The South African Navy may soon get the green light
to buy a fifth patrol corvette, or frigate, after the government's go-ahead for fresh negotiations.
Highly placed navy and defence industry sources have revealed that the cabinet has agreed to open negotiations for a fifth ship in the Valour Class MEKO A-200 series, four of which have already been delivered to the country.
The ship could cost about R2,5-billion, compared to the R1,5-billion price tags of the first four, due to the recent weakening of the rand and other escalations, including that closed production lines would have to be re-opened.
The German-built ships are globally recognized as among the most modern in their class.
Two have been commissioned and have had busy schedules with visits to foreign countries and naval exercises.
The navy has designated the ships as frigates, because of their hull size, although their armament systems are not yet up to frigate specifications.
Sources say the navy is also lobbying for the purchase of a Landing Platform Helicopter Dock, a support vessel capable of operating helicopters, a large marines contingent, a fully equipped hospital and a large administrative facility to allow long-distance force projections for peacekeeping.
Both ships were expected to get the final go-ahead in the new year, said the sources.
The director of maritime warfare, Rear Admiral Rusty Higgs, on Tuesday confirmed that the option of a fifth frigate was being investigated, but said it was being done at a high political level and that the navy was not yet involved.