Vasco da Gama, Álvares Cabral and Corte Real are the names of the three warships built in Germany in the late 1980s for the Portuguese Navy.
From the arrival of these ships, Portugal was able to keep up with allies in the alliances of which it is part. The frigate ‘Vasco da Gama’ was the first of the 3 naval units to be delivered in January 1991, then reached Álvares Cabral and finally the Corte-Real in February 1992.
The class was named in honor of Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. His initial voyage to India was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans and therefore, the West and the Orient.
The project for the construction of three frigates of this class was authorized by the Portuguese Government in 1985
Based on the MEKO 200 PN design, the ships were built using modular construction techniques. The basic specifications of the frigate include: overall length of 115.9m, a beam of 14.8m and a maximum draft of 5.9m. The full load displacement of the ship is 3,200t. Vasco da Gama can complement a crew of 182.
For the first time in its history, the Portuguese War Navy will possess naval units able to face a multitude of threats on the sea. Also, for the first time, a Portuguese naval unit will be equipped with systems capable of launching of surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles.
Vasco da Gama class can reach a maximum speed of 32 knots and a range of 4,600 nautical miles at 18 knots.
The ship’s main armament is a Mod68 CADAM 100mm dual purpose cannon at the bow, capable of a high rate of fire. It can fire at a speed of 78 round/min with an effective range of 17000m. One 20mm Phalanx close-in weapon system fitted on the aft deck provide close-point defence against incoming missiles and artillery fire. It can fire 3,000 to 4,500 armour-piercing tungsten penetrator rounds to an effective range of 3.6km.
The most powerful weapon on board is two Mk 141 quad launchers for firing eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles with operational range in excess of 150 nautical mile. The MK 21 guided missile launching system onboard can launch eight RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles.
The anti-submarine warfare capability is provided by two 324mm Mk32 Mod 5 torpedo tubes in triple mountings. Each torpedo tube can launch a lightweight torpedo such as the Mk 44 or the Mk 46.
Currently, the Portuguese navy is in the process of modernization. The two frigates were purchased second hand from the Netherlands, where they were designated as Bartolomeu Dias arrived in 2009 and Dom Francisco de Almeida a year later, in January 2010. As for the Vasco da Gama class, ships are in the so-called half life, a crucial time in terms of investment in modernization that will have to be guaranteed for them to remain operationa