The German Navy is commissioning the final of its four Baden-Württemberg-class F125 frigates in a ceremony in Wilhelmshaven on July 13.
FGS Rheinland-Pfalz enters service after being handed over by shipbuilder thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) in January this year, in what marked the conclusion of a delay-riddled program that started 15 years ago.
As we wrote earlier, FGS Rheinland-Pfalz was handed over after its launch in 2017. All of the ships in the class experienced significant delays in the delivery, as they had to undergo a redesign effort to address issues identified during the operation of the first ship in the class.
In fact, the amount of issues identified forced the German Navy to return the first-in-class ship to the shipbuilder for rectification after it was initially handed over in 2016. It was redelivered in 2019.
The majority of issues revolves around the fact that some 90 percent of the highly complex systems on board the F125 were developed specifically for this new type of ship. The complexity caused problems in the operations room, from where the systems designed to provide a very high degree of automation would be controlled. According to the shipbuilder, the frigates can be operated by a core crew of 126 despite displacing over 7,000 tons.
In addition to automation issues, the frigates will have to sail with a persistent 1.3 degree list to starboard. They are also heavier than initially planned, which will have an effect on the cost of operations and limit the potential for future capability upgrades.
Now that all four ships have been delivered, the German Navy expects to achieve an initial operational capability with the vessels by mid-2023, following further operational trials.
“The fourth and final commissioning of the F125 class represents another important milestone for our squadron and the navy,” explained the commander of the 4th Frigate Squadron, Captain at Sea Dirk Jacobus. “This is the first time all four ships are in the navy’s area of responsibility. With the transfer of the last F125, we gain an additional means for targeted training of all our crews,” the commander said.
The 7,000-ton frigates are replacing the eight Bremen-class frigates currently in service with the German Navy. The ships are delivered by the ARGE F125 consortium, comprising thyssenkrupp Marine Systems as the lead company and the Bremenbased Fr. Lürssen shipyard.
F125 frigates are armed with HARPOON and RAM missiles, a 127 mm naval gun, two 27 mm and five 12.7 mm guns.
They will be tasked with maritime surveillance in crisis regions worldwide, such as missions for embargo controls or anti-piracy operations. The class is especially suited for these missions as it is capable of operating continuously independent of its home port for up to two years with 5,000 operating hours.
The interval between inspections for the warships is five years and eight months as planned. This is nearly double the operational time and quadruple the maintenance intervals compared to the German Navy’s previous frigates.
The reduced maintenance requirements, combined with automation and digitization aboard the ships, make it possible to reduce crew size from more than 200 on the other frigates to 126 servicemen and women on those of the Baden-Württemberg class. Several crews are envisioned to take turns every four months during an extended deployment. In this multi-crew concept, eight crews are planned for the four Baden-Württemberg-class ships.