SAS Amatola (F145) is an active guided-missile corvette / frigate warship in service with the South African Navy. She represents the lead ship of the Valour-class numbering four-strong. These are the most powerful surface warships of the service and feature a broad mix of armament, all-modern processing systems and sensors, and incorporate various stealth elements to their structure. Five total ships were initially planned though one was ended through cancellation.
While described as frigates, the Valour-class holds many qualities that make some sources categorize the group as corvettes.
SAS Amatola was ordered on December 3rd, 1999 with the building contracted awarded to Blohm + Voss of Hamburg, Germany. This was necessitated by the fact that South Africa lacked the local industry to construct a naval warship of this size and capability. Her keel was laid down on August 6th, 2001 and she was officially launched on June 6th, 2002. Her commissioning was had on February 16th, 2006 and she was assigned the homeport of Simon's Town (Capetown) where she maintains an active service status today (2016).
The vessel was completed with integrated stealth elements such as enclosed mastworks (forward and aft), low profile smoke funnels and continuous slab-type hull lines. Full helicopter facilities are seated over the stern in the form of a hangar and helo-deck, allowing the warship to launch and recover a navy helicopter (up to two can be carried, one on deck and the other in the hangar space). The bridge is set atop the forward superstructure overlooking the forecastle and offering excellent views of the horizon ahead. A second superstructure is set aft of amidships and integrated into the smoke funnel structures. The ship's radar cross section is reduced through use of angled faces all about the design - very few traditional protrusions are seen - even hand rails being omitted.
Internally, SAS Amatola is given a CODAG (CObined Diesel And Gas) arrangement allowing for maximum power / efficiency in dashing / cruising actions. The arrangement sees the diesel engines used for cruising and the gas turbines activated for high-speed movements. The vessel goes one further in that it relies on a Blohm + Voss CODAG "WARP" (Waterjet And Refined Propeller) system allowing both shafts to be powered by any single engine installation while the low-drag centerline waterjet can be pushed by the gas turbine power source. The diesel units supply up to 7,940 horsepower to the two shafts. The gas turbine can output as much as 26,820 horsepower. All told, the vessel can make headway at speeds nearing 30 knots with a range out to 8,000 nautical miles.
SAS Amatola is crewed by 152 personnel made up of officers and enlisted. She displaces 3,760 tons and sports a length of 397 feet, a beam of 53.6 feet and a draught of 19.5 feet. Onboard systems include a Thales MRR-3D NG G-band multirole radar fit, a Reutech electro-optical tracker unit and a Thales UMS4132 Kingklip sonar system. Various decoys and jammers are fitted for self-preservation.
In terms of armament, SAS Amatola carries both conventional and missile-minded weaponry. 1 x 76mm Otobreda (Italy) turreted deck gun is seated over the forecastle. 1 x 35mm Denel Dual-Purpose (DP) twin-barreled gun is also fitted as are 2 x 20mm Oerlikon Mk 1 systems for shorter-ranged firepower. As a guided-missile warship, she is outfitted with 2 x 4-cell Vertical Launch System (VLS) cleared to fire the MBDA MM40 "Exocet" Block 2 Surface-to-Surface Missile (SSM). There is another 8-cell VLS and this handled Umkhonto Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) to counter ranged airborne threats.
Her aft heli-deck supports a SuperLynx 300 (or similar) navy helicopter. This serves the vessel in various functions including over-the-horizon scouting/reconnaissance, Search And Rescue (SAR) and anti-shipping/anti-submarine warfare. The hangar space is fully enclosed and offers complete repair and refit facilities for the air wing.
Since 2006, SAS Amatola has been an active participant in South African naval activities in the region - conducting various unit training and readiness operations and exercises (Good Hope II / III / IV, INTEROP WWEST, BOST, AMAZOLO, IBSAMAR I/III and Altasur VII). Since 2011 she has been committed to anti-piracy actions in the Mozambique Channel ("Operation Copper").