"We are very excited about the very first steel cutting due later this July. We are currently working on the corvettes' design phase and are then planning to enter the offshore patrol vessel's design phase, [of] which first steel-cutting is due next year," vice president of the Italian shipbuilding company, Davide Traverso, said March 14, Defense News reported.
In August, Qatar confirmed that it ordered seven vessels from Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri. The preliminary contract signed in June 2016 outlines a deal for four corvettes, two offshore patrol vessels and one landing platform dock.
"This is the biggest turnkey program we have ever had in terms of export market in the Arab region," Traverso said. "It is worth $3.8 billion, so our effort is not only focused on the design and construction phases, but also on training activities, integrated logistics support and in-service support up to 10 years."
The full program, which includes coastal defense systems and land-based missile stations constructed by MBDA, a Europe-based defense contractor, will cost more than $5 billion.
Even though the units are being made in Genoa, Italy, the shipyard "will definitely help grow the Qatari naval business by bringing up ship-maintenance infrastructure to the Gulf country," Traverso noted.
"The program will be a big boost for our shipyards in the naval business area, but I would say the same for Qatar, as we will be staying there for approximately 10 years in order to maintain the naval units," he added.
"There is a very close cooperation between us on the concept and design phases," Traverso said. "We have a very strong relationship with the Qatari Navy because we feel there is a big design phase for the full fleet, which is putting us in the position to be here in the region for 15 years."
Last week, Fincantieri displayed multirole air defense corvettes for the Qatar Emiri Navy during the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) held in Qatar. According to Traverso, the corvettes configurations showcased at DIMDEX "won't change a lot" before being delivered to Qatar.
The corvettes will each have a full load displacement of nearly 4,000 tons, Quwa reported. In addition, the 107-meter warships will hold crews of 112 people, have a maximum speed of 28 knots and a range of 3,500 nautical miles at 15 knots.
Even though the design of the corvettes has not yet been finalized, the ships will also have enclosed bows, hangars and flight decks for the NH90 battlefield helicopters Qatar has also ordered.
The corvettes will also include a new version of Leonardo's Athena command management system as well as Aster 30 surface-to-air missiles and Exocet anti-ship missiles by MBDA, Defense News reported.
"This is a very well-equipped fleet," Traverso said. "Leonardo's combat system suite, for example, is designed to be very much interoperable on all units of the fleet."