Nigerian frigate Aradu

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NNS Aradu F89.jpg
Naval Ensign of Nigeria (1960-1998).svg Nigeria
Name: Aradu
Builder: Blohm & Voss, Hamburg
Laid down: 1 December 1978
Launched: 25 January 1980
Commissioned: 20 February 1982
Status: Out of service
General characteristics
Displacement: 3,360 tons full load
Length: 125.6m
Beam: 15m
Draught: 5.8m
Propulsion: 2 Rolls-Royce TM3B gas turbines; 50,880 hp (37,940 kW), 2 MTU 20V 956 TM92 diesels; 10,420 hp (7,770 kW), 2 shafts
Speed: 30.5 knots (56.5 km/h)
Range: 6,500nm at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Complement: 195 (26 officers)
Sensors and
processing systems:
Lessey AWS 5 air/surface search radar, Recal Decca 1226 navigation radar, Signall STIR fire control radar, Atlas Elektronik sonar
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
Two chaff dispensers, Decca RDL-2 ESM
Armament: 8 x Otomat Mk 1 SSM, 24 x Aspide SAM in octuple launcher, 1 x 5 inch gun OTO Melara Otobreda 127/54 Compact, 8 x Bofors 40 mm gun, 6 x torpedo tubes, 1 depth charge rack
Aircraft carried: 1 x Lynx Mk.89 (being re-activated)

Aradu (F89) (meaning "thunder" in Hausa) is a Nigerian frigate. She is the first of the MEKO 360 General Purpose frigates built by the German Blohm + Voss company of Hamburg.

The 125.6 m ship is the biggest in the Nigerian Navy. She is a multi-purpose frigate with capabilities for anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare effectively, and participated in the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar. The ship also possesses capability for naval fire support and electronic warfare. Additionally, she carries a ship-borne helicopter for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, and enhanced surveillance/detection.


The ship is unique in the adoption of the modular approach in the design of hull and the containerization of armaments. By the modular design concept, various sections of the hull of Aradu are built to specific measurements separately and then assembled at a shipyard. The advantage of this style of construction is that every section of the ship can be produced independent of the other sections. In case of damage, it is thus easier to replace the affected section of the ship separately and then fixing it back at a shipyard. This same flexibility is adopted in the armament of the ship. These are kept in containers and can be tested ashore independent of the various stage of construction. Once the hull is ready, the containerized armaments are then easily fitted into the hull the same procedure adopted in case of major repair or replacement.

The MEKO class of ships is thus able to proceed on other missions while defective units are left for repairs at workshops. This is different from other designs where the ship for example has to sacrifice other missions in order to repair or replace a unit of her armament. Another advantage is that with the Meko concept, whole sections of the ship can be produced and stored as spares. In case of emergency, the ship simply enters a dockyard to replace whatever section that is needed. Modernization of armaments and systems can thus take place with minimum interruption to the ships' program.


The need to have a modern sophisticated frigate to complement and eventually replace Nigerian Navy's long serving frigate, NNS Nigeria (now Obuma) became apparent to naval planners in the mid-1970s. The old lady, as NNS Nigeria, was popularly known then was fast becoming irrelevant in the fast changing world of naval technology. Nigerian Navy needed to reach blue waters with the appropriate ships in terms of firepower, extended operational range and enhanced surveillance capability. NNS Aradu became the answer to these aspirations. The ship initially named The Republic was ordered in 1978. Her keel was laid in December 1978 and she was launched on 25 January 1980. In November of the same year, following a new policy of the Nigerian Navy was renamed Aradu. It was commissioned on 22 February 1982. Aradu was acquired by the regime of former President Shehu Shagari in 1982. She was recently refitted, refurbished and equipped after being alongshore for over 12 years. The ship proved it was still seaworthy by taking part in celebrations commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar by sailing to Great Britain in 2005. The ship, which carries a crew of about 250 officers and men, requires 500,000 litres of petrol per voyage. [1] [2] [3]

Mission capabilities[edit]

Aradu is an all-purpose fighting ship capable of undertaking the following missions alone or in concert with other units:

  • Sustained and independent blue water patrol over a range of 6,500 miles (10,500 km).
  • Gunfire support to friendly forces operating up to 16 km from the coast.
  • Air defense of self and cooperating forces up to a range of 13 km.
  • Anti-submarine warfare (short range or extended range using helicopter borne torpedoes.
  • Electronic warfare (intercepting and jamming).
  • Anti-ship warfare missile attacks against surface units up to a range of 80.5 km.[4]
  • Mine laying.
  • Airborne or surface Search and Rescue.

Service history[edit]

Since she entered naval service, NNS Aradu has taken part in major naval exercises, fleet reviews and diplomatic cruises. She played a prominent part in "Operation Seadog" in 1985 and "Operation Odion" in 1987. The ship has undertaken extensive diplomatic visits to countries like Gabon, Congo, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea and numerous European countries. She has also participated in joint exercises with visiting ships of the German, Indian, French and the Brazilian Navies. She had a total of two groundings and a major collision in 1987.[5] She ran aground again early in 1994 during post refit trials, and was assessed as beyond economical repair in 1995, but then managed to go to sea again in early 1996, and again in 1997 when she broke down for several months in Monrovia. She then steamed back to Lagos on one engine in 1998.

In August 2005, Aradu participated at the International Fleet Review to mark the bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar in memory of Admiral Lord Nelson at Portsmouth with other 100 warships from 36 navies. It also participated in two major exercises in 2005 and 2006, called "Igbochi" and "Idabo".

In a bid to strengthen Nigeria/Brazil military cooperation, 2 naval ships, NNS Aradu and NNS Nwamba, departed Nigeria on 3 August 2007 to take part in Brazil BiCentenary Celebrations. The ships arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, on 9 August to a rousing welcome by Liberians and Nigerians resident in the West African country. They were received by the Chief of Defense Staff of Liberia, Major General Abdurahman of the Nigerian Army.

In 2001, another refit (with American assistance) was undertaken, and the ship returned to operation. The obsolete AWS 5 radar and PHS sonar were replaced with a Signaal STIR (I/J/K) 60 nm/120 km fire control (range, bearing, altitude), DA-08 90 nm/180 km air (search, track) as well as an Atlas EA80 20 nm/40 km passive anti-submarine sonar (bearing, class), in addition to these, all other systems including weapons were cleaned, overhauled and put in good working order. The non-operational Lynx helicopter was replaced by an Agusta 109E.

In 2005, Aradu sailed to the UK for the Trafalgar Fleet Review, taking part in exercises in the West and North Atlantic along the way. She was the only warship from sub-Saharan Africa to attend, apart from the South African naval support vessel SAS Drakensberg (A 301). Currently, it is being used a training ship after a long awaited upgrade which is not happening anytime soon.

Cultural references[edit]

Aradu is visible in the background of the Hamburg harbour close to the shipyard in the third episode of the 1982 BBC production of John LeCarré's "Smiley's People", in the scene where Smiley parks his car near the Landungsbrücken.