The German Navy’s (Deutsche Marine) next new-construction programme, initially four examples of the capable MKS 180 (Mehrzweckkampfschiff 180) multirole combat ship, will be one of the first major tasks of the new Defence Minister, Annegret Kamp-Karrenbauer. Expectations were huge in recent months – in industry and in the German Navy – how to proceed with the “best and final offers” received from the shipbuilders. In a Tweet on 16 July, the Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Andreas Krause, demanded a quick evaluation of the offers, stating that the Navy needs the new ships urgently. First delivery is expected to be in 2023. One of the bidders, German Naval Yards Kiel (GNYK), delivered their final offer in time on 18 July, working closely with thyssenkrupp Marine Systems on a frigate design that should cope with the Navy’s requirements for a multirole combat ships that offers adequate capabilities and sufficient growth margin for the next 30-40 years. The new-construction programme is backed by some €5.27 billion, signaling the largest procurement programme in German Navy history. Due to the fact that the budgetary plan calls for an amount of roughly €195 million to be provided within 2019, it is expected that the evaluation of the offers received from industry and a final selection of the design will be fulfilled within this year. GNYK, in their announcement delivered on 18 July, hopes that the construction of the new frigates will be undertaken in Germany. However, a unique process in German Navy history, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) invited international bidders from France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain (Naval Group, Fincantieri, Damen Group, Navantia) for the construction contract. This European-wide bidding process seems to be politically correct, but questions remain over economic aspects. Among the surviving shipbuilders, Damen Group now works closely with Fr. Lürssen Werft-owned Blohm+Voss in Hamburg, to offer a platform that possesses mission modularity at its best. Their design should be capable of meeting all the requirements of 3D naval warfare completely. Naval Group, Fincantieri and Navantia were already removed from the bidding list in previous years.
The new surface ship class will facilitate on the Navy’s Long-Term Development Plan (LTDP) for 2020 and beyond, according to which Germany’s naval forces are in transition, with the great bulk of major surface and underwater warfare assets being optimised for ‘open ocean’ or ‘blue water’ operations. Currently, roughly 55 percent of the fleet’s surface combatants are optimised for shallow-water operations, however. This scheme shows how the German Navy is in strong need of new surface assets capable of collaborating with major partners in NATO. According to the German Navy, the MKS 180 combatants will be capable of tackling targets above and below water, supporting land missions by using an ultra-modern 127mm naval gun delivered by the Italian manufacturer Leonardo. Observers noted that a fully automatic naval gun system will be the only alternative to fully cope with future threats. The ships’ inventory of short-range and medium-range guided missiles should be capable of engaging airborne targets at a distance of 25km, enabling protection from difficult airborne threats like combat aircraft, missiles and drones. In comparison to the ongoing delivery of four Type F125 (Baden-Württemberg class) frigates, the MKS 180 multirole combat ship may be fitted with a towed sonar system suited for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Additional flexibility may be provided by one embarked helicopter and RHIBs for rapid deployment of boarding parties and Special Operations Forces.
The German Navy wants a ship capable of being upgraded with future weapon and sensor systems, enabling operations in the next 30 to 40 years. As a result, the ship’s projected displacement rose from some 5,500 tonnes to nearly 10,000 tonnes in recent years. The ship’s displacement stood at roughly 9,000 tonnes in mid-June 2019; it is suggested that this figure will be the maximum in accordance to industry. The general features of the MKS 180 ships include:-
- Length: ~155m
- Displacement: up to 9,000 tonnes
- Cruising speed: 18 knots at Sea State 4
- Range: 4,000nm at 18 knots
- Mission endurance: 24 months
- Tactical endurance: 21 days at sea without re-supply
- Accommodation: 110 including 70 troops
- Aircraft: one medium/large helicopter (maximum 15 tonnes) with anti-ship missiles; two VTOL UAS
- RHIB component: two RHIBs (same as Type F125 frigates) attaining a top speed of 26 knots
- ASuW suite: one 127mm naval gun; four to eight medium/heavy anti-ship missiles with land attack capability
-Self-defence suite: two 21-cell launchers for RAM Block II; two MLG27 cannons; two MASS decoy launchers
- Close defence suite: multiple armoured, NVG-capable weapon stands for manually operated .50-calibre machine guns and 40mm grenade launchers, snipers and MANPADS/anti-tank guided missile crews
- Mission deck: tactical EW/SIGINT/ASW package; variable depth sonar; minehunting drones; dive chamber for diver support