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Damen orders Mk41 vertical launch systems for German F126 frigates

F126 or MKS 180 German frigate
Photo: Damen

Dutch shipbuilder Damen Naval has signed a contract with Lockheed Martin for the delivery of Mk41 vertical launching systems (VLS) for Germany’s future F126 frigates.

The VLS contract was signed on January 31, 2021, after the German defense procurement agency BAAINBw previously selected Lockheed Martin for the delivery.

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will produce and deliver two 8-cell strike length Mk41 VLS Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block 2 capable modules for each of the four ships, plus associated engineering efforts and ancillary hardware.

Both the German Navy and the Royal Netherlands Navy operate this system and Damen noted it is already familiar with the VLS system from the Dutch air defense frigate project. What is more, the system has been in service with the German Navy for over 25 years, on the F123 Brandenburg-class and F124 Sachsen-class frigates.

Initially designed with the ability to fire anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare, strike, and anti-submarine warfare missiles simultaneously, Mk41 solidified its place as the world’s premier surface-launching system.

It’s “Any Weapon/Any Cell” design allows a Mk41 cell to fire any integrated missile providing maximum flexibility. With over 14,000 deployed VLS cells across more than 150 vessels, 4,500 operational and test firings and an operational availability of greater than 99 percent, MK 41 VLS stands as a remarkable testament of the ingenuity. With this system, in combination with other systems and sensors onboard, the F126 has the ability to operate in the most complex maritime environments, and therefore contribute internationally to securing safety and stability.

“This contract is the next logic step for the game-changing project F126. Using Lokheed Martin’s MK 41-system on board of the new German frigates carries on a long and successful history of German and Royal Netherlands navies operating this system for years,” Hein van Ameijden, managing director of Damen Naval, said.

Damen Naval is building four F126 frigates, which were previously referred to as MKS 180 multi-purpose combat ships, together with its partners Blohm+Voss and Thales. Damen Naval was selected as the preferred bidder in 2020, following a European tender process spanning several years. The first ship is expected to be delivered to the German Navy in 2028, with all construction work set to be carried out entirely in Germany at shipyards in Kiel, Hamburg and Wolgast.

The F126 is designed as a modular ship, meaning it will be capable of executing anti-submarine, anti-air and surface warfare missions. Interestingly, the navy wants the ships to have all potential mission modules onboard and to be capable of exchanging them on a “flexdeck” without having to go into port.

The ships will measure around 155 meters in length and have a core crew of 110 while an additional 70 crew would be in charge of the mission modules.