Warrior-class strike craft

The Warrior-class strike craft (ex Minister class) in service with the South African Navy are modified Sa'ar 4 (Reshef) class fast attack craft.[1] The class was initially known as the Minister class as all the boats were named after South African Ministers of Defence. The strike craft flotilla was known as SAS Scorpion.[2]

Class overview
Name: Warrior-class strike craft
Operators: South African Navy
Built: 9
In commission: 3
Completed: 9
Active: 3


In March 1971, a South African project team visited Britain, France and Portugal to investigate alternative designs for future frigates or corvettes. A decision was made to buy corvettes from Portugal, with four ships of an upgraded version of the João Coutinho class being ordered. However, due to the changing of the political climate in Portugal following the 1974 Carnation Revolution, the new Portuguese authorities cancelled the transference of the corvettes to South Africa, instead integrating them in the Portuguese Navy, where they formed the Baptista de Andrade class.[3]

The then Minister of Defence, P. W. Botha, had already started discussions with Israel to buy their Reshef-class missile boats, designated Project Japonica.[3]

In 1974, a contract was signed with Israeli Military Industries for the construction of three of the modified Reshef-class vessels at the Haifa facility of Israeli Shipyards. A further three were built immediately after at the Sandock-Austral shipyard in Durban, South Africa, with three more being built at the same facility several years later.[3] The imposition of the international embargo on the sale of arms to South Africa on 4 November 1977 forced the project to be carried out under a cloak of security.[3] The South African variants were fitted with Gabriel missiles, otherwise known as 'Scorpion' missiles, and had two Oto Melara 76 mm guns instead of a single one with a Phalanx CIWS.

SAS Scorpion

With the arrival of the strike craft, a strike craft flotilla was formed in 1977 under the command of Captain Glen Syndercombe.[4] This flotilla was renamed SAS Scorpion in 1980.

The flotilla was formed into two squadrons in 1985,[5] with 4 ships being in service at one time in Squadron 1 and two in service with Squadron 2,[6] which was based in Simon's Town.

Boats built

A total of 9 boats were eventually built.

Name Previous names Pennant Commissioned Decommissioned Fate Notes
SAS Jan Smuts P1561 8 July 1977[7] 2004 Scrapped 2004 Built by Israel Shipyards Ltd, Haifa, Israel. Originally named after PM of Union of South Africa Jan Smuts.[8]
SAS Shaka SAS P.W. Botha P1562 2 December 1977[7] 2005 Sunk as target 2005[9][10] Built by Israel Shipyards Ltd, Haifa, Israel.[8] Originally named for former President of South Africa Pieter Willem Botha.
SAS Adam Kok SAS Frederic Creswell P1563 6 April 1978 Awaiting refit Built by Israel Shipyards Ltd, Haifa, Israel.[8] Originally named for South African Labour Party minister Frederic Creswell and renamed for black South African leader Adam Kok III. Stripped and towed to Durban to await possible refit.[11]
SAS Sekhukhuni SAS Jim Fouché P1564 22 December 1978 2005 Sunk as target 2005[12] Built by Sandock-Austral, Durban, South Africa.[8] Originally named after the 2nd State President of South Africa Jacobus Johannes Fouché.
SAS Isaac Dyobha SAS Frans Erasmus P1565 27 July 1979[13] - In service as at 2014 Named for former National Party cabinet minister Frans Erasmus; renamed after the Reverend Isaac Dyobha, a chaplain in the South African Native Labour Corps who died in the sinking of the SS Mendi in 1917.[14]
SAS René Sethren SAS Oswald Pirow P1566 4 March 1980 Awaiting disposal[12] Built by Sandock-Austral, Durban, South Africa.[8] Originally named after National Party minister Oswald Pirow and renamed for decorated HMSAS officer René Sethren CGM.
SAS Galeshewe SAS Hendrik Mentz P1567 11 Feb 1983c - In service as at 2014 Named for South African Party minister of defence Hendrik Mentz; renamed for the Tlhaping tribe's chief Galeshewe.
SAS Job Masego SAS Kobie Coetsee P1568 11 February 1983 2008 Sold for scrap[12] Built by Sandock-Austral, Durban, South Africa.[8] Originally named after National Party politician Kobie Coetsee; renamed after Cpl Job Masego of the Native Military Corps.
SAS Makhanda SAS Magnus Malan P1569 4 July 1986 - In service as of 2014 Built by Sandock-Austral, Durban, South Africa.[8] Originally named after National Party politician and Chief of the South African Defense Force Magnus Malan; converted to an OPV in 2014.[15]

Conversion to offshore patrol vessel role

Three decommissioned Warrior-class strikecraft were refurbished by SA Shipyards and recommissioned as offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) from 2012 to 2014. Their aged Skerpioen missile launchers were removed, providing extra room for a small RHIB boat and a small contingent of seaborne commandos to board suspect vessels. Reclassed as OPVs, these vessels are armed with one OTO Melara 76 mm naval artillery gun, the rear one of the two originally fitted having been removed, as well as a pair of 20 mm guns and a pair of 12.7 mm heavy machine guns. Three of the former strikecraft were refurbished and are commissioned as SAS Isaac Dyobha (P1565), SAS Galeshewe (P1567) and SAS Makhanda (P1569). Their home port is Naval Base Durban which is undergoing an upgrade in preparation for the new patrol flotilla.[16] A fourth vessel, SAS Adam Kok (P1563), is being considered for refurbishment.[15] However, as of August 2014 it appears unlikely that this fourth vessel will be converted, though its fate remains undetermined.[17] Rear Admiral Hanno Teuteberg, Chief Director Maritime Strategy, said in 2013 that the early indications are that the life of the OPV vessels can be extended for at least five or more years, to coincide with Project Biro, the new build Offshore/Inshore patrol vessel project.[11][18]

See also


  1. "Warrior class strike craft". 26 May 2005.
  2. "History of the SA Navy". Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  3. Cdr Thean Potgieter (26 November 2004). "The Secret South African Project Team: Building Strike Craft in Israel, 1975-79" (PDF). University of Stellenbosch. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  4. "The SADF: Supplement to the Financial Mail" (PDF). Financial Mail: 41. July 1987.
  5. Du Toit 1992, p. 306.
  6. "Ons Vloot vandag 70 jaar stokoud / Our Navy turns 70". Die Beeld. 1 April 1992. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  7. Wessels, Andre. "The South African Navy during the years of conflict in Southern Africa 1966-1989" (PDF). Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  8. Du Toit, Allan (1992). South Africa's Fighting Ships Past and Present. Ashanti Publishing. p. 309. ISBN 978-1874800507.
  9. "SAS Amatola successfully destroys SAS Shaka". GoSouthOnline. 2013-04-22. Retrieved 2014-08-23.
  10. "SANDF gets rid of surplus". News24.com. 4 October 2005. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  11. Wingrin, Dean (10 May 2013). "Navy commences upgrade of fourth strike craft". Defenceweb.co.za. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  12. Bennett, C. H. & Söderlund, A. G. (2008). South Africa's Navy : A Navy of the People and for the People. ISBN 978-0-620-41446-3.
  13. "Patrol Forces". Navy.mil.za. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  14. "THE HISTORY OF THE SAS ISAAC DYOBHA". South African Navy website. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  15. "Revamped strike craft ready for counter-piracy duty". Defenceweb.co.za. 17 July 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  16. Helfrich, Kim (2015-12-09). "Minister says it's Naval Base Durban, not Station". defenceWeb. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  17. Helfrich, Kim (20 August 2014). "South African shipbuilding now a strategic industry". Defenceweb.co.za. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  18. "Progress at last on offshore patrol vessel acquisition". Defenceweb.co.za. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
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