The Italian Navy has nearly finalized its design for a new fleet of offshore multipurpose patrol vessels, one step in a massive 20-year, €5.8 billion (US $7.3 billion) funding package.
Production contracts for the patrol vessels could be signed by the end of this year, a Navy source said, with first launches expected in late 2016 or early 2017.
“It’s more or less fixed,” said the source, when asked about the design.
The funding package, secured last year, will cover five ships in a “light” configuration and one in full combat configuration, with options for four more full combat versions. The Pattugliatore Polivalente D’Altura (PPA) vessels will replace Minerva-class corvettes, Cassiopea-class patrol vessels, Soldati-class offshore patrol vessels and two Durand de la Penne-class destroyers.
Along with the signing of the PPA contract this year, the Navy may also sign a contract for a logistics vessel and a new amphibious vessel, which would replace two of the three amphibious ships currently in service.
The funds for all of the new vessels derive from the €5.8 billion funding package. Under the deal, the Italian government will borrow funds from banks up front for the purchases, and then release €5.8 billion over 20 years to pay back the loans with interest.
“Whether the four full combat options in the PPA contract are partly covered by the funding will depend on levels of interest paid,” the Navy source said.
Navy chief Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi has said that after stripping off the interest repayments, the Navy would have about €4.5 billion to spend.
With the Navy opting to carry out the design work in-house, the ships’ basic set-up has evolved during 2014, although fundamental principles have remained fixed. Measuring about 135 meters long and displacing around 4,500 tons — 4,600 tons for the full combat version — the PPA ship will host 135 crew in the light version and 150 in the full combat version, with 170 beds and an option to add 30.