Maestrale class was developed based on experiences from the previous Lupo class frigates
The Italian Navy has recently retired the Espero F576 frigate of the Maestrale-class after more than 30 years of service and It’s not surprising if the Italian government would also offer her up for sale in the near future. On this occasion, we will talk about the Maestrale class of the Italian Navy to get an overview of the power of these warships.
In service from 1982, these warships were primarily designed for anti-submarine warfare, and they are still performing well. However, they are gradually being replaced by the FREMM multipurpose frigates, built under the cooperation of France and Italy.
The class is composed of eight vessels, all of which were Italian-made. The frigates were primarily designed for anti-submarine warfare, however the ships are highly flexible so they are also capable of anti-air and anti-surface operations. Ships of this class have been widely used in various international missions, either under NATO or UN flag, and during normal operations of the Italian Navy.
Maestrale class was developed based on experiences from the previous Lupo class frigates, but has some differences in displacement and weapons fit. Maestrale has a displacement of 3000 tons, about 500 tons heavier than the Lupo class, and incorporates more sophisticated and powerful antisubmarine weapons than the Lupo class.
The overall dimensions of the ship is a length of 122.7m (402.55 ft), the beam is 12.9m (42.32 ft) and a draught of 4.2m (13.77 ft). The increase in length and beam has resulted in a vessel with better anti-submarine warfare seaworthiness and habitability.
The construction has been achieved with modules of preprepared sections, a technology which at this point is standard in this field. The compartmentalization of the hull is constituted from 15 compartments, and the buoyancy is assured also with 3 flooded contiguous compartments.
The platform is stabilized by non-retractable fins in order to reduce the rolling from 30 degrees to the 3 degrees at a speed of 18 knots. The ships have a large superstructure made of light alloys, with one large turret and only one funnel. There are two enclosed pyramid masts, one of which is quite low, the other much taller. The superstructure continues without interruption until the hangar.
Maestrale-class frigates were powered by a combined diesel or gas propulsion system integrating two shafts with five-bladed propellers. Two gas turbines Fiat-General Electric LM-2500 developing 25,000 horsepower each can be used, or 2 motors GMT 230-20 DVM.
The engine is remotely operated by an electronic system known as the SEPA-7206 digital control system. The direction is changed by activating the two hydraulic rudders. The ship incorporates vibration and noise abatement measures to reduce noise and improve the survivability of the vessels.
The maximum speed is of approximately 32 knots, Its maximum operating range is 6000 nautical miles at 15 knots. The crew compliment is quite large including 24 officers and 201 sailors.
The Maestrale class ships are armed with an array of systems. Mounted on the foredeck is an Oto Melara 127mm gun, capable of shooting 40 rounds per minute. The ships also carry the Albatross missile system, with an octuple cell capable of firing Sea Sparrow or Aspide missiles.
This modern weapon contains a monopulse guide and a powerful rocket-engine, and advanced flight controls. The ships carry a supply of 24 missiles, and the system is reloaded by a Riva-Calzoni Automatic Handling System, which is capable of loading up to four missiles at once, making virtually all the missiles in the magazine ready to be launched.
After the turret there are two DARDO close-in weapon systems, with two 40mm Bofors guns. They have very rapid mechanical systems, and depots with over 700 shells, and can fire around 600 rounds per minute. The proximity fuses and the fire control systems help this unmanned turret to react quickly to incoming missiles.
Also on deck are four Otomat anti-ship missiles, capable of striking a target 180 km or more away. They are fitted over the hangar, where there are two AB-212 helicopters ASW multi-role machines.
Finally, there are four torpedo-launchers, two triple ILAS-3 324 mm tubes, with 12 torpedoes available, and the A184, a wired torpedo with two launch tubes and six to eight torpedoes. This is the main weapon for anti-submarine warfare tasks, but it can also be used as an anti-ship weapon, even though its propulsion system does not allow great speed and range.
Sensor and Electronic Systems
The sensor suite includes one radar air and surface search RAN10S that is placed over the smaller tree, a radar of navigation and surface search SPN703 is fitted on the main tree, where a navigation radar is also present, and finally, three radars: one RTN-10X for gun and Aspide control, and two smaller RTN-20X for the DARDO systems, all fitted in the forward superstructure, separated from the aft by the funnel and the heat dissipaters.
As to submarine search, there is a VDS DE1164 sonar, and DE1160B hull mounted. Two SCLAR rocket-launchers onboard can launch chaff and infra-red decoys to deceive incoming missiles.
Currently, the Italian Navy is gradually replacing the Maestrale-class frigates, from 2015 to now there have been 4 ships retired. In 2013, Manila announced its intention to acquire the Italian Maestrale F570 after it ceased operations in 2015, but due to a few problems, this plan did not happen.
Currently, though the Philippines has ordered South Korea to build two new HDF-3000 frigates, such numbers are clearly not enough. Therefore, Max Defense Philippines recently reported that Manila is considering resuming the purchase of the second hand Italian warship, the leading candidate is the recently retired Espero F576.
Despite being an old frigate, the quality of the Maestrale hulls is still very good, the proof is that the Italian Navy is maintaining four modernized Maestrale-class frigates until after 2024, meaning they will continue to serve for more than four decades. If the Philippine Navy acquires the Espero to coordinate with the two HDF-3000s that will be received in the near future, this will be a remarkable addition. Especially if the ship is upgraded before it is handed over, it will help the maritime potential of this Southeast Asian nation significantly increase compared to today.
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