As the U.S. Littoral Combat Ship program is going through some serious procurement turbulence, Germany's long-awaited program to build four F125 frigates to support stabilization operations is going ahead.
A contract to build the four 6,800-ton ships was awarded at the end of June by the country's defense procurement agency BWB to a consortium led by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).
Germany's new F125 frigate for stabilization operations. Image: ARGE F125
The consortium is known as ARGE F125 and is comprised of TKMS and Lurssen Werft. Delivery of the first ship is scheduled for 2014, says the BWB, and the overall program cost is estimated to be around 2 billion euros ($2.72 billion).
The emphasis of the F125 is squarely on stabilization operations. That means the ship will be able to defend itself against both conventional and asymmetric threats and to take part for extended periods of time in operations far from home.
The ships will be designed to stay in the operational area for up to two years, during which time their 120-strong crews will be replaced on a rotational basis.
The design includes accommodations and delivery means for special operations forces.
The F125 ships will also receive numerous datalink systems (including Link 11, 16 and 22) as well as satellite communications and NATO's Maritime Command & Control Information System.
The main armament will be an Oto Melara 127mm gun (for which Germany is expected to procure the new Vulcano 100-km-range precision-guided munition currently under development by Italy and the Netherlands).
A previous plan to equip these ships with a navalized 155-mm howitzer turret plus a navalized multiple-launch rocket launcher has been abandoned -- the navalization process proved too much of a challenge. In time the space that was planned for the rocket launcher may be filled in with a Mk 41 vertical launching system to fire other types of missiles.
Weapons that will be on the ships from Day One include a RAM ship self-defense missile launcher and multiple Rheinmetall MLG 27 and Oto Melara 12.7 mm light naval guns.
Above-water warfare sensors will include a new-generation active phased array radar system plus several electro-optical systems.
Each F125 ship will have the facilities to carry and operate two naval NH90-type helicopters (not yet ordered by Germany) or other helicopters of similar type (such as Eurocopter's Tiger attack helicopter) as well as unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles.