Soummam transited the Atlantic Ocean as part of a training program for officer trainees from the Algerian Naval High School. She was greeted on arrival by Algeria’s ambassador to the United States, Algeria’s defence attaché, the Consul General of Algeria in New York, members of the Algerian diplomatic corps, and U.S. military and civilian authorities.
"I was very moved when I saw the ship in the port of New York," said Abdallah Baali, Algerian Ambassador to the United States. "It is truly a historic moment for us in New York and certainly for the crew and officers of the ship who came to the prestigious city of New York."
This call is part of the “Summer 2012” training programme, during which officer-trainees will receive practical on-the-ground training.
The visit by Soummam displays the increasing cooperation between the United States and Algerian navies. Earlier this year, Algeria hosted the combined maritime operations centre in Oran during Exercise Phoenix Express.
"The great thing about a country's navy is that a naval ship can be used for multiple purposes," said Captain Andy Lennon, the lead coordinator for the visit assigned to U.S. 6th Fleet headquarters. "It can be used in war and equally it can be used for diplomacy."
While the training mission is designed to instruct students on navigating the world's oceans, the port visit is also part of their training. According to Baali, a cultural and sports programme was developed to give the officer-trainees an opportunity to conduct exchanges with the U.S. Navy in order to better acquaint themselves with one of the world's largest navies and learn about its different services.
The cultural programme for the Algerian sailors included tours to various sites throughout the city, such as the United Nations, the Bronx Zoo and the 9/11 Memorial.
"We have all been very excited to visit New York," said Algerian Captain Mamia Mouzaoi. "It is a great opportunity to visit America, and the people have been very welcoming."
Showing their appreciation for the hospitality, Soummam also hosted a reception aboard the ship, allowing for greater interaction between the crew, U.S. Navy, and government officials.
"We are happy to have the Algerians here," said Terrence Holliday, New York City's Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs commissioner. "New York is a great city with a warm heart and a lot to see, we appreciate everything they bring here to make this city richer."
Throughout their visit, local U.S. Navy sailors from Navy Operation Support Center New York City and Naval Weapons Station Earle New Jersey have been readily available to show the Soummam crew around the city.
"We have U.S. Navy sailors travelling with them to all of the sites throughout the visit," said Lennon. "It allows us more opportunities to engage on a personal level, hopefully giving both nation's sailors a richer experience.
ANS Soummam was built in China and commissioned in 2006.
Algeria is in the process of expanding its navy in recent years as it faces problems such as smuggling, illegal migration and indigenous terrorism. These threats mainly affect Algeria's harbours and maritime communication routes and ships passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. Consequently, the Algerian Navy maintains a well-trained and well-equipped fleet to provide security to more than 1000 km of coastline.
In May it emerged that Algeria had signed a contract with China Shipbuilding Trading Company for three light frigates, after ordering two Meko A-200N frigates from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.
The three light frigates will be built either at Guangzhou or the Shanghai Huangpu Shipyard. The vessels will displace around 2 800 tons fully loaded, and will be powered by MTU diesel engines.
On March 26 this year Algeria’s ministry of defence signed a contract with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) for two Meko A-200 frigates with an option for two more, after a year of negotiations.
TKMS will supply two Meko A-200 frigates and six AgustaWestland Super Lynx helicopters under the €2 175 520 000 contract. According to Russia’s Periscope magazine, the ships will be armed with RBS 15 Mk III anti-ship missiles, Umkhonto IR surface-to-air missiles, Oto Melara and Rheinmetall guns and MU 90 torpedoes. The helicopters will be equipped with Mokopa air-to-ground missiles.
In the middle of last year it was announced that Algeria had signed a deal with Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation and state arms exporter Rosoboronexport for two new Tiger class corvettes. The Tiger corvette (Project 20382) is an export model of the Project 20380 Steregushchy class, which is the Russian Navy’s newest corvette class.
The vessel can be equipped with a variety of weaponry, including 100 or 76.2 mm guns, 14.5 mm machine guns, 533 mm torpedoes and a variety of surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles (e.g. P-800 Oniks, Uran-E or Yakhont). In addition, the vessels have capacity for a helicopter.
According to the IISS’s The Military Balance 2012, Algeria’s surface fleet comprises of three 1970s-era Koni class antisubmarine frigates, six corvettes, 22 patrol and coastal combat vessels, three amphibious vessels and three logistics and support ships.
In June 2006 Rosoboronexport signed a contract with the Algerian Navy for the construction of two Project 636 Improved Kilo class submarines under a roughly US$400 million contract.
Construction of the first submarine started in 2006 and the second began in 2007. They were handed over to the Algerian Navy in March and September 2010 where they joined two Project 877EKM Kilo diesel electric submarines, which Algeria received in 1987-1988.
Russia is presently upgrading a Nanuchka II class corvette and a Koni II class frigate for the Algerian Navy and will hand them over in July. Algeria and the Severnaya Verf shipyard signed a contract in 2007 for the overhaul of three warships of each class. Russia delivered the first pair, consisting of a Project 1234E Nanuchka II class corvette (Rais Hamidou) and a Project 1159T Koni II class frigate (Mourad Rais), to Algeria in February 2011.