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Force levels in the German Navy currently hovering around the 65-ship mark, including eleven replenishment ships and 20 miscellaneous auxiliary vessels of different classes, are set to increase slightly in the upcoming years. Faced with delays to its shipbuilding plans, however, the naval service is now about to receive two new fleet tankers in the 2020s. As of the end of June 2019, the median age of the inventory of logistics vessels was about 28.4 years, with the two Spessart class (Type 704) fleet tankers Rhön (A 1443) and Spessart (A 1442) representing some of the oldest assets, now reaching a service life of almost 42 years. It is interesting to note that both these vessels were acquired by the then Bundesmarine as second-hand ships in March 1976; the vessels were originally constructed as civil oil tankers by Kröger shipyard near Rendsburg (now Lürssen-Kröger Werft) and delivered to the Danish shipping company Terkildsen & Olsen. Because they were constructed and classified as single-hull tankers, they will not cope with the latest approval regulations. The two vessels will now be decommissioned until 2024/25. The Chief of the German Navy, Vice Admiral Andreas Krause, noted that the successor of the Spessart class takes shape.

The two new Type 707 fleet tankers will add to the capability of the three mission-proven Berlin class (Type 702) fast combat support ships (Einsatzgruppenversorger or EGV in German Navy parlance), enabling the surface fleet to deploy a total of five “logistics ships small” by 2024. According to the German Navy, the two Type 707 vessels will be constructed based on the latest international shipbuilding standards, representing double-hull tankers with a full displacement of roughly 20,000 tonnes. The new class will differ from its predecessor in many ways: length 170 vs. 130m; width 24 vs. 19.3m; fuel capacity 15,000 vs. 11,500 tonnes; maximum speed 20 vs. 16 knots; space for standard containers 20 vs. two; crew 20 vs. 42. The navy explained that when the new vessels hit the water, all ports that were used by the predecessor can be reached, which is thanks to their draft of 8 metres. However, it is not only the navy that is keen to ask for the new capability – it is NATO that wants Germany to improve and strengthen its naval/maritime capabilities.

MONCh will revisit the project when it enters shipbuilders’ doors.

Stefan Nitschke

 

The two 1970era fleet tankers of the Spessart class await replacement in the 2020s. (Photo: NATO)

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