Saudi Arabia and France inaugurated on July 26, 2019, two HSI32 interceptors for the Royal Saudi Navy at the French Shipyard CMN in Cherbourg, Normandy.
The ceremony was held in the presence of a number of Saudi and French military officials, including the Commander of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, Lieutenant General Fahd bin Abdullah Al Ghafaily and Iskandar Safa, owner of Privinvest Holding and the main shareholder of the CMN.
The $600 million deal will be implemented over three years and will see the production of 39 vessels in Cherbourg and Saudi Arabia. French shipyards will build 21 vessels, and the remaining will be built in the Kingdom. The French company will deliver one vessel every month.
The localization of Saudi Arabia’s military needs is part of efforts under the vision 2030, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to diversify away from an oil-based economy.
Milestones of the Deal
Preliminary agreement on the construction of 30 HSI32 interceptors for the Saudi Coast Guard was signed by CMN in early 2016.
In April 2018, Saudi company Zamil Offshore Services concluded an agreement with the French shipbuilding company CMN for the construction of 39 HSI32 interceptors for a Saudi state agency, likely the Coast Guards.
In early 2018, Saudi Arabia also renegotiated with CMN a contract worth about 250 million euros for three large Fast Attack Craft Missiles (FACM) of Combattante FS56 class for the Royal Saudi Navy. The 56-meter vessels could potentially be armed with MBDA’s Simbad-RC short-range surface-to-air missile system.
Zamil Offshore Services
Zamil Offshore Services was founded in 1977 as a 100% Saudi Company working in diversified business fields. It is renowned as the largest offshore and marine services provider in the Middle East. It is primarily engaged in marine support for the Saudi company ARAMCO (Saudi Arabian Oil Company) providing technical fleet, port operations, and ship repair.
Chairman at Zamil Group Holding Company Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Zamil revealed on July 26, 2019, that the firm had started the manufacturing of interceptors at its shipyards. The construction of the first vessel is set to be completed in nine months.
The HSI32 Interceptor
The HSI32 is designed to meet the needs of modern Navies and Coast Guards. The HSI32 is a fast interceptor which combines significant intelligence and surveillance capacities with high speed (45 knots) and extended patrol period of three days. The HSI32 has a range of 800 nautical miles (approximately) with a crew of 12 sailors. This new advanced interceptor comes with an RHIB launching ramp at the stern and a 360° bridge.
The HSI32 is fitted with self-defense capabilities including a 20 mm remote weapon system plus two 12.7 mm machine guns with a field of 360° coverage. In terms of electronic warfare, the HSI32 comes with advanced detection and surveillance sensors. All sensors are fused and integrated with the Combat Management System and the Integrated Navigation System.
CMN has sought to develop a versatile interceptor, efficient and easy to use for conducting anti-piracy, anti-terrorism, or control of illicit trafficking missions. The company has already exported HSI32 boats to Mozambique.
France and Saudi Arabia agreed in April 2018 a new intergovernmental accord to conclude weapons deals. The agreement replaced a process that had been criticized by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. In conjunction with the Saudi authorities, France has initiated a new arms export strategy with Saudi Arabia.
In recent years, Riyadh has purchased French tanks, armored vehicles, munitions and artillery, and navy ships. France, one of the world’s biggest arms exporters, counts Saudi Arabia among its biggest customers, and defense firms including Dassault and Thales have major contracts there.
[Sources: Asharq al Awsat, Navy Recognition, Reuters]