Surface Forces: A Koni Catastrophe


December 26, 2015: On December 7 th there was an explosion in a Russian shipyard (at St Petersburg) that left one dead and six wounded. This took place aboard an Algerian Koni class frigate that was being refurbished there. Since the 1990s this kind of work has kept many Russian shipyards in business. Despite a higher (than in the West) accident rate, the work is competent and the prices reasonable. Nearly all this work is done on Russian warships exported over decades to many countries. Algeria bought three Koni class frigates in the 1990s and has found them useful enough to refurbish them twice. The first time was in 2001. The second time was now as work has already been completed on the other two Algerian frigates.

The Koni class frigates are 1,900 ton ships with a top speed of 48 kilometers an hour and a crew of 110. Armament consists of a launcher for SA-8 anti-aircraft missiles (range 15 kilometers), four anti-ship missiles, four 30mm autocannon plus depth charges. The Konis are basically anti-submarine ships and have sonar but no helicopter or anti-submarine torpedoes. In Algerian service the Konis serve mainly as offshore patrol ships.

Russia introduced replacements for the Konis in 2001. There were Gepard (Panther) class frigates. These 2,100 ton warships were designed for export sales, although the first one is in Russian service as flagship of the Caspian Sea flotilla. Gepards cost about $200 million each.

Gepards are 102 meters (316 feet) long, have a crew of 98, and endurance of 15 days. Top speed is 50 kilometers an hour. These frigates are meant for coastal patrol. They carry eight 8 SS-N-25 anti-ship missiles, one SA-N-4 twin rail anti-aircraft missile launcher (with 20 missiles). There is a 76mm cannon and two, six barrel, 30mm anti-missile autocannon, four 533mm torpedo tubes (for anti-submarine operations), and a 12 barrel anti-submarine rocket launcher. The ship also carries up to 20 naval mines. Electronics include navigation and air defense radars as well as sonar. There is an option to provide a helicopter platform (but no hangar.)


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