The Mexican Navy took delivery of the first POLA (Patrulla Oceánica de Largo Alcance, Long-Range Ocean Patrol) class vessel, ARM Reformador (POLA-101) from the program’s primary contractor Damen Shipyards Group.
A ceremony marking final acceptance and delivery was held by the Secretariat of the Mexican Navy (SEMAR). The delivery ceremony was attended by Admiral José Rafael Ojeda Durán, Secretary of the Navy and High Command of the Mexican Navy, in the company of Mr. Juan Carlos Atecas Altamirano, Municipal President of Salina Cruz Oaxaca.
Damen Shipyards Group was represented by Executive Board member René Berkvens, President of Damen Shipyards Mexico Horacio Delgado, and POLA Project Director Frank Verhelst. Additionally, representatives of the Mexican naval, military and civil authorities were present.
“Today, the Secretariat of the Navy has the great honor to see the culmination of one of its most important naval projects in modern history. This Long Range Ocean Patrol Vessel has completed its commissioning and trial phase to begin a life at sea in the service of the Mexicans…”, said Admiral Durán.
“This is a vessel built in Mexico, for the Mexicans and by the Mexicans. We are proud to have this vessel finished with a significant footprint in the Southeastern region of Mexico and Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This includes 750 man-years of direct Mexican labor, 400 direct jobs and more than 2,000 indirect jobs”, said Mr. Delgado.
The POLA 101 is the most technologically advanced vessel in Latin America and will allow the Mexican Navy to carry out missions such as safeguarding Mexican sovereignty, international security cooperation, law enforcement, long-range search and rescue operations and humanitarian aid. POLA will allow the United Mexican States to increase the surveillance coverage and the protection of their maritime interests beyond the 5 million square kilometers of Mexican jurisdictional waters.
The vessel has been delivered in record time, in less than three years after contract signing, a result of the close cooperation between all parties involved, says Mr. Verhelst.
“There has been excellent cooperation between the Mexican Navy, Damen, subcontractors and suppliers, both local and international. This, combined with modular construction, has enabled a smooth transfer of knowledge and technology critical to the project’s success”, he said.
The 107-meter long POLA-class ARM Reformador is the Mexican Navy variant of Damen’s SIGMA Frigate 10514. It is the tenth vessel of the design. The Damen SIGMA design is conceived to be built modularly anywhere in the world and in more than one location simultaneously.
The vessel was initially built as six modules – two of them were constructed at the Damen Schelde Naval Shipyard in Vlissingen, Netherlands and the other four were constructed at the Navy Shipyard No. 20 (ASTIMAR 20) in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. The final assembly and integration was done at the ASTIMAR 20 naval shipyard.
The vessel was launched at the ASTIMAR-20 shipyard at the end of 2018 and she conducted her sea trials in November and December 2019 off the Mexican west coast
ARM Reformador is 107.14 meters long and 14.02-meters wide with a displacement of 2,570 tonnes. Powered by two 10,000 kW engines and two 1,300 kW engines in Combined diesel-electric and diesel-mechanical (CODED) configuration, the vessel can reach a maximum speed of 27 knots. The ship can accommodate 120 crew members and has an endurance of 20 days.
The primary weapon systems of the vessel are Bofors 57 mm gun, RGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles, RIM-116 Block II Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM), RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missiles (ESSM) in 8-cell MK56 Vertical Launching System (VLS), and MK 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes (SVTT) triple tube launchers with MK 54 Mod 0 lightweight torpedoes. The RAM and ESSM missiles are for countering aerial threats while Harpoon missiles and torpedoes are to counter surface/sub-surface threats.
The sale of Harpoons, RAM missiles and torpedoes, along with launchers and support equipment, were approved by the U.S. State Department under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program for an estimated cost of $98.4 million on Jan. 5, 2018. The sale of ESSM missiles was approved in August 2018, for an estimated cost of $41 million.
The vessel is also equipped with Indra’s RIGEL electronic defense system, Terma C-Guard Naval decoy launching system and integrated Hermesys communication control system.
Thales is a major partner for the POLA program supplying Tacticos Combat Management System, the SMART-S Mk2 Air and Surface Surveillance Radar, the STIR 1.2 EO Mk2 Radar and EO Tracking system, the Gatekeeper Electro-optical Ship Security system, and the CAPTAS-2 Passive Variable Depth Sonar. This is the first naval contract for Thales in Mexico and the first export contract for Thales’s Gatekeeper.
The company also delivered and integrated a full armament suite including RAM Surface to Air Missile launcher, Harpoon Surface to Surface missile launcher, 57 mm gun, 12.7 mm machine guns, and Mk38 25 mm Machine Gun System with dedicated console.
The Mexican Navy’s POLA vessels are expected to operate MH-60R “Romeo” Seahawk naval multi-mission helicopters and the FMS sale of 8 units was approved by the U.S. State Department in April 2018. MH-60R helicopters will enable Mexico to perform anti-surface (ASuW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions and secondary missions including vertical replenishment (VERTREP), search and rescue (SAR), and communications relay.
The second POLA vessel will also be built under the current scheme – two of the modules constructed in Vlissingen and the other four in Mexico with the final assembly and integration was done at the ASTIMAR 20 naval shipyard. In the second phase of the project, two vessels will be fully assembled in Mexican naval shipyards.
POLA vessels will be used by the Mexican Navy for open ocean surveillance, patrolling of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Search And Rescue (SAR); Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR); maritime support and deterrence against offending ships and aircraft.