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Wednesday 11 May 2016

Baden-Württemberg class frigates of the German Navy

Written by D-Mitch 

The German Navy F125 class frigate Baden-Württemberg
during sea trials (July 1st). Photo: Carsten Vennemann
After approximately two years, and with very limited time, I managed finally to reach my 100th post. Due to this special occasion, I chose to write an analysis on a warship class that has not been in service yet, a new "controversial" warship design if I may say which I will elaborate later why is that. This is the newest frigate design today in Europe and one of the latest worldwide, the Baden-Württemberg class of the German Navy, also known as F125 class which is the project name. The F125 class intends to replace the eight aged F122 class (also known as Bremen class) of frigates in a 1:2 ratio which means one F125 class frigate will succeed two F122 class frigates.

Frigate Baden-Württemberg. Source here.
Nordrhein-Westfalen (F223)
on April 16 Photo: Michael Nitz
Sachsen-Anhalt (F224) on
March 2016. Photo: Klaus Gaeth
The new class is developed by ARGE F125, a joint-venture of Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (including Blohm + Voss and Nordseewerke) and Lürssen Werft. The pre-fitted bow sections are being manufactured at the Fr. Lürssen Werft shipyards in Bremen and Wolgast. Construction of the stern sections, the joining of the two sections and further fitting out is being carried out at Blohm+Voss Shipyards in Hamburg. An initial batch of four frigates was ordered by the German Navy on 26 June 2007; the batch of the four ships in total costs around 2.2 billion Euros. The first frigate, Baden-Württemberg (F222) was laid down on November 2, 2011, launched on March 31, 2014 and she is planned to enter service by 2016. The second ship and third ship in the class, Nordrhein-Westfalen (F223) and Sachsen-Anhalt (F224) were launched in April of 2015 and March of 2016 respectively. The second ship is planned to enter in service in October of 2017 while the third one during the first months of 2019. The fourth ship in the class, Rheinland-Pfalz (F225), has not been launched yet but she is expected to be delivered by 2019.

The large flight deck. Photo: Alexander Gottschalk
Baden-Württemberg fully equipped
Photo: Arne Luetkenhorst

Frigate Baden-Württemberg
Photo: Arne Luetkenhorst

F125's CODLAG propulsion system
F125 frigates fitting out
The F125 class frigates have the capability to be deployed worldwide for up to two years away from homeports without base or dockyard maintenance with an average sea operation time of more than 5,000 hours per year (that's nearly 60%) which includes operation under tropical conditions, in comparison for example of the 2 months of deployment and 2,500 hours of operation of the F124 class (with a crew of 234 men). For this reason, a combined diesel-electric and gas arrangement has been chosen for the machinery. The frigates are fitted with a new combined diesel electric and gas turbine (CODLAG) propulsion system with a 20MW General Electric LM 2500 gas turbine, four 3MW MTU 20V 4000 M53B diesel engines and two Siemens electric motors providing 4.7MW each. This allows the substitution of large and powerful diesel engines for propulsion and sets of smaller diesel generators for electric power generation with a pool of med-sized diesel generators, reducing the number of different engines. Additionally, the F125s are fitted with bow thrusters for precision dockyard maneuvering without assistance.

Modified photo of Baden-Württemberg class frigate. For a high resolution image click here.
The second ship in the class, Nordrhein-Westfalen
The general characteristics of the class is a displacement of approximately 7,200tons at full load making them the biggest class of frigate worldwide (!), length of 149.5m, beam of 18.8m, maximum speed of (only?) 26 knots and a range of 4,000n.m. with the speed of 18 knots. The crew is just 120 (!), half the permanent crew compared with classic multi-purpose frigates, thanks to a high level of automation while there are additional accommodations for more people (commando teams, marines, helicopters' crews, squadron's staff) reaching a complement of 190.

Modified photo of Baden-Württemberg class frigate. For a high resolution image click here.

Fassmer RHIB.
Photo: Jacques Peter
Photo: Dennis Schneider, Bundeswehr
Each ship can accommodate two medium class helicopters and/or UAVs as well as four armed 11-meter FASSMER Special Operations Boats SFB 10.1 Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIB). The four RHIBs are accommodate in equal numbers of bays, two at each side of the ship. These bays are fitted with davits that lower the RHIB on to the water. The FASSMER RHIBs are capable of more than 40 kn (74 km/h); for more information about the boats visit this link. Furthermore, two 6.1-meter containers may be embarked immediately after the fore mast.

The characteristics of FASSMER RHIB. Image: Fassmer

F125 class frigate
Fully armed F125 class frigate
(notice the white containers)
The Baden-Württemberg class frigates have advanced stealth characteristics and they are equipped with cutting-edge technologies. The main mission of the ships, due to their long endurance, special armament and small crew, is taking part in joint-assignments such as anti-piracy operations or patrolling in a large patrol zone, operating as command ships for multinational task forces such as anti-migration missions or monitoring cessation of hostilities and helping ensure humanitarian access to civilian population (or evacuation) and finally assisting ground force operations by providing naval gunfire/land attack support and by launching special operations teams transported by the two helicopters aboard the ship and/or the four RHIBs (that's why there are accommodations for additional 50+20 people on the ships). Therefore, many times the F125 ships are reported as stabilization frigates.
Three German Navy Baden-Württemberg class frigates sailing together

Nordrhein-Westfalen (F223)
The F125-class is a completely new type of ship with innovations across numerous fields of technology. The new class introduces the «two island» concept, whereby critical Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (C3I), sensors and effectors are split between separated superstructure «islands» forward and aft, allowing the ship to continue to fight even after severe damage  that may occur due to accidents or enemy action. Notice though that due to these large pyramidal deckhouses, the sensors do not cover each other's area of coverage but are limited to specific directions. Thus the full (i.e., 360-degree) coverage is only achieved with the complete pair of sensors despite that the systems are present at least twice at different places within the ship. If one sensor is destroyed the ship will have for sure a dead zone depending on the type of sensor is lost or destroyed.

The lead ship of the class, frigate Baden-Württemberg (F222)

Photo: Alexander Gottschalk
127mm gun of Baden-Württemberg
Photo: Arne Luetkenhorst
The vessels of the class are armed with eight remote controlled guns of three different calibers (from 12.7mm to 127mm!) as well as with non-lethal weapons such as water cannons, sonic weapons and Light Emitting Diode (LED) Incapacitators for non provocative deterrence and defence. The frigates are armed with the latest design in the 5-inch naval gun category. The class will be the third in the world to be equipped with the OTO Melara 127mm LW after the Italian Navy Bergamini (GP) class frigates and the MEKO 200AN class frigates of the Algerian Navy. The OTO Melara 127mm/64cal Lightweight (LW) is part of the VULCANO system which consists of four key sub-systems: the medium caliber 127/64 LW Gun assembly, the Automated Ammunition Handling System, the Naval Fire Control Support and the VULCANO family of ammunition. The system is intended for surface fire and naval gunfire support as main role and anti-aircraft fire as secondary role. 

The 127/64 LW Vulcano System. Image: OTO Melara

Photo: Frank Schlünsen
167/64 LW gun of F125 class
The 127/64 LW - VULCANO is equipped with a modular feeding magazine, composed by 4 drums with 14 ready to fire ammunition each (56 in total), reloadable during firing, and highly flexible in terms of selection of ammunition, independently from their position in the drums. Ammunition flow is reversible as rounds can be downloaded automatically. The 127mm VULCANO ammunition family, is composed by Ballistic Extended Range (BER) and Guided Long Range (GLR) ammunition with different multifunctional fuses, sensor and final guidance that extend the range of the gun up to 100km. The rate of fire is 32rds per minute and a range of 23km against surface targets and about 9km against airborne targets.

Rheinmetall MLG 27 RWS
Each vessel of the class is equipped with two Rheinmetall MLG 27 RWS (Remote Weapons Systems). Short for "Marineleichtgeschütz 27mm" (light naval gun), the MLG 27 is the naval version of the 27 mm BK 27 aircraft gun used on the Tornado and Gripen fighter aircraft. This weapon is a gas-operated automatic revolver cannon. Based on the high rate of fire BK27 revolver cannon (up to 1,700 rounds per minute!) it enables effective engagement of fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, speedboats and land based targets. The system is particularly suitable for defending against terrorist attacks involving high-speed craft. The MLG27 features an integrated EO sensor package from SAM Electronics (previously known as STN Atlas Elektronik) with TV camera, thermal imager, laser range finder, tilt sensor, stabilized mirror system and video tracking system for automatic and manual target tracking. It is interfaced with existing ship systems and it can be operated remotely or locally with a joystick. 

The MLG27 design allows integration in all kinds of vessels without the need for deck penetration. The system has a maximum range of up to 4,000m and while the effective range is close to 2,500m. The system can receive a wide array of modern medium caliber ammunition, including Frangible Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot (FAPDS), Frangible Armour Piercing (FAP), target practice (TP) and PELE (Penetrator with Enhanced Lateral Effects). Watch a video of the gun system while its firing here.

The main gun of the frigate
Photo: Alexander Gottschalk
Frigate F222 during sea trials on July 1st.
Photo: Carsten Vennemman, Bundedswehr

127mm gun and HITROLE NT.
Photo: Alexander Gottschalk,


HITROLE NT. Photo: OTO Melara
The vessels have five (!) OTO Melara Hitrole remote controlled Naval Turrets (NT) with 12.7mm FN M2HB heavy machine guns. Hitrole 12.7mm naval turret is a modern system fully controlled from a remote station via an advanced control console that allows the gunner to operate from a protected position within the ship's structure: any operation, including loading and recocking, can be undertaken with maximum safety for the operator. The system has a firing rate of 450-550 rds/min and the effective firing range is about 2km. The turret is electrically operated and very accurate due to powerful digital servos. Sighting and tracking actions are performed by means of a high performance day TV camera, IR sensor for night operation, Laser Range Finder and Auto Tracker. The system is linked to other Electro-Optical sensors on board the ship and to ship’s Combat Management System (CMS).

One of the total five HITROLE NT 12.7mm RWS
Frigate Baden-Württemberg stern view

The front RAM launcher.
RAM Block 2. Photo: Raytheon
For specialized antiaircraft and antimissile defense (CIWS) other than the guns, the vessels have two Mk49 Guided Missile Launching Systems (GMLS) with 21 missiles each ready to launch RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) (Block 1A). Together, missiles and launching system comprise the RAM Mk 31 Guided Missile Weapon System (GMWS). RAM is in a class-leading weapon system providing a full perimeter protection to the vessel operator. The Block 1A missile has infrared guidance system that enables it to intercept missiles that are not emitting any radar signals while the Block 0 passive radar homing capabilities have been retained. The range exceeds the 9 km and the speed surpasses the 2 Mach.The frigates of the class are equipped with the latest variant, the RAM Block 2 which is an upgraded version of the RAM missile aimed at more effectively countering more maneuverable anti-ship missiles. A larger, more powerful rocket motor and advanced control section make the missile two and a half times more maneuverable with one and a half times the effective intercept range. An enhanced RF receiver allows detection of anti-ship missiles that employ low probability of intercept receivers.

The Mk141 launchers of  the lead ship of the class and one MLG27.
Photo: Arne Luetkenhorst

Harpoon missile launch
KDA Naval Strike Missile (NSM)
Each frigate carries eight (8) Boeing RGM-84D Harpoon anti-ship missiles in two Mk141 quad launchers amidships. This is an interim solution until the advanced joint sea/land attack missile Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (KDA) Naval Strike Missile (NSM) will be delivered to the Navy. NSM will replace the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile currently fitted aboard almost all the German Navy surface combatants: F123, F124, F125 and MKS180 frigates, except the two remaining F122s. This cancels the initial plan of equipping the F125s with the RBS-15 Mk3/4s. NSM has an operational range of 185 Km (100 nautical miles) and a high subsonnic speed. It uses Inertial, GPS and terrain-reference navigation and imaging infrared homing (with target database). The warhead if 125 kg (276 lb) HE blast-fragmentation. The Harpoon missiles have a range greater than 120km, a sub-sonic of speed of 860km/h (Mach 0.9) while they carry a warhead of 221kg. Harpoon missile has a low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory, active radar guidance and it is capable to perform pop-up manoeuver which it is a rapid climb of the missile to about 1,800m before diving on the locked target. Once the target is detected, the missile approaches this in a flight height of 2 to 5 meters until impact. The warhead does not discharge directly on impact, but with a time delay, so that the explosion takes place inside the ship and significantly more damage than at a contact igniting weapon.

Cutaway of a Baden-Württemberg-class (F125) class frigate. High resolution image here.

F124 class frigate and Mk41 VLS
F123 class frigate and Mk41 VLS
However, despite the large displacement and dimensions, it is really weird such a huge warship to not be equipped with a vertical launching system (VLS) for anti-aircraft missiles at least for her protection or even land attack cruise missiles such as Tomahawk LACM. That's the main reason why this designs is considered "controversial" in the introduction of this article (including the absence of an ASW sonar). The German Navy, has chosen a common pattern for her warships the last decades: two CIWS (i.e. RAM launchers), one above and behind the main gun (B-mounting position) and one above the helicopter hangar, and anti-aircraft missiles immediately after the first CIWS. This is the how the armament suite has been arranged in F-123 (Brandenburg) class and F-124 (Sachsen) class frigates. This time though, in the F-125 class, the forward CIWS is not in the typical position as it is the rule for the predecessors, but it is placed on where it "should" be the surface area for numerous vertical launching canisters, immediately forward of the bridge. Thus, a RAM launcher stands alone on this very large surface.

RAM launcher in different positions
RAM launcher in different positions

F125 class scale model in 2008.
Photo: Mike Colombaro
F125 class scale model in 2012.
Photo: unknown
In earlier F125 frigate scale models, the arrangement of the armament is the same, but the space behind the main gun is much larger than today's "real" frigate. This happens either because the first scale models were not so accurate as the latest one in 2013 or either because the designers changed their plans and thus leaving less space for what is called today "the boxy superstructure" behind the 5-inch gun which is.. the gym of the frigate! The fact that this is the gym, which is actually an empty space full with a plethora of machines for fitness exercises, may leave the possibility for an installation of few VLS modules. I believe the assumption of the space for future installation of a VLS is indeed valid and the existence of a gym in that space allows for future additions of new weapons. That's why I have mentioned in the image where I depict the weapons and electronic equipment on the ship, that perhaps there is a provision for a future installation of a vertical launching system. The installation of a VLS will transform these large German frigates into something more than "just" a frigate reminding the Deutschland class heavy cruisers of WWII which were very well known as pocket battleships due to their heavy armament but ships' very small size. 
Scale model of F125 class frigate in 2013. Photo: Klaus Gaeth
Of course, despite the absence of a SAM launcher, nobody can deny that the ships are very advanced and very well equipped for the role they were designed for. If they will receive any VLS in the future, the installation of such system will enable them to undertake even more complicated missions in high tensity environments and more independently as well.

F222 Baden-Württemberg, lead ship in the class

German Navy NH90 Sea Lion
German Navy Sea Lynx Mk.88A
Each ship of the class can carry two Sea Lynx Mk.88A or two NH90 Sea Lion (they are not yet operational) medium helicopters which can be accommodated in the hangar and of course aboard the large 490m² aft helicopter deck together with a number of UAV. The helicopters can be equipped with MU90 torpedoes (the only ASW weapons of the frigate via her helicopters), air-to-surface missiles Sea Skua (25km operational range), and/or heavy machine guns.

The lead ship of the class, frigate Baden-Württemberg. Photo by Helwin Scharn

MASS decoy launcher.
Photo: Rheinmetall
Lead ship.
Photo: photorable21
Each ship is protected by four Rheinmetall multi-ammunition softkill systems (MASS). The MASS decoy launchers are installed on the port and starboard sides the fitness room and on the helicopter hangar roof. The launcher is connected to the ship's sensors and protects ships from attacks by advanced, sensor-guided missiles, by launching decoys, that operate in all relevant wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum (ultra violet, electro-optical, laser, infrared and radar).

The frigate Baden-Württemberg (F222)

The three modes of TRS-4D and their performances
The F125 class has the non-rotating multi-function Airbus Group TRS-4D/NR (Non Rotating) Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) C-band radar version with two fixed arrays on the forward radar mast and two on the rear mast. The radar works using the technology of electronic beam scanning (E-Scan), which is deployed for both conventional, mechanically rotating aerials and immovably mounted radar aerial panels. Four aerial panels are distributed between two ship’s masts, each carrying two panels. Due to the real-time electronic control of the beam, this radar can carry out several reconnaissance tasks at the same time. For example, it can do a long-range scan of the sea and airspace while simultaneously concentrating on tracking individual targets. In comparison to conventional radars it thus achieves a significantly higher surveillance and detection efficiency and reliability. The radar’s performance is essentially based on numerous transmitter and receiver modules in the aerial, which are made from materials especially suitable for high frequencies. The radar offers three fundamental modes: Surveillance, Self-Defense and Sector (see table for performances). The maximum range of the radar is up to 250km, up to 14km for small surface targets and up to 100km for maritime patrol aircrafts. It can track up to 1,000 targets.

Within a single system, the TRS-4D incorporates:
  • 3D air volume surveillance with fast target alert
  • High range resolution surface surveillance
  • Target designation to combat management system for AAW and ASuW
  • Surface gun fire control with splash detection
  • Ship-controlled helicopter approach (SCA) support
  • Jammer detection, tracking and suppression
  • Cued search with enhanced detection performance for a dedicated sector
  • Cued track with high-accuracy target tracking for missile guidance
  • Sector scanning with non-rotating antenna
  • Target classification
  • Integrated IFF
Frigate Baden-Württemberg during sea trials. Photo: Hartmut Hoffmann
MSP-600. Photo: Rheinmetall
The Rheinmetall Modular Sensor Platform MSP 600 is a light-weight four axis stabilized electro-optical system and is used by day and by night for the detection, observation and identification of objects and for target tracking and fire control. This system is also capable of recognize multiple targets which a radar only shows as a single target. Always operating in passive mode, the MSP 600 is virtually undetectable and thus complements, or is a substitute for, radar. The MSP 600 comprises a thermal imager, a daylight camera, a laser range finder (range up to 40km) and a dual mode tracker. To achieve excellent stabilization values of the line of sight, the sensor package is controlled by a coarse/fine system and is thus independent of environmental influences. The MSP is an excellent data source for tactical and/or nautical navigation as well as for fire control. Specifically designed for day- and night-time operation, it can also be used in adverse weather conditions. 

Hard-kill and soft-kill weapon systems of a F125 class frigate. High resolution image here.

SIMONE IRST. Photo: Diehl
In order to close the capability gap in autonomous close-in monitoring and to increase protection against asymmetric threats, Diehl BGT Defence was tasked with the development of an optical surveillance system. Diehl designed SIMONE (Ship Infrared Monitoring Observation and Navigation Equipment) to equip the new German frigates. The system  provides complete and permanent monitoring of the vessel´s structure as well as it allows early and reliable detection of small objects, even very small suspicious objects such as inflatable rubber boats or persons swimming, enabling flexible and precise response. SIMONE takes into account the new crew concept envisaging less manpower by provision of autonomous monitoring requiring no additional personnel. Automatic alarm with relevant data for the command and control system is generated in case of detected threats. Uncooled infrared detectors featuring longevity as well as 24/7 high image quality meet the requirement of permanent operational readiness. 

The F125's enhanced survivability characteristics
Bridge of Baden-Württemberg.
Photo: Alexander Gottschalk
Bridge of Baden-Württemberg.
Photo: Alexander Gottschalk

The F125's CMS. By Atlas Electronik
The sensors complete two Raytheon Anschütz (NautoScan NX?) X-band navigation radars and two S-band with a maximum range of 96 nautical miles. There are also a Atlas Elektronik Cerberus Mod2 diver and swimmer detection sonar (but no anti-submarine sonar), a Gedis KORA-18 combined radar and communications electronic support measures system (ESM), Link 11, Link 16, Link 22 tactical data link communication systems as the design gives an emphasis on task group command and situational awareness and two EADS MSSR 2000I automatic Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems. The command and control and weapons deployment system is the FuWES (Fuhrungs-und Waffeneinsatzsystem) by Atlas Electronik. The combat management system is operated from the Atlas Elektronik OMADA consoles.

The lead ship in the class. Photo by Oliver Mohrbeck



  1. And now you have to crack the 1.000 mark.
    Only 900 posts left!

    1. Ha ha, this will take a lot of time my friend. I hope though I will not be so busy in the future and thus to be able to update the blog more often.

      P.S. There was an issue with the comments in my page, sorry for posting your comment so late.

  2. Well,if you post little seminars like this last one,it can take for ever to reach the 1.000 mark.
    And anyone who has read 1.000 posts like this,can reasonably demand a master of arts degree for that!

    1. For your joy, my intelligence is whispering that D-Mitch's next "seminar" will be about P-3GR's :)

  3. a big ship with a small punch

    1. Not so small punch. With the exception of anti-aircraft missiles, the ship does not lack a good armament: from long range anti-ship missiles, a modern 5in gun, effective CIWS, a dozen of RWS, two helos etc.

    2. The punch is not the problem. The shield is.

  4. With the experience that the Russian Black Sea Fleet had with the Ukrainian Magura V naval drones in the Ukraine war, the MGs on the sides of the frigate Baden-Würtemberg seem to have been an excellent choice.