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The US Navy announced on Friday, December 20, 2019 announced that Lockheed Martin a contract for 1.96 billion US dollars (about 1.75 billion euros) for the construction of four multi-mission ships (MMSC - Multi-Mission Surface Combatant ) for Saudi Arabia received. They are from the draft littoral combat ships - derived Freedom Class (LCS Littoral Combat Ship).

Those Freedom' variant of the LCS, the US Navy ordered provisionally 16 is, built by Lockheed Martin Marinette Wisconsin together with a subsidiary of the Italian Fincantieri (see below). Nine of the LCS ships have already been delivered to the US Navy, seven are currently in various stages of construction. The 115.3 meter long, 17.5 meter wide monohulls this LCS variant should be able to achieve at a displacement of 3500 tons up to 47 knots. According to both Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri, the units in the Saudi Export version of the MMSC will be 118 meters long, running more than 30 knots and can achieve a range of 5,000 nautical miles. Lockheed Martin is applying the MMSC together with the helicopter MH-60R Seahawk (from the record the Freedom class two can). nothing has been announced for helicopter equipment of the MMSC.

According to a report of the Chief Financial Officer in the US Department of Defense from February 2018, the cost of a ship, Freedom' variant 646 million (578 million euros approx) amount now approx US dollars. The details differences occur - depending on whether and which equipment is taken into account mission modules. Including folded down development costs and reserves for modernization projects, as well as a cross-sectional approach to equipment are reported (1.123 billion euros) for the construction of the Freedom Class LCS in FY 2019 1,254,000,000 US dollars.

Strategic partner in the Arabian Peninsula

In the announcement, which was published on the website of the US Department of Defense, states that the contract was awarded at a fixed price, including material package and data environment (integrated data environment). Further one of leads "This sale contributes to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic regional partner."

The agreement already initiated itself for some time. Already in 2015 there was a letter of intent at the time was not countersigned in Riyadh. Even then, it was about the construction of so-called Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ', based on the LCS, but robust should be equipped - including RIM-162 Evolved Seasparrow (ESSM), RGM-84 Harpoon Block II, torpedoes, 4D radar and sonar. The MMSC is a core element of the Saudi Naval Expansion Program II (SNEP 2), a current for more than a decade initiative for the renewal and modernization of operating in the Persian Gulf (East) fleet of the kingdom. 2017, the UK expressed interest in integrated air and missile defense systems, warships, tactical aircraft and helicopters - procurements with a volume of more than 28 billion dollars (25.1 billion euros) with Lockheed Martin as a partner. Under President Donald Trump in 2017 a 110 billion US dollar package was put together (about 98.24 billion euros) to support Riyadh in May.

The MMSC contract has been awarded under the Foreign Military Sales program. Foreign sales program of the US Department of Defense facilitated the sale of US weapons systems, defense equipment, defense-related services and military training to foreign governments. It is an agency that Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the negotiators for the respective state. In October 2019 she announced the conversion ratio for the fiscal year 2019 to 55.4 billion US dollars (about 49.6 billion euros) totaled.

According to American media Saudi Arabia (almost 18 billion euros) for new ships and maritime infrastructure intends to issue US dollars to 20 billion. Here, six billion hit US dollars (5.36 billion euros) for the MMSC to beech, whose delivery is scheduled to begin in 2023, last delivery 2026th

In the business with Saudi Arabia next Fincantieri ...

Along with Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine work more than 800 suppliers in 42 states for the LCS program of the US Navy. Their construction projects, a spokeswoman in the explanation of the financial statements with Saudi Arabia, continued to run according to plan. The conclusion with Riyadh would not affect the delivery of the American units.

Giuseppe Bono, CEO of Fincantieri, said: "Contracts like this are not only economically important, but are also characterized by important industrial aspects. This result of our efforts allows us to consolidate our Reputatioon on the rules to be very complex US market. It is also a recognition of the strategic, technological and management skills that Fincantieri is able to always bring the highest level and in every context. "The order value for Fincantieri Marinette Marine dollars amounts to approximately 1.3 billion (1, 16 billion euros).

To Fincantieri Marine Group include not only Fincantieri Marinette Marine two other shipyards in the Great Lakes region, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding and Fincantieri Marine Ace. Since 2008, US dollars have been invested in the modernization of shipyards in Wisconsin more than 180 million, set to more than 1,000 employees. A total of around 2,500 people are employed at the three sites. The group serves more than 350 contractor.

Interestingly, the ceremony for steel cutting Navy was already on 24 October 2019 attended a Saudi Arabian delegation led by the Commander of the Eastern Fleet of the Royal Saudi Navy, Admiral Fahad Al-Shimrami at Fincantieri Marinette instead.

... also Navantia ... and Naval Group

2018 gave Riyadh the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia an order for 2.1 billion dollars (1.8 billion euros) for the construction of five corvettes for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, based on the design, Avante 2200 Combatant '. At the same time founded Navantia and SAMI (Saudi Arabian Military Industries), the joint venture SANNI (SAMI Navantia Naval Industries). In October 2019 SANNI signed a contract in the amount of 985.5 million US dollars (about 880 million euros) to jointly realize the integration of the Combat Management Systems in the future corvettes.

On the edge of IDEX (February 2019) a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between SAMI and the French Naval Group. The agreement, outstanding at the details, provides for the joint construction of frigates in Saudi Arabia.

Hans Uwe Mergener