23 Jun 14. Tony Blair is looking to open an office in Abu Dhabi, the increasingly assertive oil-rich emirate, in an apparent bid to expand his role as a behind-the-scenes business and political broker in the Middle East. The former UK prime minister, whose reputation in the region remains controversial, is said to be very close to the Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who shares his outspoken anti-Islamist views. “There is chemistry between him and Mohammed bin Zayed,” a Blair friend says. (Source: FT.com)
25 Jun 14. DCNS: over 50 combat-system trials performed on the FREMM
Normandie. The FREMM Normandie multi-mission frigate, second of the series ordered by OCCARi on behalf of the French DGA (General Directorate for Armament) and the French Navy, has just completed five weeks of intense activities off the Toulon coast. These trials have allowed the validation of the frigate’s combat system performance before its delivery to the French Navy at the end of 2014. The series of trials for the FREMM Normandie, which has just been completed in the Mediterranean, was principally dedicated to the verification of the vessel’s combat system. To perform these, the frigate was integrated into numerous scenarios, allowing progress in the setting up of its capacities in all areas of warfare (anti-aircraft warfare, anti-submarine warfare…). These qualification trials were performed thanks to numerous support resources made available by the DGA and the French Navy (radar beacons, fighter aircrafts, maritime patrol aircrafts, helicopters, surface ships, submarines…). Such support allowed, for example, the deployment of the vessel’s electronic warfare system (interception, decoys and jamming) or the establishment of tactical data links. The presence of the frigate in Toulon also allowed the completion of certain trial relating to the vessel’s platform with, as the high point, the first deck landing of the Caïman NH90 helicopter. After a final test performed with the support of the FREMM Aquitaine on Tuesday 24 June, and allowing the verification of the interoperability between the 2 frigates, the Normandie frigate has now sailed to the DCNS site in Lorient. Final finishing work will be carried out on the vessel over the summer before its delivery to the French Navy, expected over the course of the last quarter of 2014.
19 Jun 14. Equatorial Guinea inducts new frigate. Equatorial Guinea took another step towards becoming a major naval power in the Gulf of Guinea on 3 June when it inaugurated a new frigate in the capital Malabo.
“This warship is the flagship of the Equatorial Guinea Navy and it will [help] to ensure security in the Gulf of Guinea,” President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said during the inauguration ceremony. The Equatoguinean media claimed the frigate, Wele Nzas (F 073), was built locally. However, IHS Jane’s understands that it was largely built by MTG Dolphin in Varna, Bulgaria, as the ‘salvage and rescue’ vessel Savior (IMO: 9664500) under Project SV 02. It was then outfitted with combat systems at a naval shipyard – thought to be Astilleros de Guinea Ecuatorial (ASABA GE) – in Malabo. ASABA GE was established in 2010 with Israeli assistance, although Ukrainians are also involved in running the shipyard. The warship’s keel was laid down on 21 May 2012 and it was launched in Varna on 26 February 2013, according to IHS SeaWeb data. The outfitting of the ship at Malabo in a 210 m navy-owned floating dock was well underway by November 2013, according to a South African Navy article covering the port visit of its Valour-class Meko A-200 frigate SAS Spionkoep to Malabo that month. Like the 88 m corvette Bata that was built under Project SV 01 and commissioned in January 2012, the Wele Nzas was designed by the Ship Research and Design Center in Nikolaev, Ukraine. Weapons and combat systems are also largely sourced from Ukraine, probably from the company Impulse 2, which has