On 16 May at the Muggiano La Spezia shipyard, the Qatari Ministry of Defence took delivery of the fourth and final Al Zubarah-class corvette, named Semaisma. This vessel was ordered from Fincantieri as part of Qatar’s national naval acquisition programme.
Awarded in 2016, the contract required Fincantieri to deliver an amphibious landing platform dock, four corvettes and two offshore patrol vessels.
The Al Zubarah-class corvettes, which adhere to the RINAMIL regulations, are versatile and adaptable vessels that can perform a range of duties, including surveillance and sea rescue operations, as well as combat missions. The vessels, measuring approximately 107m in length by 14.7m in width, can hold a crew of 112 personnel, and are outfitted with a combined diesel and diesel plant, enabling it to reach a top speed of 28 knots.
The corvettes also have the ability to deploy high-speed boats such as RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) via lateral cranes or a hauling ramp situated at the far stern. The flight deck and hangar have been designed to accommodate a single NH90 helicopter.
The Semaisma also features multi-function radars, obstacle and mine avoidance sonar, satellite communication and an integrated communications system.
Qatar has recently erected a naval base south of Doha, officially opened in 2019, and the country is expanding its naval force from 3,000 to 7,000 personnel by the year 2025.
Procurement in Qatar is primarily fuelled by several key factors, including an ongoing arms race, modernisation initiatives, concerns over the threat of Iranian missiles, and diplomatic disputes involving Qatar.
Since the end of a GCC embargo on Qatar in 2021, that had lasted 4 years, the nation has made a series of significant purchases to increase its military capabilities. These include advanced fighter jets, ammunition, missile defence systems, armoured vehicles, corvettes and other naval vessels, amounting to billions of dollars in investment.
The Qatar military expenditure stands at $13.4bn in 2023, according to a GlobalData report, ‘Qatar Defense Market 2023-2028’. According to this forecast, the country’s acquisition budget is set to experience a steady increase from $4.4bn in 2024 to $5.5bn in 2028.
Present at the ceremony for the delivery of the corvette were several high-ranking officials, including Staff Major General (Sea) Abdullah Hassan Al-Sulaiti, who is the Commander of Qatar Emiri Naval Forces, and Major General Hassan Rashid Al Ali, who heads Qatar Armed Forces Projects.