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Joao Coutinho class

Patrol corvette

Joao Coutinho class

Designed in Portugal and built by Spain and Germany, the Joao Coutinho class corvettes have served the Portuguese Navy for over 40 years

 
 
Country of origin Portugal
Entered service 1970
Crew 93 men (plus up to 34 passengers)
Sea endurance 20 days (?)
Dimensions and displacement
Length 84.6 m
Beam 10.3 m
Draught 3.3 m
Displacement, standard 1 252 tons
Displacement, full load 1 401 tons
Propulsion and speed
Speed 24 knots
Range 9 260 km at 18 knots
Propulsion 2 x diesel engines, developing 10 560 shp, driving 2 shafts
Airwing
Helicopters 1 x Super Lynx Mk.95
Armament
Artillery 1 x twin 76-mm gun, 4 x 40-mm anti-aircraft guns
Missiles -
Torpedoes -

 

   Having served the Portuguese Navy for more than 40 years, the Joao Coutinho class patrol corvettes with light armament and equipment were little more than offshore patrol boats.

   The class was designed by Portuguese naval architect Rogerio de Oliveira, and intended to be a quick and inexpensive replacement for a series of badly outdated patrol craft during the long and tumultuous Portuguese Colonial War. Replacements were urgently needed, as the existing fleet (which even included vessels built before World War II) was being overwhelmed with maritime patrol and counter-insurgency tasks.

   It was originally planned that the new warships would be built in Portugal, but the Navy opted to have them all built abroad, owing to the unpreparedness of Portuguese shipyards to deliver an entire class of new corvettes within a few years. Six vessels were authorized. The Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg was contracted to build the first three (F475 Joao Coutinho, F476 Jacinto Candido, and F477 General Pereira D'Eca), while the remaining three (F471 Antonio Enes, F484 Augusto de Castilho, and F485 Honorio Barreto) were built at the Empresa Nacional Bazan shipyard (now Navantia) at Ferrol. They were completed rather quickly, with the first keels being laid in 1968, and the last completed vessels being commissioned in 1971.

   These vessels inevitably participated in the last years of the aforementioned Portuguese Colonial War, and were used primarily to enforce blockades, protect surface traffic inside the combat zone, and employ naval gunfire bombardments in raids and fire support operations. Their combat history was brief, and the Joao Coutinho class never again fired their guns in anger.

   The hull of the Joao Coutinho class was generously flared, with a sharp forward knuckle and an elevated forecastle. The hull sides were elevated above the main deck alongside the forward superstructure, which was otherwise a low, slim, and minimalist structure, and the main deck sloped downward toward the stern. A twin-gun turret was mounted on the lower main deck in front of the superstructure, while an anti-aircraft gun was mounted directly aft of the funnel. A single electronics mast towers above the conning tower (though it was more of a slightly elevated bridge than a proper tower); a single funnel with right trapezoid-shaped profile and a sloped cap was directly behind the mast. The aft superstructure was topped with a helipad.

   The known electronics suite consisted of a Northrop-Grumman/Westinghouse AN/SPG-34 fire-control radar, a Kelvin Hughes KH-1007(F) navigation radar, an Alenia-Marconi MLA-1b search radar, and a QCU-2 sonar.

   The propulsion system of the Joao Coutinho class was a pair of OEW 12PC2V280 diesel engines, with a combined output of 10 560 shp driving 2 shafts. The top speed was 24 knots, and enough oil bunkerage was carried for a range of 5 000 nautical miles (9 260 km) at 18 knots. The turning circle was unknown, but presumably no more than 300 m.

   The gun battery of the Joao Coutinho class was a single US Naval Gun Factory Mk.33 twin 76-mm/L50 gun turret. This weapon traversed through 360 degrees at up to 24 degrees/second, and elevated from -15 to +85 degrees at 30 degrees/second. It fired a 10.9 kg projectile at up to 50 rounds/minute (both guns combined), out to a maximum range of 13 350 m and an anti-aircraft ceiling of 9 266 m. The Mk.33 was effective against most warships and especially aircraft, and could also provide light fire support, but the fire control system for this weapon on the Joao Coutinho class was outdated; they were not effective against most anti-ship missiles.

   The only anti-aircraft weapon was a Bofors M1958 twin 40-mm/70 anti-aircraft guns; this mount traversed through 360 degrees at up to 85 degrees/second, and elevated from -5 to +90 degrees at up to 45 degrees/second. It fired 2.5 kg projectiles at 480 rounds/minute (both guns combined) out to a maximum range of 12 000 m, with an anti-aircraft ceiling of 4 000 m. As with the main guns, the anti-aircraft weapon was quite powerful, but had poor fire control (in this case, no fire control system at all; and even a fully-manned, open mount at that), and could not defeat sea-skimming missiles.

  A total of 1 400 76-mm shells were carried, but the 40-mm shell stowage is unknown. The Joao Coutinho class also originally had a Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar system and two depth charge racks, but these were removed in 1987.

   The ship's helipad had room for a single helicopter, though no hangar was available. In practice, the helipad was used mostly for Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP) of supplies.

   These vessels were very inexpensive to operate, costing only US$9.3 million/year to maintain (by comparison, a Kortenaer class frigate costs US$26 million/year to maintain). However, this was also clearly a product of having very little weaponry and electronics, even for warships of their size.

   In 2015 the last two vessels of the class (the F471 Antonio Enes and the F476 Jacinto Candido) were decommissioned due to their weak configuration and old age. It is unlikely that Portugal will be able to export them to a foreign navy, assuming the Portuguese government is even willing to offer them at all. Most likely outcome for the entire Joao Coutinho class is to be broken-up for scrap in the near future.

Related vessels

 

   Baptista de Andrade class: Follow-up to the Joao Coutinho class, and based on its design. Four were built. Just like the Joao Coutinho class, they were all retired by 2015.

   MEKO 140: A Blohm + Voss company design, based on the Joao Coutinho class. Several other nations acquired MEKO 140 warships (see below).

   Espora class: Based on the MEKO 140A16 design, and significantly better-armed than the Joao Coutinho class, this class was built for the Argentine Navy. Six were built, and are still in service.

   D'Estienne d'Orves class: A large class of lightly-armed corvettes based on the A69 design (which in turn is based on the MEKO 140 design), built as "Avisios" for the French Navy. A total of 17 were built, 15 of which are in service with France, Turkey, and Argentina.

   Descubierta class: These very heavily-armed corvettes are based on the MEKO 140 design, for the Spanish, Egyptian, and Moroccan navies. 9 were built, of which 8 are still in service.

 

Name Laid down Launched Commissioned Status
Joao Coutinho (F475) 1968 1970 1971

decommissioned

Jacinto Candido (F476)

1968 1969 1970

decommissioned in 2015

General Pereira D'Eca (F477)

1968 1969 1970

decommissioned

Antonio Enes (F471)

1968 1969 1970-1971

decommissioned in 2015

Augusto de Castilho (F484)

1968 1969 1970

decommissioned in 2003

Honório Barreto (F485)

1968 1970-1971 1970-1971

decommissioned in 2003

 

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Joao Coutinho class

Joao Coutinho class

Joao Coutinho class

Joao Coutinho class

Joao Coutinho class


 
Joao Coutinho class

Joao Coutinho class

Joao Coutinho class

 

 

 

 

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