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On 12 December 2013, the christening ceremony of the first F125 frigate “Baden-Württemberg” (F 222) appeared at Building Dock 5 of Blohm+Voss Shipyards in Hamburg.

On 12 December 2013, the christening ceremony of the first F125 frigate “Baden-Württemberg” (F 222) appeared at Building Dock 5 of Blohm+Voss Shipyards in Hamburg. ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), a company of ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions AG, heads the ARGE F125 consortium that was awarded the contract in 2007 to build four F125 frigates for the German Navy. The ARGE F125 consortium also includes Fr. Lürssen Shipyard at its two shipyards in Bremen and Wolgast (Peene-Werft), which is building the ships in cooperation with Blohm+Voss Shipyards. The other three frigates will be named “Baden-Württemberg”, “Nordrhein-Westfalen” (F 223), “Sachsen-Anhalt” (F 224), and “Rheinland-Pfalz” (F 225).

At the naming ceremony, Dr. Hans Christoph Atzpodien, CEO of ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions AG and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems GmbH, said: “The F125 is a completely new type of frigate with numerous technological innovations which will secure a solid basic workload for the shipyards involved in the coming years and help the German naval shipbuilding industry maintain and expand its leading position in key technologies.”

The new frigate is capable of remaining at sea for 24 months, representing the first realisation of the intensive use concept allowing longer deployments in international stabilisation, peacekeeping, and counter-terrorism missions. This capability is supported by a reduced crew of 120. The two-crew strategy allows a complete change of the crew during deployment. An important design characteristic of the Type F125 frigate is that the ship will be able to support up to 50 Special Forces. There will be adequate space to accommodate two MH90 helicopters and two armed RHIB. The latter are being manufactured by Fr. Fassmer Werft.

The newly founded Joint Einsatzsystem Team (JET) F125 industrial consortium (consisting of TKMS and ATLAS Elektronik GmbH) is responsible for the ship's combat system. It will be the ATLAS Naval Combat System (ANCS), which is a modern open-architecture and distributed-architecture computer system designed to provide a clear and automated tactical picture from all ship sensors, while coordinating defensive responses. In addition to these standard tasks, ANCS integrates an onshore tactical picture and artillery weapons control system. This will allow the Type F125 frigates to conduct more sophisticated on-shore surveillance and engage land-based targets in coordination with Army units. ANCS will join the ATLAS Tactical Data Link System (ADLiS) on-board the frigates. ALDiS allows the ship to use a variety of data-links to share what it sees with German and allied forces, including the key NATO standards Link 11, Link 16, and Link 22.

Aeromaritime Systembau GmbH delivers specialised antennas. Armament includes Oto Melara’s 127/64 LW (Lightweight) gun. It will be able to fire VULCANO fin-stabilised, sub-calibre, extended range projectiles over a distance of over 62nm (115km) against land targets. The fully autonomous, inertially guided round is equipped with a semi-active laser (SAL) terminal guidance system provided by Oto Melara’s joint venture partner Diehl Defence.

The ship’s CODELAG (Combined Diesel Electric And Gas turbine) hybrid propulsion system is a combination of a GE LM 2500 gas turbine with a power output of 20,000kW with two 4,500kW electric motors using a main gear unit on the port side and starboard side (both interconnected by a cross-connect gear). This will enable the ship to conduct missions extending up to 24 months without any embarkation. The GE LM 2500 gas turbine can be activated to take the frigates up to a speed of 26 knots. The ship’s extremely low-vibration, heavy-duty gearbox will be supplied by RENK AG. With this propulsion concept, slow and cruising speeds can be achieved by utilising the electric motors and for full speed, additional power will be supplied by the gas turbine. On each F125 vessel, four MTU 20V 4000 M53B diesel engines and generators offer 3,015kW/4,100hp each, producing a total of 12,060kW/16,400hp for the ship’s on-board power supply system and providing diesel-electric propulsion power for cruising speeds of up to 20 knots. These engines only require major overhaul after 24,000 operating hours. MTU is acting as the overall integrator, with Siemens Marine & Shipbuilding handling related control systems. Siemens’ products will be related to its SINAVY product line, including the electrical propulsion system, which consists of two 4.5MW electric motors with the associated converters, the electronic control unit, and the medium-voltage switchgear. For control and monitoring purposes, an integrated control and automation system for on-board ship equipment (ILASST) will be installed, including a battle damage control system (BDCS) and an on-board training system (OBTS). A few days after the naming of the first Type F125 frigate in Hamburg, CASSIDIAN announced the successful at-sea testing of the TRS-4D/NR radar in the North Sea and Baltic Sea as well as during factory acceptance tests. In two test series, the radar showed an extraordinarily high precision, detecting small targets such as unmanned aircraft, guided missiles, and periscopes. Each Type F125 frigate will be equipped with four fixed arrays. The first system is scheduled to be integrated into the first-of-class ship during 2014.

The NATO exercise STEADFAST JAZZ was designed to be the final exam for the staff working for Joint Force Command Brunssum before the mission to command the NATO Response Forces in 2014. The planning process of the entire scenario took almost two years; the exercise was preceded by numerous single-component exercises like BRILLIANT MARINER in the Mediterranean, and now it was time to put all forces to the test at once. The exercise took place between 2 and 9 November 2013 in Latvia, Poland, and on the Baltic. The ships arrived in Gdynia to prepare for the part of the exercise a week in advance. Aside from the host nation units, Gdynia welcomed the Italian destroyer ITS “Caio Duilio” (D 554), the Royal Netherlands Navy’s frigate Zr.Ms. “De Ruyter” (F 804), and six ships tied within the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1), followed by the British minehunter HMS “Ledbury” (M 30). Together with the ships under the NATO flag were the following units: ORP “Kontradmiral Xavery Czernicki” (511), BNS “Narcis” (M 923), ENS “Admiral Cowan” (M 313), FGS “Dillingen” (M 1065), Zr.Ms. “Makkum” (M 857) and HNoMS “Rauma” (M 352).

During the pre-sail conference, Maritime Command Northwood representative Captain Hakan Ercan shared his believe that “...this Maritime Live Exercise constitutes a clear example of diversity across the Alliance by including staff and units from the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and the Baltic Region. I think it is a very good opportunity to train and improve interoperability as well as to practice air-sea integration.” And just as planned, the ships went underway on 2 November, dividing into two groups and simulating a real-life situation in which the area where the main maritime coalition forces are to conduct their operation firstly needs to be checked if it is safe and free from mines. This task was placed before the SNMCMG1 adjoined for the duration of the exercise by two minehunters from Poland and the UK.

Since STEADFAST JAZZ 2013 was designed to enhance and test the cooperation between different components, the air wing and maritime assets got their chance to do so. The Italian destroyer ITS “Caio Duilio” along with Dutch and Polish frigates sailed up north just outside the Gulf of Gdańsk to cooperate with the Air Force during a coordinated air defence exercise. For several hours, the fast aircraft claimed the sky and all ships of the Maritime Livex were subjected to simulated air strikes. That allowed their crews to train the evasive manoeuvring and practice air defence procedures while the pilots were training in combat against the ships at sea. During the training, the aircraft were directed to the targets from the flagship to ensure proper targeting procedures and attack coordination. This type of cooperation is especially important in the view of possible joint operations in the future, as the air assets can easily act in support of maritime operations on a broader scale.

Maritime aviation was also an important part of the exercise. The coordinated search for a submarine proved that the ASW-capable helicopters from the ships – NH90 from ITS “Caio Duilio” and SH-2G from the frigate ORP “General Tadeusz Kosciuszko” (F 273) – are important to the success of the mission. The Polish submarine ORP Sokół (294) was playing an opposing unit and was tasked to force the blockade made of three ships and the helicopter, but thanks to the highly coordinated effort of the coalition forces, the submarine was tracked and detected in due time to prevent her from breaching the perimeter.

After six days and nights at sea, the maritime live exercise concluded with all the ships entering Gdynia for the second time. During the meeting with the crews shortly after (called the ‘hot wash-up’), the Commander of the Task Group, Captain Mariusz Kościelski from the Polish Navy, said: “I need to admit that commanding this group was a privilege to me and a great opportunity to learn some new things as well. I believe that we all had a fruitful exercise and we will all benefit from this experience in the future. Within [the] last six days, we have proven that we can provide NATO with a capable force ready to be used on a short notice and that is exactly what this exercise was supposed to validate.”

Lieutenant Peter Wojtas, Polish Navy Headquarters