Gaeta Class minehunters are in service with the Italian Navy (Marina Militare Italiana). The batch of eight minehunters were built by Intermarine and delivered to the Italian Navy between 1992 and 1996.
The first vessel of the class, Gaeta (M 5554), was delivered to the Italian Navy in 1992. The remaining vessels were delivered subsequently, Termoli (M 5555) in 1992, Alghero (M 5556) in March 1993, Numana (M 5557) and Crotone (M 5558) in June 1994, Viareggio (M 5559) in July 1994, Chioggia (M 5560) in November 1996, and the last of the class, Rimini (M 5561), delivered in May 2006.
In December 2007, the Italian Navy commissioned a study on the upgrade of all vessels to allow them to perform their full range of duties effectively. In September 2008, the refitting feasibility study for the Gaeta Class minehunters was completed by Intermarine.
In August 2009, the Italian Navy awarded a €198.7m contract to Intermarine for the refitting of the eight minehunters. The contract included engineering, development, installation and integration of modern systems and equipment for the combat systems.
In November 2009, Thales received a contract from Intermarine to supply Sonar 2093 systems. The majority of the manufacturing will be undertaken at Thales Templecombe facility in the UK.
The refit will upgrade the technology employed by the eight ships in the Gaeta Class in line with advanced present and future operating scenarios.
The Gaeta Class is derived from the Lerici Class minehunters and is also considered as a second series of the class. With a rectangular external hull shape, the class design incorporates similar features to the Lerici, but there are minor differences in displacement and hull size. The displacement of the class is 77t more and hull is 2.5m longer than the Lerici Class. The communications mast has also moved from top of the bridge to in front of the exhaust funnel. The class is also equipped with latest version of VDS FIAR SQQ-14 (IT) sonar and two Oerlikons.
Command and control
The tactical data system is integrated with the major platform and operational systems through the command system. The major functions of the command system include control and operation of the sensor suite and weapons, control of the main and auxiliary propulsion systems and internal and external communications.
Gaeta Class Guns
The Gaeta Class is equipped with two Oerlikon 20mm cannons. The gun has a firing rate of 450 rounds a minute and range of 2km against aerial targets.
The vessels are equipped with two Pluto remotely operated mine-disposal vehicles (ROV). The umbilical cable provides a data link between the host vessel and the ROV.
The ROV can carry a range of sensor equipment including a camera, search sonar, scanning sonar and measuring systems for mine search and detection. The monitor in the control panel of the ship will display the camera and sonar image and depth and compass bearing data from the submersible. The displayed data is recorded for analysis.
The minehunters are fitted with SQQ-14(IT) high-frequency variable-depth sonar (VDS). It is a minehunting VDS with search, classification and route survey capabilities.
The sonar can detect and classify the ground mines. The system has the capability to detect and classify the objects in water depths of 150m.
In November 2009, Thales has been awarded a contract to equip the eight minehunters with Sonar 2093 system. The variable-depth sonar system is designed to detect and classify bottom and moored mines. The multifunction system can be operated in VLF and VHF bands and successfully deployed in coastal and open-ocean waters against all types of mines. The sonar system uses five types of modes in mine search and classification.
The Gaeta Class vessels are equipped with a single diesel engine driving a variable-pitch propeller. The system provides a maximum speed of 14kt and minehunting speed of 6kt to the vessel.