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Espora [Meko 140]

After the Flaklands War the Argentine navy aquired a powerful squadron of modern German-designed frigates to replace its elderly US warships. The UK was fortunate that the Argentines attacked the Falklands before the Government's plans for a drastic cut in the Royal Navy took place and before the Argentine fleet completed its modernization. In 1980 Argentina signed a contract with the German firm Blohm und Voss for three light frigates. The first was launched in 1982 and commissioned in 1985, five more units followed, with the last delivered in 2002. The 'Meko' class were a major improvement over the elderly ex-US destroyers operated by the Argentine fleet in 1982. One Meko class frigate was deployed to the Gulf in 1991.

On the morning of 23 January 1982, a ceremony took place at the RioSantiago Shipyard, a subsidiary of the State Shipyards and Naval Factories (AFNE), to christen and launch the missile corvette A.R.A. Espora, a warship of the Meko-140 class being constructed for the Argentine Navy. The ceremony, which was presided over by Adm Jorge Isaac Anaya, commander inchief of the navy, was attended by Lt Gen Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri, the nation's chief executive and commander in chief of the army; national, provincial and municipal authorities; members of the diplomatic corps; high-ranking officers, field officers and officers of the armed forces; top officials of the Thyssen Rheinstahl Technik GmbH firm and the Blohm-Voss A.G. Shipyard; and representatives of banking and business and the maritime andriver sectors.

In the course of the event, Vice Adm Carlos Torlaschi (Ret), president of the AFNE, made a speech, and after that Capt Domingo Genise, chief chaplain of the navy, blessed the vessel with the assistance of the priest of the Neustra Seora de la Merced [Our Lady of Merch] Church of Ensenada, and Mrs Lucia Noemi Gentilli de Galtieri broke the traditional bottle of champagne on the bow.

Speech of Vice Adm Carlos Torlaschi (Ret) "With this program of constructions, the Rio Santiago Shipyard conforms to the basic purpose of its establishment. Until a short time ago, we engaged in naval construction only sporadically, and for that reason, the available infra-structure had a low rate of utilization. The construction of the missile destroyer Santisima Trinidad enabled our personnel to get the best training for modern naval shipbuilding, and that training, in which private subcontractors also participated, has allowed usto undertake without any difficulties this new program still to be set up. A series of ships provides the unique possibility of reducing costs and time, and of enticing private industry to produce everything that is feasible and convenient. On 1 October 1980, we started construction of the series of six corvettes of the Meko-140 class.

"Today we are launching the first unit, we have the second unit in the process of pr-fabrication, and on 4 January we started cutting the steel for the third hull. We are closely adhering to the established schedule. We started at the keel-laying ceremony that we were beginning their construction with great confidence and assurance regarding their success, and had no doubts that our personnel was going to work enthusiastically to fulfill the stated plan. At this stage of the task, we confirm what we said then. The ongoing program, ordered by the navy in connection with the plan to renovate units, has been worked out jointly with the Blohm-Voss Shipyard of the FRG."

The corvette A.R.A. Espora was the fourth ship of the Argentine Navy bearing the name of Cmdr TomasEspora. The previous ones were a 220 ton brig commissioned in 1864, a 520 ton torpedo-boat destroyer commissioned in 1890, and a Fletcher class destroyer commissioned in 1961. Espora was the name of an Argentine sailor born in Buenos Aires in 1800. While still very young, this officer took part in the liberating naval engagements of Chile, Peru and Ecuador, and participated in the famous privateering cruise of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans aboard the frigate La Argentina. Under the orders of Adm Guillermo Brown in the war against the empire of Brazil, he took part in the assault on Colonia and the battle of Quilmes, displaying courage and audacity. He held the post of general commander of the navy and died at the age of 34 years. Standing in front of his mortal remains, the great Admiral Brown said, "I consider the sword of this brave officer one of the foremost of America."

Upon contacting the waters of the River Plate, where the guns of the ships commanded by Espora were so often heard, this ship entered into its naturalenvironment to serve the national defense. The crewmen had the great example of Espora to guide them in the handling, safe sailing and victorious steering of this unit, which honored a great countryman whose life was marked by heroism, adventure and service tothe republic.

The missile corvette A.R.A. Espora is the first in a series of six vessels of the Meko-140 class whose construction was begun on 1 October 1980. This unit was constructed under license of the Blohm-Voss Shipyard ofthe FRG, with the help of the most modern technology. Its completion was the start of the most ambitious naval construction program that the Rio Santiago Shipyard had undertaken to date. The vessels of the series were built for multiple missions, with modules of standardized dimensions and connections that make it possible to provide different combinations of armament and equipment. That methodology has been incorporated into Argentine naval industry by virtue of a contract signed with the Blohm-Voss A.G. Shipyard of Hamburg, FRG, which granted the necessary license and also supplied some components, since the rest of them are produced in Aregentina.

The Meko class corvettes are characterized by the capability to transport combat helicopters on deck for antisubmarine defense. Propulsion for the vessel is provided by two diesel engines, whose characteristics give it a wide range of maneuverability. Armament consists of two twin-mounted 40/70 Breda machine guns, one Otto Melara 76/62 cannon, MM 38 Exocet missile system, two triple torpedo-launching tubes, Dagale system for launching decoys, and one helicopter. This unit, whose construction includes the use of modules, has the following characteristics : Displacement of a full load 1,700 tons; Full length 91.20 meters; Length at the water line 86.40 meters; Beam at the water line 11 meters; Draft with maximum load 3.13 meters; Speed 27 knots; Propulsion 2 diesel engines.

The corvette Espora was the first of the Meko-140 class to be put intoservice in the world. It was designed by Blohm-Voss in accordance with theoperational requirements of the Argentine Navy. These ships have the original system of container modules for the installation of weapons and electronic equipment. This system, already tested outon the Meko-360 class destroyers, constitutes a significant advance in theprocess of construction. Concurrently with the building and readying of the ship in the shipyard, the modules are prepared in the factory for placement on board later on, in the final stage of the outfitting. These fully-inspected modules are ready to meet the overall test. In addition to the advantages that this represents for the construction in terms of time saved and greater reliability, the use of container modules makes it possible to modify the offensive configuration and to make repairsby replacing the containers during the useful lifespan of the unit, thus ensuring its effective availability for action.

The Meko corvette series under construction is the most important program undertaken at Rio Santiago. Moreover, the ancillary private industry was afforded a significant opportunity to participate in it. The navy conducted a thorough survey of the capabilities of the Argentine industry with a view to having a progressive replacement of important materials, components and equipment with identical or similar ones produced in the country. The series of ships makes this operation possible and provides the opportunity to get a good response from the industry at reasonable costs. The results can be considered as very good, and contracts had been signed for requirements related to the series of ships. The technological contributions of this process of Argentinization had been limited to the pertinent licenses granted by the European builders to then ational manufacturers. Industrialists and subcontractors must comply in all instances with the standards of quality control established for these ships, which conform to those ineffect in the NATO.

As to the operational characteristics of these units, the designers managed to translate the requirements set down by the navy into a unit of great offensive capability, operational flexibility and readiness for action at a limited cost. Argentina's extensive coastline should be permanently protected to ensure oursovereignty. The timely addition of these modern units provided the naval forces with elements of inestimable value. Given its operational and logistical support characteristics, these ships were sought after by other countries to equip their naval fleets.

The Rio Santiago Shipyard took pride in undertaking this construction, assuming the inescapable responsibility of achieving the expected results. Aware of the importance and pleased to be able to work in this series of ships, the personnel showed every day its capability and determination to build with its own hands the best unit for the navy.

By the late 1990s the Argentine Navy had been deeply involved in peacekeeping missions, so despite the budget constraints, there are no plans to cut the size of the Navy. Indeed, the Navy stressed the need to move ahead with plans for modernization, where the first step was to seek financing to complete two German-designed-MEKO-140 class corvettes. The vessels were being assembled in Argentina.

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Page last modified: 17-01-2015 19:48:54 ZULU