German frigates set for Cape missile tests


Two German frigates are in port at Simon’s Town ahead of a missile firing exercise off the southern Cape. The air defence frigate FGS Sachsen (F219, pictured) and the general purpose frigate FGS Schleswig-Holstein (F216) arrived earlier this week.

The ships will conduct the firing exercises in the waters of the Overberg Test Range, a subsidiary of the state arsenal Denel. It is understood the undertaking is codenamed Exercise Cutlass. It is further understood that a supply/replenishment vessel, FGS Berlin, will join the frigates. No South African forces are scheduled to take part in the endeavour.

The Sachsen is lead-ship of the F124 class. She was laid down on February 1, 1999 at the Blohm + Voss yard in Hamburg and commissioned into the Deutsche Marine on December 31, 2003. The design is based on that of the preceding F123 Brandenburg class but with enhanced stealth features, a Thales Nederland APAR multifunction radar as well as a Thales Nederland SMART-L long-range radar claimed to be capable of detecting stealth aircraft and stealth missiles.

In common with the Dutch De Zeven Provinciën class frigates, the Sachsen has an anti-air warfare system built around the APAR and SMART-L radars and the Raytheon SM-2 Block IIIA Standard medium-range area defence as well as Raytheon RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) point defence surface-to-air missiles. The class is fitted with a 32-cell US Mk41 vertical launch system (VLS). Of the cells, 24 are allocated to the Standard and eight to the smaller ESSM. The latter is fitted four per cell, giving a total of 32 missiles. In addition, the frigate is fitted with two Raytheon Mk49 close-in weapon systems (CIWS) launchers, with 21 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) each. Its surface warfare capability lies in two quadruple Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, a OTO-Melara 76 mm dual-purpose gun and two Mauser MLG 27 27mm autocannons while its anti-submarine ability rests in two triple torpedo launchers with EuroTorp MU90 Impact torpedoes and two AgustaWestland Sea Lynx Mk.88A or two NH90 helicopters equipped with torpedoes or depth charges. The helicopters can also carry MBDA Sea Skua air-to-surface missiles and/or a machine gun.

The Schleswig-Holstein is an example of the Brandenburg class. The wikipedia records they were ordered by the German navy from June 1989 and completed and commissioned between 1994 and 1996. They are currently being upgraded with a new combat management system, a version of the Thales Nederland Tacticos system, being fitted. This will integrate wih the current primary radars – the Thales Nederland LW08 long-range 2D search radar and the Thales Nederland SMART-S medium-range 3D surveillance radar. The class carries an OTO-Melara 76 mm/62 Mk-75 multi-purpose naval gun and two Rheinmetall Rh202 rapid-fire 20mm cannon (to be replaced by the Mauser BK-27). Air defence is provided by a Mk41 Mod 3 VLS fitted with 16 Raytheon RIM7 Sea Sparrow point defence missiles, with plans to upgrade this to ESSM. This is augmented by two RAM CIWS. Four MBDA MM38 Exocet antiship missiles are carried for surface warfare (scheduled to be replaced by the Saab RBS15 Mk3) and four 324mm torpedo launchers for Mk46 antisubmarine torpedoes. The air component consists of two Sea Lynx.

Meanwhile, HMS Edinburgh, a Royal Navy Type 42 (Batch 3) air defence destroyer, is also in port for rest and relaxation. The ship deployed in May 2011 on an eight month voyage that was scheduled to see her visit the Cape Verde and Falkland Islands.