The MEKO A class combat ships, designed by German shipbuilding company Blohm and Voss, are evolved from the MEKO family of ships, which have been in operation with navies around the world since the 1980s.
The MEKO A family includes the 1,650t MEKO A-100 multi-purpose corvette and the 3,500t MEKO A-200 frigate. Improvements include increased payload share of ship displacement, stealth design, advanced propulsion system and combat systems with modular open architecture.
MEKO A ships are in service with various navies, including South Africa, Algeria, Poland, Germany, and Brazil.
MEKO A-200 frigate
The MEKO A-200 frigate measures 121m in length and accommodates up to 120 crew members. Its armament includes a 127mm or 76mm main gun, a pair of 30mm-40mm secondary guns, two 12.7-20mm cannons, eight surface-to-surface missiles, 32 surface-to-air missiles, two anti-submarine (ASW) torpedo tubes, and sea mines.
The ship can house two 5t helicopters, two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and an all-weather capable boat. It is outfitted with various sonars, trackers, radars and navigation systems, as well as two torpedo decoy launchers and two EM/IR decoy launchers for countermeasures.
The MEKO A-200 frigate is capable of full-four-dimensional warfare (AAW, ASW and ASuW, BCW). It can also conduct general missions such as search and rescue, patrol, special force, and humanitarian purposes.
Powered by a CODAG-WARP (water jet and refined propellers) propulsion system, the frigate can attain a maximum speed of more than 29k and offers a range of 7,200nm at 16k.
MEKO A-100 corvette
MEKO A-100 patrol corvette is a lighter and more compact version of MEKO A-200 frigate with the length of 98m.
It is fitted with four-dimensional warfare weapons, sensors, C³I combat system, and biological and chemical warfare (BCW) suite for a light frigate-sized vessel and up to two 10t helicopters.
Powered by a two-shaft CPP CODAD propulsion system, the corvette offers a speed of 28k and a range of 4,500nm at 14k. The ship can hold 78 crewmembers.
MEKO A-class stealth design features
Stealth design features have been introduced to reduce the radar cross-section. Hull panels are alternately angled to avoid large flat surfaces, an arrangement called ‘X-form’. Right angle corners are avoided and the decks and superstructure have been decluttered. The bridge wings present on the original MEKO have been eliminated and the bridge is completely enclosed.
A reduction of about 75% on the ship’s infrared signature has been achieved by elimination of the funnel, and instead, hot exhaust gases are ducted through a horizontal system.
Seawater is injected into the exhaust duct to cool the exhaust fumes, before being expelled just above the waterline.
South African Valour-class MEKO A-200 anti-air frigates
Four Valour-class MEKO A-200 anti-air frigates were delivered to the South African Navy.
A group of South African companies, known as the SA Corvette Group, including Altech Defence Systems, Kentron, LIW Division of Denel, Futuristic Business Solutions, Saab Avitronics, Grintek Electronics, Reutech and African Defence Systems (a joint venture company between Altech and Thales), is responsible for combining the weapons and electronics subsystems into a fully integrated combat suite.
Two of the vessels were built by Blohm & Voss at Hamburg, and the other two by HDW at Kiel.
The first, the SAS Amatola, was delivered to the South African Navy by Blohm and Voss in September 2003 and arrived in Simonstown (the vessels’ home port) in November 2003. The SAS Amatola was commissioned in February 2006. The second ship, SAS Isandlwana, was handed over by HDW in December 2003 and commissioned in July 2006.
The third vessel, SAS Spioenkop, was handed over in September 2003 and commissioned in February 2007. The fourth ship, SAS Mendi, was handed over in June 2004 and commissioned in March 2007. The South African Navy confirmed the intention to procure a fifth vessel of the class and a contract award was expected in 2009. However, the navy later shelved its plans to buy the fifth vessel.
The four Valour-class MEKO A-200 anti-air frigates for the South African Navy are equipped with African Defence Systems’ Combat Management System and Navigation Subsystem. ADS will also act as the Segment Manager for the corvette’s underwater systems including the sonars and torpedoes.
The ship’s integrated Seacom communications system is based on dual redundant high-speed fibre-optic networks and modular hardware and software architecture. It is supplied by Grintek Electronics Systems based in Tokai, South Africa.
Valour-class frigate missiles and guns
The frigate is equipped with two four-cell launchers for MBDA MM 40 Exocet surface-to-surface missiles. The anti-ship sea-skimming missile has a range of 70km and uses inertial guidance for the cruise phase of the trajectory and then active radar homing.
Two eight-cell vertical 16 Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles are fitted. Umkhonto, developed by the Kentron division of Denel based in Centurion, South Africa, has a range of up to 12km. The missile uses an infra-red homing seeker with inertial mid-course guidance. The 23kg warhead is fitted with an active proximity fuse.
The frigate is armed with a 35DPG 35mm dual-purpose gun from LIW division of Denel, Pretoria. A dual antenna Doppler radar, combined with high-speed digital signal processing of the muzzle velocity measurement provide compensating feedback to the Fire Control Computer. Firing one burst of 25 rounds, cruise missiles are destroyed at ranges of at least 2.5km and high-speed missiles at range 1.5km.
The frigates have one spot for a medium-sized helicopter. The South African Navy accepted four AgustaWestland SuperLynx 300 helicopters for deployment on the Valour Class vessels in February 2008.
The frigate is equipped with the RTS 6400 naval optronic and radar tracking system developed by Reutech Systems, Stellenbosch, South Africa. The X-band (I/J bands) radar detection range is more than 25km against fighter targets and more than 16km against missile targets in poor weather.
The dual-band thermal imaging sensor operates in 3-5 and 8-12 micron wavebands. The system incorporates an eye-safe laser range finder.
Saab Avitronics Maritime Division is supplying the electronic warfare suite which includes radar warning receivers and intercept systems, jamming systems and decoys.
The frigate’s Rocket Decoy System (RDS), developed by Grintek, Tokai, South Africa, consists of up to four rocket launchers interfaced to a single controller, integrated with the ship’s electronic warfare suite. The launcher accommodates up to 48 rockets.
The propulsion system is based on a CODAG-WARP (Combined Diesel and Gas – Water Jet and Refined Propeller) configuration. Two MTU 16V 1163 TB 93 diesel engines (5,920kW each) drive controllable pitch propellers and a single GE LM 2500 20,000kW gas turbine acts on a waterjet propulsion system, providing a maximum speed of more than 27kt.
Malaysian Kedah-class MEKO A-100 corvettes
The Malaysian Navy ordered six Kedah-class MEKO A-100 corvettes. The first two (KD Kedah and KD Pahang) were built in Germany and assembled in Malaysia. The first two ships were delivered to the PSC Naval Dockyard, Malaysia for final outfitting and sea trials in 2003. The first vessel, KD Kedah (F171), was handed over to the RMN in April 2006 and was commissioned in June 2006. KD Pahang (F172) was commissioned in August 2006. Subsequent vessels are being built by BN Shipyards, Malaysia.
KD Perak (F173) was launched in November 2007 and commissioned in June 2009. KD Terengganu (F174) was launched in December 2007 and KD Kelantan (F175) was launched in November 2008. The sixth and final ship, KD Selangor (F176), was launched in July 2009.
The first of five new K130 corvettes (based on the MEKO A) for the German Navy began building in July 2004. The first and the fourth corvette are to be built by Blohm & Voss, the second and fifth by Lürssen and the third by Thyssen Nordseewerke. The first, F260 Braunschweig, was commissioned in April 2008 and the second, F261 Magdeburg, was commissioned in September 2008.
The Malaysian Kedah-class MEKO A-100 patrol vessel has a displacement of 1,650t. The propulsion system is based on two Caterpillar 3616 (5,450kW) diesel engines each driving two controllable pitch propellers. CAE of Canada is to provide the integrated platform management system (IPMS) that will monitor and control propulsion, electrical and auxiliary systems.
Kedah-class corvette aircraft and weapons
The corvettes have one helicopter spot for a helicopter such as AgustaWestland Super Lynx 300 or Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk. Initially, the vessels will be armed with an Oto Melara 76/62 Rapid medium-range gun and an Oto Melara / Mauser 30mm short-range gun, but provision is made for the later addition of one RAM (rolling airframe missile) RIM-116A launcher for air defence and two launchers for the MM40 Exocet anti-ship missile.
The four existing 76mm Oto Melara guns were transferred from South African Navy OPVs to the corvettes. Reutech Systems (Pty) Ltd has developed a new generation electric gun drive system and these will be fitted to the guns in place of the previous hydraulic system.
Combat management system
The vessel’s combat management system includes the Atlas Elektronik COSYS-110M1 with a TMEO electro-optic fire director from Oerlikon Contraves.
The main surveillance radar will be the TRS-3D/16 ES three-dimensional radar from EADS Deutschland. The vessels will also be equipped with MDS 3060 obstacle avoidance sonar and ALEX chaff / decoy launching system.