as the ‘salvage and rescue’ vessel Savior (IMO: 9664500) under Project SV 02. It was then outfitted with combat systems at a naval shipyard – thought to be Astilleros de Guinea Ecuatorial (ASABA GE) – in Malabo. ASABA GE was established in 2010 with Israeli assistance, although Ukrainians are also involved in running the shipyard.
The warship’s keel was laid down on 21 May 2012 and it was launched in Varna on 26 February 2013, according to IHS SeaWeb data. The outfitting of the ship at Malabo in a 210 m navy-owned floating dock was well underway by November 2013,according to a South African Navy article covering the port visit of its Valour-class Meko A-200 frigate SAS Spionkoep to Malabo that month.
Like the 88 m corvette Bata that was built under Project SV 01 and
commissioned in January 2012, the Wele Nzas was designed by the Ship Research and Design Center in Nikolaev, Ukraine.
Weapons and combat systems are also largely sourced from Ukraine, probably from the company Impulse 2, which has outfitted other warships in Malabo. Like Bata , the Wele Nzas was procured from Bulgaria using various entities in Panama and the Comoros.
With an overall length of 107 m, a beam of 14 m and a draft of 3.7m, Wele Nzas is about 20 m longer than Bata. Estimated displacement, based on similar Ukrainian corvette designs, is around 2,500 tonnes.The propulsion system comprises four Caterpillar C280 diesels (Bata has two) driving two screws for a top speed of 25 kt. It is unclear if these are 12- or 16-cylinder engines. Range is 5,000 n miles.
Wele Nzas has a raised helicopter deck amidships. The ships’ boats are housed in partially enclosed hangars amidships. These are covered by a sliding screen, with the boats launched by a swinging davit.
The combat systems are also an improvement on Bata ‘s capabilities. 76.2 mm AK-176 guns are fitted both fore and aft, two MS 227 multi-barrelled rocket launchers are fitted forward,while two 30 mm AK-630M guns mounted besides the funnel stack provide close-in defence.
Primary sensors include a dome-enclosed radar – most likely a Positiv U set – on the foremast, two navigational radars and a Delta-M radar on a mast located ahead of the funnel stack. The Delta-M is thought to be interfaced with the Cascade integrated self-defence system that provides targeting data for the AK-176 and AK-630M guns.
One, possibly two, electro-optical devices appear to be installed, one atop the bridgehouse and the other aft by the funnel. In addition, two optical target designators are fitted on platforms at the base of the mast. What looks like an electronic support measures (ESM) antenna is also fitted on a polemast behind the radar dome. SATCOM antenna are also fitted
Equatorial Guinea is currently engaged in a major, but little-reported naval expansion. In recent years it has acquired four Bulgarian-built ships (two PV 50 patrol vessels, as well as Wele Nzas and Bata ),two 62 m offshore patrol vessels, two Shaldag fast attack craft from Israel Shipyards, and a Chinese-built 91.45m roll-on/roll-off landing ship.
In his speech, President Obiang indicated that the expansion would continue. “This is not our last project. The fact we [built] this warship means we can build more.”