THE GERMAN NAVY F 125 DEBATE
By Stefan Nitschke, M.Sc., Defence Analyst
The German Navy is about to receive a new class of next-generation surface combatants certainly replacing the eight Type 122 (BREMEN class) anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates which the German Navy commissioned between 1982 and 1990. Previously known as KNG/Kampfschiff Neue Generation or New-Generation Combatant, the Type 125 will be a destroyer-type vessel in terms of size and combat system capability, however. The initial requirement of eight platforms has now been cut to four vessels, leaving the Navy’s surface force levels from the originally planned surface combatant force level of sixteen frigate-size vessels to at least eleven major platforms.
The Type 125 frigate will certainly fill in the gap of air defence and ASW which the upcoming Type K 130 (BRAUNSCHWEIG class) corvette is lacking. When the German Defence Minister Peter Struck decided to bring the F 125 programme on stream in 2007 or 2008, the vessel’s anticipated deployment by so-called stabilisation forces was heavily criticised. This was due to its lacking flexibility to also perform in multinational or Joined/Combined operations other than stabilisation tasks. There were also crippling debates on behalf of the vessel’s improved Cold War-era ASW and its planned capability to transport embarked troops to hostile shores. The latter requirement may have been simply drawn from the Amphibious Transport Ship or ETrUS/Einsatztruppenunterstuetzungsschiff which has been cancelled due to budgetary reasons. But this seems to be highly speculative, however. When functioning in littoral waters, the new frigate would have an improved naval surface fire support (NSFS) capability derived from the integration of a large-calibre naval gun. In doing so, the Type 125 frigate will be optimised to have the MONARC naval gun system which is being drawn from the PzH 2000 155mm/52 calibre tube artillery system. MONARC stands for Modular Naval Artillery Concept and is being developed by an industrial project team comprising Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH, Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft AG (HDW), and Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH.
As told at a national workshop on weapons effectiveness in Cologne late last year, the tried-and-tested MONARC naval gun system would substantially improve the range (out to 80 kilometres) and effectiveness of NSFS against the spectrum of hardened and semi-hardened targets ashore. Lutz Steffen from MTG Marinetechnik GmbH and Hauke Theiler from Thales Defence Deutschland GmbH underlined in their speeches that the integration of the MONARC system into the future open architecture combat management system (CMS) of the Type 125 frigate could be supported by integrating some elements from an artillery C2 BMS as eventually found in the Army’s ADLER I/II system. Atlas Elektronik (BAE Systems), EADS, and Thales are now talking with the Thyssen Krupp-owned and Blohm + Voss-led German naval shipbuilding consortium on how this future CMS will look like.
There are also speculations whether an all-weather GMLRS/Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System capability may be added to the vessel’s combat system configuration. Although the integration of the MONARC gun mount onto a surface vessel like the Type 125 frigate would pose no significant problems with regard to weight and the large calibre ordnance load required, the effects of the gun’s recoil forces on the vessel’s structure will certainly require further attention by eventually employing an elastic mounting system consisting of special shock absorber elements.
Meanwhile, MoD officials and members from the BWB procurement agency have stated that the Type 125 class will likely build on the nearly completed Trilateral Frigate Cooperation (TFC) programme, but there are good arguments to also carefully monitor other international programmes like the UK’s Future Surface Combatant (FCS), the European Multi-Mission Frigate (FREMM/Frégates Europée