Murphy's Law: The Second Hand Warship Blues

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December 11, 2007: French warship builder DCNS has spent months negotiating a deal to sell four stealthy Gowind 200 frigates to Bulgaria. It seemed to be a sweet deal for Bulgaria, with most of the work being done in Bulgaria, and hundreds of Bulgarians technicians getting specialized training in France. But this was expensive. Each of the 2,000 ton ships would cost about $300 million. Bulgaria is short of cash. To close the deal, DCNS offered to cut the price 13 percent. Then Holland came along with a better deal, two Wielingen class frigates (25 year old, 2,300 ton ships, but in great shape) for about $30 million each. The Dutch also threw in a modern minesweeper, for a three ship package costing $72 million. One advantage of this was that Bulgaria had bought a Wielingen class frigate from Belgium two years ago, and was satisfied with it. Only four Wielingen class ships were built, and one was scrapped in the 1990s. Thus the Dutch deal would give the Bulgarians two good-enough frigates, and three from the same class. Maintenance and training would be simplified. Those three ships would be adequate for the Black Sea, where the biggest concern is smugglers, not a major war.

 


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