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Bulgaria’s First Modern Corvette Launched By Local Shipyard

On August 4, 2023, in Varna, the Bulgarian shipbuilder MTG Dolphin Shipyard PLC launched the first of the two new 2,300-ton corvettes / multi-purpose modular patrol vessels (MMPV) 90 for the Bulgarian Navy, under the management of the German shipbuilder NVL Group (formerly known as Lürssen Defence) which is the prime contractor of the project and with the involvement of numerous Bulgarian suppliers.

The name of the new vessel will be “Hrabri”, meaning “Brave” in Bulgarian. It is a proud inheritor of the Bulgarian Navy’s torpedo boat of the same name from the beginning of 20th century. The second ship will be named “Smeli“. The vessels, which are about 90 meters long (hence the designation MMPV 90) and with a beam of 13.5 meters, are being built under a contract signed with Germany’s NVL Group on 12 November 2020 valued at €420 million excluding weapon systems and ammunition. Their maximum speed is 24 kt.

The two vessels are being built in parallel. The cutting of the steel for the first MMPV was held on December 3, 2021 at MTG Dolphin in Varna while for the second vessel was held about a year later on December 14, 2022. The keel of the first MMPV was laid on June 17, 2022 and almost a year later, on June 22, 2023 the keel-laying of the second vessel took place. Delivery of the first vessel is scheduled for the third quarter of 2025, and the second vessel a year later.

The vessels are based on the NVL Group’s proven OPV-90 design. The OPV-90 is developed from the smaller 1,650-ton OPV-80 that serves with the Royal Brunei Navy as Darussalam-class (4 units commissioned between 2011-14) and the Arafura-class (14 units) which are currently under construction for the Royal Australian Navy.

The new ships are predestined for tasks within the framework of international alliance missions of NATO and the EU and enable the Bulgarian Navy, which is in need of modernization, to counter air- and land-based threats as well as surface and undersea threats. The MMPV project is currently the largest newbuilding project of the Bulgarian Navy. The two MMPV 90s will mark the renewal of the Bulgarian Navy of which inventory is mainly based on obsolete Soviet designs and old second hand ships. The new ships will be a welcome addition to NATO’s naval forces in the Black Sea too.

MMPV 90 weapons and sensors

The armament of the ship is impressive for their size and includes an 8-cell VLS for MBDA VL MICA SAM, two twin launchers for SAAB RBS15 Mk3 SSM, an OTO 76mm SR gun, a Rheinmetall Oerlikon MILLENIUM GUN 35mm CIWS and two 324mm torpedo launching systems. From the scale model of the ship and the fact that SAAB will provide the 9LV CMS and FCS as well as in cooperation with Diehl Defence the RBS15 Mk3 anti-ship missiles, in a similar way to the German Brandenburg (F123) class MLU, we can presume that the the electronic equipment will include a SAAB Sea Giraffe 4A MFR with integrated IFF, SAAB CEROS 200 FCR atop the bridge, EOS 500 fire control director on the rear mast, and SAAB SME-series ESM on the forward mast, two navigation radars and a hull-mounted sonar (HMS). The decoy launchers are two Rheinmetall MASS. The ship will carry two RHIB amidships while it will be also fitted with a hangar and a flight deck for operating a Eurocopter AS565MB Panther helicopter (2 in the Bulgarian inventory) and UAV. The MMPV will have the potential to carry a variable depth sonar and other equipment at the stern which will be fitted also with a stern ramp for a large RHIB.

Source : Navalnews