Hensoldt and Saab to Modernise German Frigates

The German government has signed a contract with Hensoldt Sensors to replace the Sachsen-class’ (F124) radar. Last month, a contract was signed with Saab to modernise the radar and fire control systems of its predecessor class, the Brandenburg (F123).

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On the 23rd of August, the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) signed a contract with Hensoldt Sensors GmbH for the manufacture, delivery, and installation of four radar systems for the Saxon-class frigates (F124). The value of the contract totals around 220 million euros. In addition, necessary training services, as well as the production of supply readiness, were agreed upon with the conclusion of the contract.

The new radars are long-range radars for air and sea surveillance of the type TRS-4D/LR ROT. By 2025, these are to replace the SMART-L radars currently in use on the three frigates. In addition, a further system will be installed in the test reference and training facility at the Naval Technology School in Parow from as early as 2023. In addition to practical training, this will provide the opportunity to test any system modifications on the radar before they are implemented on board.

With the TRS-4D/LR ROT, the Sachsen-class will in the future have one of the world's most powerful and modern radars, which in addition to better reconnaissance and target tracking characteristics also have the capability to detect and track ballistic missiles. This order therefore marks the start of the development of national capabilities in the field of Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD). The radar's AESA (Active Electronically Scanning Array) technology enables precise detection of particularly small and manoeuvrable objects at a range of more than 400 km for air targets and up to 2,000 km for objects in Earth orbit.

For this project, Hensoldt has entered into strategic cooperation in the field of BMD-capable wide-range radars in S-band with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) subsidiary ELTA Systems Ltd. This supplies Germany with a combination of a national partner for certification and long-term support, as well as market-available systems that have been tried and tested in the field.

The three F124 (Sachsen, Hamburg, and Hessen) were commissioned between 2004 and 2005. They are designed as multi-purpose escort and sea control frigates. All sensors and weapons on board are optimized for air defence. In addition, the F124 class frigates are the only ships of the German Navy that provide the fleet anti-aircraft capability. The conversion of the ships will begin in 2024 and is expected to be completed by 2028.

Last month, on the 30th of July, the BAAINBw signed contracts for the modernization of the tactical radar and fire control systems of the German Navy's Brandenburg-class frigates (F123) with the Swedish contractor Saab AB.

The so-called BASIC package contract includes the replacement of the frigates' tactical 3D and 2D omnidirectional search rada. As a globally unique feature, these will in future have an active, non-rotating antenna for interrogating friend-or-foe (IFF) data over long ranges. In parallel, a comprehensive modification of the Command and Weapon Engagement System (FüWES) is being carried out to integrate the new systems. The modification of the FüWES will significantly strengthen resilience against modern cyber threats and form the basis for modernizing further capabilities of the Brandenburg-class frigates. Wherever possible, vendor-independent and open standards will be used. Successive deployment of the modernized frigates is planned for the years 2024 to 2027.

A contract has also been signed with Saab AB for services in the "Performance-Based Logistics" (PBL) complex to ensure operational readiness during the utilization phase. The provision of spare and replacement parts and mission-related parts packages as well as the maintenance of technical documentation and logistical master data, including predictive maintenance of systems and equipment, are components of the PBL contract. This ensures that the Bundeswehr can maintain operational readiness over the entire contract period with a minimum of its own resources and, at the same time, that industry can plan to retain know-how and production capacities.

The next step will be the conclusion of a contract for the modernization of the sensor package, which is expected before the end of 2021 and will include the replacement of the systems used to date for electronic warfare using products available on the market, including a laser warning system, as well as the expansion of capabilities of tactical data links.

The F123 have been in service of the German navy since 1994 and replaced the Hamburg-class (Type 101). The primary purpose of the four ships of the class (Brandenburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Bayern, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) has been ASW, though they have always had the capability to engage surface targets and have been fitted with anti-air capabilities ever since 2014.

"Through the contract conclusion achieved for the modernization of the tactical radar and fire control systems as well as the revision of the "electronic warfare" segment, the BAAINBw agrees on the first of a series of measures to adapt the Class 123 frigate to new threats in a targeted manner and to ensure its operational readiness until the year 2035," said the F123 project manager at the BAAINBw, Jürgen Giefer.

Further packages for defensive measures against threats from the air and above/below water (AWW package - Above Water Warfare and ASW package - Anti Submarine Warfare) are to follow soon. This will ensure the operational availability of all F123 class units, especially in the area of fleet ASW, at least until the capability transition to F126 with the planned entry into service of the first unit of the class in 2028.

By Kevin Klemann

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