Surface Forces: Italy Offers a New OPV

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August 18, 2023: Italy has developed a novel OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessel) design. Called PPX, these vessels appear normal. Each is 95 meters long, displaces 2,300 tons, is armed with a 77mm main gun and a 20mm or 30mm RWS (remote weapons system). There is a helicopter landing pad and hanger for one helicopter or one or two helicopter UAVs. Crew size is 72 but there are accommodations for 95. There is a novel bit of automation on the bridge, where the usual navigation team of eight is replaced by two aircraft cockpit navigation stations that require only one person each to operate. This system is already in use on larger ships, like corvettes and frigates. Top speed is 45 kilometers an hour, while cruising speed is 25 kilometers an hour. Endurance is about two weeks before fuel and other supplies must be replenished. Each PPX costs $334 million.

The OPV market is very competitive and there are several new suppliers of OPVs. One is South Korea, which developed the new HDP-1500 OPV. The export version is customizable but the basic features are an 81 meter (260 foot), 1,700-ton ship with a top speed of 38 kilometers an hour and endurance of 28 days. There are accommodations for 51 personnel, including the 41 crew. Standard armament consists of a 76mm cannon and four CIWS (Close In Weapons Systems) for missile defense and other threats within a few thousand meters of the ship. There is a landing pad and hangar for a helicopter. Under the helipad there is space for additional weapons or equipment in four cargo spaces. The HDP-1500 can be equipped with anti-ship missiles or to hunt and attack submarines as well for mine-clearing. Each of these OPVs cost $81 million.

Since the 1990s South Korea has become a major developer, manufacturer and exporters of modern weapons. At home, South Korea builds most of the warships, artillery and armored vehicles for their own armed forces as well as a growing number of the helicopters and combat aircraft. South Korea is now the sixth largest arms exporter worldwide and the tenth largest economy. Giving away retired warships is customary with the existing providers of warship exports. In the last decade the first generation of South Korean built warships were ready for retirement from South Korean service. With some refurbishment and upgrades, these retired ships are good for another decade of service with less affluent navies that can use them.

 

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