By Constantin Radut
The endowment of the Romanian Navy with modern ships and efficient defense capabilities is a desideratum that no political force in Romania disputes. Especially since our unpredictable neighbor to the east, the Russian Federation, is trying, by all means, to turn the Black Sea into a “Russian lake.”
This autumn, three years have passed since the establishment of the winning bid in the process of purchasing four corvettes and the modernization of two frigates. The winning bid was submitted by the Association between Naval Group (France) and Constanta Shipyard (SNC-Romania). Although all the technical, commercial and even legal stages have been completed, the contract between the Association and the Ministry of National Defense has not been signed so far.
The political turmoil in Romania was not an impediment, as some military analysts might believe.
It has also been more than a year since the Bucharest Court of Appeal definitively rejected the request of the Dutch company Damen (competitor in the tender in question). The Dutch company filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of National Defense requesting the cancellation of the contract award procedure to the Naval Group Association and the Constanta Shipyard.
However, in April 2021, at the request of Damen, the High Court of Cassation and Justice decided to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court regarding the manner in which the tender and the award of the contract were carried out. At least a curious decision. However, the case has not yet been debated by constitutional judges. Representatives of the Ministry of National Defense (MApN) confirmed that the agreement with the Naval Group cannot be signed until the fight in court is over.
The Ministry of National Defense specified, in the middle of 2021, that it is ready to sign the contract, as soon as the Naval Group finalizes the documentation.
„The specific procedure for purchasing the product“ Multifunctional Corvette ”was completed by the declaration of the Association formed by the Naval Group from France and Constanţa Shipyard S.A. from Romania as the winning economic operator with which the supply framework agreement will be signed. Currently, the contracting authority and the above-mentioned Association are carrying out activities to prepare the contractual documents for the signing of the framework agreement. In this regard, the Ministry of National Defense has firmly expressed its readiness to sign this agreement, as well as the subsequent contract. ”
At the same time, Naval Group says that at this moment there is a clarification process with the Ministry of National Defense and Romtehnica (Romanian state arms trade company) before signing the contract.
Naval Group’s response to the request for the online publication monitorulmilitar.ro was, two months ago, the following:
„The Association between Naval Group and SNC is continuing the clarification process with the Romanian Ministry of Defense and Romtehnica with a view to signing the contract. In this context, the Association has repeatedly renewed its offer, in particular in order to face the dilatory effects of the judicial and administrative claims initiated by the competitors against the awarding authorities. Consequently, the Association cannot be held liable for any delay in this program. ”
The start of production for Romanian corvettes reminds us of the recent scandal between France and the US and Australia through which the same company, Naval Group (in which the French state has a 60% stake), was taken out of the game of a colossal submarine manufacturing contract for Australia.
To have inserted the US queue in the relationship between France and Romania? Especially since so far Washington has managed to parasitize countless contracts that Romania has entered into with China (nuclear power plants), France and Germany (military equipment) and other potential partners.
Besides this presumed reason, close sources show that representatives of the Ministry of National Defense do not believe that Naval Group has the necessary equipment at this moment to make the corvettes at the Constanța Shipyard.
This was also emphasized by the Damen company in the court battle. Naval Group has assumed that it will support the modernization of the Constanța Shipyard and will make the technology transfer, only after signing the contract with the Ministry of Defense, which has not happened so far.
More than that. The same sources show that even if the Ministry of Defense would like to sign the contract, the French side and the representatives of the Constanța Shipyard claim that the price must be updated because the offer was at the level of 2019 and in the meantime, the price has increased.
The decision will probably be taken in the Supreme Council of National Defense because the representatives of the ministry avoid taking the decision to sign this contract.
The French Gowind 2500 Corvette is a fast corvette, designed for surveillance, patrol and escort missions.
The Corvette can be equipped with a helicopter and several drones. In the standard version, the Gowind 2500 corvette is armed with: a 76 mm main cannon, two 20 mm guns, 16 ground-to-air missile launcher tubes, 8 anti-ship missile launchers and two triple torpedo launchers. To these are added capabilities for electronic warfare and close defense.
The ship has a length of 102 meters and can reach a maximum speed of 46 Km / h.
The 1.6 billion euro ($ 1.85 billion) program covers the purchase of four corvettes, as well as the modernization of the combat systems of the frigates Regina Maria and King Ferdinand.
Will the Romanian corvettes from the Naval Group have the same fate as the Australian submarines?
By Constantin Radut