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Saturday 20 September 2014

S148 class fast attack craft of the Hellenic Navy, Chilean Navy and Egyptian Navy

Written by D-Mitch
S148 class in service with Armada de Chile.
Photo: Armada de Chile
The S148 class is a type of Fast Attack Craft (FAC) built in 1972-1974 for the Bundesmarine (German Federal Navy) (later German Navy - Deutsche Marine) which serve today in the navies of Greece (Hellenic Navy), Chile (Armada de Chile) and Egypt (Egyptian Navy). The class is a design of Lürssen in Germany but some of them were built in France by Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie in Cherbourg (CMN) due to political reasons of that time as the initial plan was some of them to be purchased by Israeli Navy. In total 20 crafts were built and served with German Federal Navy of which six (6) were transferred to Greece the period 1994-1995 and 2000, six (6) to Chile the period 1997-1998 and five (5) to Egypt in 2002 while the remaining three (3) were scrapped. The class is the older class of FACs in service with the three navies and it is about to be decommissioned and to be replaced by modern vessels; currently in Hellenic Navy they serve three (3) boats which will be replaced after the commissioning of more of Roussen class FACs and in Chilean Navy (Armada de Chile) they serve two (2). It is not known the number of craft that serve with the Egyptian Navy but it is believed that serve around three (3) with plans the vessels to be replaced in the near future as well.

P75 Maridakis of Hellenic Navy in Itea island. Photo:
P72 Votsis of Hellenic Navy at Symi island. Photo: Hellenic Navy
The general characteristics of the class is a displacement of 265tons, length of 47 meters, a maximum speed of 36 knots while the range is 1,600n.m. with cruising speed of 15 knots. The crew is 30 people. The class is armed with the popular OTO Melara Compatto 3in (76.2mm) fully automatic gun installed forward of the bridge. This gun can hit air and surface targets at a distance of 4 km (at 85 degrees) and 16 km (effective 8 km) respectively having a rate of fire of 85 rounds per minute and weight of shell greater than 6 kg.

Modified photo of  an S148 class fast attack craft of the Chilean Navy. High resolution image here.

The Type 520R of P73 Pezopoulos.
Photo: Kostas Panitsidis,
MG3 machine gun on a Greek S148
All the boats have a secondary gun, a (standard) 40mm/L70 Breda-Bofors gun on on a Type 564 naval mount, which has been updated to the Type 520R naval mount while the boats entered in service with the new owners of them or they were modernized while they were in German service. The new mount has an increased rate of fire (from 240rds/min has been increased to 300rds/min), high elevation and training speed, higher accuracy, new digital servo systems and possibility of remote control together with an easily operable gyro stabilized local control device. In remote control, the mounting operates unmanned and completely automatically thus ensuring quick intervention. The Greek vessels have also mountings for MG3 machine guns. The rate of fire is 1,000-1,300 rounds per minute and the effective firing range is close to 1km.

The 3in gun of the craft. Photo: Kapa Paratiriths
The aft 40mm gun of the craft. Photo: Kapa Paratiriths

The gun mount is fitted with an automatic feeding device for 144 rounds on the training platform. It is very easy to distinguish the new mount from the fiberglass cupola with a transparent cover around the gunner's station. The gun has an effective range of about 2.5-3km while the maximum horizontal range is about 12km.

Modified photo of an S148 class fast attack craft of the Hellenic Navy equipped with Harpoon launchers. For a high resolution image click here.
Modified photo of  an S148 class fast attack craft of the Hellenic Navy equipped with Exocet launchers. For a high resolution image click here.
The Exocet launchers of the retired
LM36 Guardiamarina Riquelme.
Photo: Armada de Chile
The Exocet launchers of the retired
P76 Tournas. Photo: Hellenic Navy
Each boat is equipped with two twin launchers, either for Exocet missiles either for Harpoon. All the boats in the class except one that serves with the Hellenic Navy carry two twin launchers for the French made Aerospatiale (from 2001-present, MBDA) MM38 Exocet surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) which have a range of 42 km and a speed of 0.93 Mach carrying a warhead of 165 kg. The Exocet family of anti-ship missiles have deadly capabilities due to the sea-skimming operation of the missile, i.e. the ability of the missile to fly few meters from the height of the sea (about two meters) in order to minimize the recognition of rival radar and infrared seekers and subsequent interception of the missile from the air defense of the target. The Falklands war demonstrated the ability of the missile to destroy or to take out of service large vessels.

P-72 Votsis of HN launches an MM38 Exocet. Photo: Hellenic Navy
The missile guidance is inertial in mid-flight until turns on active radar late in its flight (active guidance) to the corresponding trigger point for the detection and locking of its target. In order to minimize the recognition from rival radar and infrared seekers and the subsequent attack of the projectile from the air defense around the target, the system maintains a very low altitude during ingress, staying 1–2m above the sea surface (sea-skimming) while the speed is high approaching 0.9 Mach. Due to the effect of the radar horizon, this means that the target may not detect an incoming attack until the missile is only 6,000m from impact and thus it leaves little time for reaction of the target’s CIWS. The missile has low signature and it has enhanced target discrimination and ECCM making it very difficult to be intercepted.

Modified photo of  an S148 class fast attack craft of the Egyptian Navy. For a high resolution image click here.

The third boat (P75 Maridakis) that serves with the Hellenic Navy is equipped with four Boeing RGM-84C Harpoon anti-ship missiles in two Mk141 launchers amidships. These missiles have a range greater than 120km, sub-sonic of speed of 860km/h (Mach 0.9) and they carry a warhead of 221kg. Harpoon missile is an all-weather, over-the-horizon SSM, developed and manufactured by McDonnell Douglas that has a low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory, active radar guidance and it is capable to perform the so-called pop-up manoeuver which it is a rapid climb of the missile to about 1,800m before diving on the locked target. The missile is operated by 30 countries with more than 7,000 missiles have been delivered by Boeing.

P73 Pezopoulos with her Exocet launchers. Photo: Kapa Paratiriths
P75 Maridakis with her Harpoon launchers. Photo: Hellenic Navy

Comparison between
Pollux and Castor
In the electronic equipment of the Hellenic Navy boats it includes a Thomson-CSF TRS 3220 Pollux Fire Control System (FCS) that is an X-band fire control radar for the Thomson-CSF Vega II weapons control and tactical data system (for missiles). Pollux is mainly used in gun control applications. It makes use of a 'fast' conical scan pattern and is circularly polarized. Pollux can acquire and track a target of 2m2 at 16n.m. The Chilean and Egyptian boats (and two of the retired HN boats, Tournas and Sakipis) have the improved Castor II (Thomson-CSF TRS 3203), which is a monopulse radar and it was conceived to replace the monoscan Pollux in the Vega system in order to track fluctuating targets more accurately. Castor radar can control gunfire by displaying both target and shell splashes and it can be used for search scanning the horizon at constant elevation. The dish antenna  is stabilized. Maximum acquisition and tracking range is about 30km. Castor II substitutes a Cassegrain antenna for the dish of Pollux (and Castor I).

P75 Maridakis with the old (open) naval mount and the older
DR2000 ESM on the mast. Photo: Hellenic Navy
S148 class FACM  in German service
An S148 FACM after its modernization
with Castor and Octopus EW

The Thomson TRS 3030 Triton (TRS 3050 Triton G the Chilean boats) is the air/surface surveillance and target indication 2D radar onboard. Triton can detect 2m2 air target at 30-45km. Accuracy in range is 30m. The S148 class boats are also equipped with two Panda optical fire control systems that have an onboard ballistic computer. Once the target has been acquired the operator measures its angular velocity by tracking. The navigation radar is a Decca 1226C while in some boats there is still the older SMA 3RM 20 radar or other boats, like the Egyptian ones, have the old SMA radar but also a newer navigation radar, perhaps a Raytheon model, and in that way they are equipped with two navigation radars.

Photo of the retirement in 2011 of P76 Tournas (left),  P77 Sakipis (centre) and P74 Vlahavas (right). Notice that the
two first vessels are equipped with Castor II FCS while Vlahavas with Pollux. Photo: Hellenic Navy

In the photo former admiral of HN, A. Panagopoulos using a Panda optical director.
Photo: Athanasios Panagopoulos

Triton radar and at the top
the DR3000 ESM. Photo: HN
DR3000 ESM atop of the mast
of a Roussen class FACM of HN
Another modernization that has taken place for the ships in Hellenic Navy service, except the new secondary gun mounts, it is the installation of the DR3000SLW Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system which equips the majority of Greek warships, replacing in that way the previous model DR2000 that did not fulfill the expectations of HN. The Chilean Navy ships have been fitted with decoy launchers of Rafael which were added to the existent Wegmann Wolke/Hot Dog decoy launchers that were fitted on the boats in German service. The Chilean boats are equipped with either the Thomson-CSF DR2000S ESM or perhaps another ESM suite of Israeli origin (Rafael).

Egyptian Navy S148 class FACM with Octopus EW and Castor radar

Egyptian S148 class FACM
The boats that still serve with the Egyptian Navy are equipped with the OCTOPUS Electronic Warfare suite that includes a jammer in a cylindrical dome and a direction finding antenna atop the main mast. The Octopus EW system was installed on ten boats the period 1990-1992 while they were serving in the German Navy, just some months prior the decommissioning of the first two boats of the class. These boats also include in their equipment (retrofitted between 1982-1984) with a Passiv-Aktiv-Lage-Informationssystem (PALIS).

LM37 Teniente Orella



    1. Is it wrong to say that the 250t Chilean S-148 FAC's , though first constructed for the Baltic Sea , actually now perform oceanic escort and patroling duties in the Pacific?
      What about continouing our dialog for the previous ESM model DR2000 that did not fulfill the expectations of HN? (I wrote that its major problem was the single antenna).

      1. I could say that "no, it is not". Indeed the ships had / have very good performance operating in very rough weather conditions in comparison with other vessels in the same category, so I would say that the ships can operate in oceanic duties well. The following video, where the boat are in German service, proves that I believe:

        Now about the ESM DR 2000 & DR 3000, I know that the second one has increased performance and sensitivity in comparison with the earlier model, it offers easier data analysis and as newer model has increased also library capacity of modes. I am aware of the problem of the single antenna. Something more I do not know, if you do know, please share it with us!

        Also you mentioned once the early retirement of the boats equipped with Castor which is improved model in comparison with Pollux. I do not know the answer, do you have an answer on that? Why for example HN did not use the Castor antennas to modernize other vessels etc.? Logistics and support probably?

      2. Δεν έχεις αλλάξει ΚΑΘΟΛΟΥ στη φωτο καθιστός.. !!!