The construction of the Italian Navy Future Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) was initiated on the 12th of July 2017, with the traditional Steel Cutting Ceremony that took place at the Fincantieri shipyard in Castellamare di Stabia, Italy. Most of the ship construction will be held there before being moved to La Spezia for the final modifications and delivery to the Marina Militare. The LHD Trieste should be commissioned in 2022 which is three years before the forecasted retirement of the CVS Garibaldi in 2025 that the LHD is meant to replace as Capital Ship with the LPD San Giorgio.

Need for a fleet renewal

According to Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi, the Italian Navy’s chief of staff, “the fleet today consists of around 60 ships […] of which more than 50 are scheduled to be retired within the next decade to be replace by multipurpose platforms” reported in April Jane’s Defence Weekly. To resolve this capacity deficiencies and buttress this military effort, De Giorgi and former defense minister Roberta Pinotti achieved a €5.4 bn special budget allocation by the Italian Parliament in late 2014. This batch includes, along the LHD, several Logistic Support Ships, six Offshore Multipurpose Patrol Ships and two high speed Special Forces vessels. The makeover project went through somewhat gray areas, notably with the initial official communication which mostly dealt with its humanitarian purpose allegedly to hide the actual military aim. However, it rapidly became clear that this program would be an opportunity to provide a successor to the ageing Garibaldi aircraft carrier with a brand-new flagship for the Marina Militare.

Multipurpose answer to multidimensional issues

Facing the recent oriental Mediterranean turmoil and the pertaining needs to reassess its mission panel on various tasks from war fighting to humanitarian relief, the Italian Navy’s new LHD will be a multirole answer to these military and humanitarian threats as describes it the Italian Vessel maker Fincantieri.

The unit will be 245 meters long with a maximum speed of 25 knots while weighing 33,000 tons at full load. It will be equipped with a combined diesel and gas turbine plant (CODOG) and will be able to accommodate 1,064 people on board, of whom more than 700 military or civilian transported people. The ship endurance has improved since the Cavour class development; this one has a range of 7,000 nautical miles and is able to sail over 30 days in a row. Among other propellers, the LHD is to be equipped with a couple of gas MT30 turbines, the new engines models from Rolls Royce with an improved weight/power ratio enabling the ship to earn from enjoyable autonomy gains. These engines constitute the ultimate of naval engines achievement in power efficiency and also equip several other major warships, notably the two UK Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier and the US Zumwalt destroyers.

The LHD can carry a fully equipped battalion of landing troops with flight deck for helicopter operation and a full-length garage deck as well as a convertible well deck to accommodate landing crafts (LCMs). It will be endowed of an extended hospital with surgery rooms, radiology, dentist and laboratory; able to take on up to 28 seriously injured patients. Its civil capabilities also include an in-board desalinization plant to provide drinking water to areas damaged by natural disasters along with electric supply up to 2,000 kW.

Its improved carrying capacities also enable several trucks to fit in the ship in addition to military vehicles and rotorcrafts able to assume ASW and SAR missions. On its desk and hangars, the ship is able to carry respectively five EH-101 Agusta Westland helicopters on the desk spots and four stored downstairs but easily available through two side lifts. The four LCM landing craft, deployed through a flooded basin located on the stern of the vessel units, has a load capacity up to 60 tons which let it to carry amphibious assault troops or even the Italian MBT Ariete.

Additionally, three Oto Melara 76mm gun, three secondary guns of 25mm and six 12.7 mm machine guns will constitute the ship own armament along with other missile cells, radars, decoys and countermeasures (detailed in the chart hereinafter).

Contract consortium setting

To conduct this ambitious ship procurement program, the Marina Militare, through the Central Unit For Naval Armament (NAVARM), propped up the gathering of the project’s main stakeholders in an Raggruppamento Temporaneo di Impresa (RTI), temporary grouping of companies with Fincantieri and Leonardo.

Comments: This consortium has been made in 2014 in order to have a single reference for the customer in the aim of the renewal of the Italian Navy’s fleet with the construction of six patrol vessels (PPA, or Multipurpose Offshore Patrol Ship), with four more in option, and for one logistic support unit (LSS or Logistic Support Ship) valued at approx. €3.5 bn.

In addition to building the ship at its Naples shipyard, Fincantieri will also assume the overhauls and support over the vessel’s engine lifecycle and other logistical issues during ten years. Leonardo (former Selex) will be in charge of the combat systems production including landing craft, self-defence equipment, communication devices, sensors and others subsidiaries equipment integration (OTO Melara, WASS). Leonardo will also assume the combat systems maintenance during a decade.

The program economic fallout, as disclosed to date, represent quite a substantial bargain for Italian defence actors. The total value of the contract is over €1.1 bn, with Fincantieri’s share amounting to approximately €853 m and Leonardo’s to about €273 m.

An optional later coming unit could join the Trieste after 2023 to extend and reassert the first-rate role claimed by Italy in the Mediterranean Sea.

Written by Nicolas Charrié (Analyst) for OIDA Strategic Intelligence



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