Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB) is in advanced talks to secure orders for its new Baynunah class of multipurpose missile corvettes from other regional navies.
"The Baynunah class is a unique and very sophisticated warship and it has attracted the attention of a number of navies in the region and around the world," Mohamed Salem Al Junaibi, the ADSB chief executive, said after the launch of the Mezyad, the fourth ship in the class at ADSB's yard yesterday.
He declined to name the interested navies, but it is already known that the Saudi Arabian navy has embarked on a US$20 billion(Dh73.46bn)-plus expansion programme and is said to be considering the purchase of up to a dozen new warships.
The Kuwaiti navy is also understood to be a potential customer according to the Defense News journal, based in the US.
The Mezyad is one of six new corvettes, first ordered by the UAE Navy in 2004, and expected to be in service by 2014. The programme, worth Dh4bn, is the largest and most important contract for ADSB to date.
Under the contract, the first of the class was designed by both ADSB and the French shipbuilder Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie (CMN) and built at CMN's yard in Cherbourg. The five remaining ships are being built and completed by ADSB at its yard in Mussaffah in Abu Dhabi under a technology transfer arrangement between the two companies.
The 72-metre long Baynunah class has been designed to replace the UAE Navy's 33.5-metre Ardhana class large patrol class vessels in the patrol and surveillance role in the country's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. But they will also be capable of minelaying, interception and other anti-surface warfare operations.
Their design also incorporates a stealthy superstructure, a helicopter landing deck and a hangar and the ships are being equipped with the latest weapons and surveillance technology that is being integrated by the sub-contractor Selex, formerly Marconi Systems.
Its shallow draught allows the corvette to operate easily in inshore waters, and the class is being seen as a much more economic alternative to the US-designed littoral combat ship concept being offered by Lockheed Martin and Austal USA since mid-2008.
"The Baynunah Corvette Class, which is the largest warship construction programme and a first-of-its-kind project in the region will significantly boost the arsenal of the UAE Navy and enable it to effectively fulfil its duty of protecting the UAE's maritime territory," Mr Al Junaibi said. He also used the launch to announce the completion of a 155-metre extension to the yard's fitting-out quay to accommodate an expansion of ADSB's refitting and maintenance business.
The shipyard already has two construction halls equipped with overhead cranes. The shipyard facilities also include two shiplift piers for berthing and ship repair.