By Bilal Khan
The Algerian Navy has officially commissioned the Erradii, the first of two MEKO A-200AN multi-mission frigates on order from the German vendor ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, into service.
The two MEKO A-200AN frigates were ordered from Germany in March 2012 under a $2.7 billion U.S. deal involving the two ships as well as six AgustaWestland Super Lynx 300 helicopters. The contract also has an option for two additional frigates.
The second frigate is expected to be delivered to Algeria sometime in 2017.
Overall, the Algerian Navy has equipped its frigates quite nicely. At the core, the MEKO A-200AN uses a Saab Sea Giraffe (Agile Multi-Beam) 3D air surveillance radar. The Sea Giraffe is a C-band phased-array radar capable of tracking surface and aerial targets at a range of up to 180km.
This is paired with an impressive offensive element involving as many as 16 Saab RBS-15Mk3 anti-ship missiles (AShM), each capable of engaging enemy ships at 200km. In addition, the RBS-15Mk3 AShM can be repurposed as a land attack cruise missile.
The MEKO A-200AN’s anti-air warfare (AAW) suite centers on a vertical launch system (VLS) capable of carrying 32 Denel Dynamics Umkhonto IR surface-to-air missiles (SAM).
The Umkhonto-IR uses an imaging infrared (IIR) seeker to track its target (which it tracks based on the target’s heat signature). It has a range of 15-20km.
In addition, the frigate is equipped with a Thales UMS4132 sonar, enabling it to rack underwater objects. Information from the sonar can be paired with the MEKO A-200AN’s onboard anti-submarine warfare weapons – i.e. its MU90 lightweight torpedoes. The MU90 has a range of 10-23km (varies based on the torpedo’s speed, range is longer if the torpedo is slower), and can reach a depth of at least 1000 metres.
Overall, the MEKO A-200AN is a well-equipped ship. Should South Africa’s Denel Dynamics succeed in developing effective medium-range (40-50km) SAM solutions using the Umkhonto platform, Algeria could readily upgrade to the new missile type. This could be an area worthy of an upgrade in a few years.
Although it is not known if Algeria will exercise its option for two additional MEKO A-200AN frigates, the country is engaged in a wide-scale modernization program of its armed forces.
The Algerian Navy is also procuring three C28A light frigates from China, an amphibious transport dock (LPD) from Italy, as well as two Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and two Project 20382 Tigr-class ASW corvettes from Russia.