Saturday, June 20, 2009
Iraq on Saturday took delivery of the first of four Italian-made patrol ships it has ordered, as part of a plan to treble the country's naval forces in the coming years.
Iraq's navy is rebuilding itself after being destroyed in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 US-led invasion.
It now has about 2,000 sailors, and defence chiefs have said they aim to boost its manpower to 6,500 in the next two to three years.
The Fatah, which can mean to conquer or victory in Arabic, is a Saettia MK4-class fast patrol ship that will be used to patrol Iraq's economic zone and in search-and-rescue missions.
It set sail after its completion at the Fincantieri shipyard in La Spezia, Italy, a month ago, with three other such fast patrol boats due to be delivered at a rate of one every three months.
In total, the four ships are worth 80 million euros (110 million dollars), with each measuring some 54 metres (177 feet) long, weighing 390 tonnes, and attaining a speed of 23 knots with crews of 38.
The Fatah was escorted variously by Italian, American and British warships during its journey through the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, the pirate-filled waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Hormuz, officials said.
The long voyage from Italy was be the first time the new navy has travelled outside Arabian waters, and is the first such journey for the force in decades.