The Mexican Navy’s first POLA (Patrulla Oceánica de Largo Alcance, Long-Range Ocean Patrol) vessel, ARM Reformador (POLA-101) successfully completed its sea trials.
The sea trials took place in November and December 2019 off the Mexican west coast. The trials were jointly conducted by the Mexican Navy, the program’s primary contractor Damen Shipyards Group, subcontractors and suppliers working in close cooperation. The programme of sea trials was comprehensive, including testing of platform and combat systems in addition to training of Mexican Navy crews.
“The completion of these sea trials indicates how the project as a whole is progressing: on budget and actually a few weeks ahead of the contracted schedule”, Damen said in a statement.
Following the successful sea trials, the project’s next milestone is the commissioning of ARM Reformador into the Mexican Navy fleet, which is expected in February 2020.
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.
“This project is having a very positive impact on the local economy. More than 70% of the labour is being realised in Mexico – creating jobs and enabling local companies to develop their skills”, said Horacio Delgado, Damen’s Commercial Manager for Mexico. “Thanks to our excellent cooperation with the Mexican Navy, we are ensuring that this vessel is being built in Mexico, by Mexicans, and for Mexicans.”
The 107-meter long POLA-class ARM Reformador is the Mexican Navy variant of Damen’s SIGMA Frigate 10514.
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.