The long-anticipated Baynunah naval ship, the first vessel in a series of five to be built under the UAE’s corvette programme, was launched at a glittering military ceremony in Cherbourg, France, yesterday.

The 72m-long Baynunah, named after a region of Abu Dhabi, is the first of a new class of multipurpose missile corvettes built by French shipbuilder CMN and Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB) using technology from countries including Britain, the US, Norway, Germany and Italy.

UAE Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hamad Mohammed Thani Al Rumaiti described the launch as “a historic day”, referring to the Baynunah as the first warship designed for gulf conditions.

CMN CEO Iskandar Safa thanked the UAE navy and congratulated the contributing parties in completing the project following what he described as “hurdles” and challenges encountered in its early stages.

Drawing parallels between a recent visit by Nicolas Sarkozy to Abu Dhabi, where the French president inaugurated a French base, Safa also praised the success of this particular French and Arab partnership.

The Baynunah, which will be stationed at Abu Dhabi in 2011, can perform a wide range of military operations including patrolling international waters, air and surface surveillance and intelligence, intercepting enemy forces, protecting ports and supporting land forces.

The combat system will include 3-D surveillance radar, an EW suite, two small calibre guns, an air defence missile system and a 4.5t helicopter and hangar.

The five other ships in the series are scheduled to be built in the UAE by contract holder ADSB under the technical supervision of CMN.

Also in attendance at the launch was Rear Admiral Ahmed Mohammed Al Sabab and senior members of the French and UAE navy.