Considered the workhorse for a modern navy, the key role of frigates are guarding other battle or merchant ships
In 2017, a revised plan for the indigenous frigate project under the Forces Goal 2030 was officially announced by the Bangladesh Navy. Since then, the navy has been inspecting proposals from several international companies to evolve their designs into a prospective one for the proposed ‘Made in Bangladesh’ guided-missile frigates or FFGs.
While many companies are competing, there is no doubt not all companies have the same standards of innovation, quality and implementation capacity.
Chittagong Dry Dock Limited (CDDL), which is also an enterprise of Bangladesh Navy had been awarded to undertake the frigate program. As per proposed plans, the frigates will be well equipped with modern armaments and combat systems.
The lifespan of each frigate is estimated to be 30 years. In 2018, the then CDDL Managing Director Commodore Mohammad Nazmul Karim said, two frigates will be commissioned in 2022, another two by 2025 and two more by 2030.
However, as of September 2021, the construction has not been started yet although the project is still active. The project has been delayed due to some geo-political and recent changes in foreign policies. At the beginning of the project, it was estimated that all of the frigates will be built with Chinese technical assistance and complete transfer of technology but the program was revised in 2017, following the Rohingya refugee crisis.
Bangladesh Navy also made some new requirements on the project mainly to focus on NATO standards. The project is a major priority of the Ministry of Defence and the Prime Minister's Office.
We are hopeful about its official commencement or declaration by honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the International Fleet Review 2021 that is due in December.
In this multi-billion-dollar project, companies from several countries have submitted proposals for conceptual designs to Bangladesh Navy under joint venture G2G program, complete transfer of technology as well as technical assistance and maintenance support.
Companies from Turkey, China, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, France and South Korea have shown their interest to take part in the project. This partnership with a competent foreign shipbuilder will ensure Bangladesh maintains a modern naval shipbuilding capability, thereby creating employment opportunities for thousands of Bangladeshis.
According to the Bangladesh Defence Analyst (defseca.com), the prime defence portal of the country that is run by defence and security experts, the proposed names that have been heard of unofficially are:
Some of these are already available to export, some are on trial, a few are on a conceptual stage, and the rest are ready for partnership programs.
The Bangladesh Defence Analyst indicated that at least the first two frigates will be built in a foreign shipyard until CDDL becomes prepared to construct the remaining four frigates to be made indigenously.
Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already expressed her determination to turn Bangladesh Navy into a "builder navy" from "buyer navy" gradually; so that someday it can also export warships too.
Bangladesh Navy has prepared a master plan to spend thousands of cores to ensure the security of the country’s 118,813 square km of sea territory. It has long-term plans to build ships in its own naval yards for various maritime agencies of Bangladesh to secure her maritime interests as well as to make efforts into shipbuilding to support the government for attaining the Sustainable Development Goals and the Blue Economy in future.
Frigates are considered the workhorse for any modern navy and the key roles of frigates are guarding other battle or merchant ships.
Manned usually by crews of 150 to 200, these ships are seen to have displacements between 2,000 to 5,000 tons. Frigates are comparatively fast, with speeds in the range of 25-30 knots and operating range of 5,000-15,000 nautical miles.
All modern frigates carry air and surface search radar, guidance radar and active/passive sonars as well as electronic warfare and countermeasure equipment.
Frigates are traditionally powered by diesel or diesel-electric engines in modern days and usually carry a minimum of one helicopter for anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue operations.
Bangladesh Navy currently operates seven frigates including two built in the US, four built in China and one, which is made in South Korea.
Dr Mahmud Rafiq is an Aviation, Computational Fluid Dynamics and Distributed Electric Propulsion Specialist