French defence technology specialist Thales, has this week joined with the Dutch shipbuilder, Damen Shipyards to work on the German Navy’s MKS-180 frigate programme. The trilateral contract, worth €1.5 Billion was signed between the German Navy, the Damen Shipyards Group and Thales Group on the 17th of November and released to the public on the 18th. The Thales Group’s role in the manufacture of the MKS-180 frigate comes through the insertion of their Above Water Warfare (AWW) and Tacticos Combat Management Systems (CMS). The MKS-180’s bespoke AWW system will be made up of Thales’ Gatekeeper 360 degree vessel surveillance system, Mirador Electro-optical (EO) fire control system and APAR Bloc 2 AESA multi-function radar. Thales’ will also install a TRS-4D fixed panel target acquisition radar, provided by German military sensor manufacturer, Hensoldt. The task of Damen Shipyards will consist of overseeing the structural design and construction phase of the vessel production. The vessel’s construction will be executed by unnamed German shipbuilders at shipyards in Kiel and Wilhelmshaven. Damen Shipyard’s will allocate the oversight role to its specialist frigate builder subsidiary firm Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding, due to its frigate construction expertise. The contract is to be executed over a ten year time period ending in 2030, with physical delivery occurring in 2028 and the remaining two years spent delivering after-market services.
The MKS-180 class frigates are to be handed over to the German Navy in 2028. The MKS-180 class frigates length and weight will come in at a reported 10,000 tonnes and a length of 160m. The MKS-180 expected to have a maximum speed of 26 knots. The vessel is to be capable of a 4,000 nautical mile range and an inter-service life of 5,000 hours per year. The vessel is to be modular, capable of carrying a dive module, detention module and mine-countermeasures module. The detention module is to be used to house prisoners taken by the vessels in battle or on anti-crime operations. The ship has a store capacity able to sustain a complement of 114 crew and 80 additional personnel for 21 days. The additional personnel are expected to come from naval infantry or special forces, deployable to shore or ship through the use of two RHIBS. The vessel’s is equipped with a cutting edge weapons suite, commanded by Thales’ Tacticos CMS. The suite, is expected to be formed of a launcher, firing eight Kongsberg Defence 125kg High Explosive anti-ship Naval Strike Missiles, sixty four of Raytheon’s RIM-162 block 2 40kg anti-air fragmentation missiles and one Raytheon built RIM-116 close-in-weapons-system. The vessel is capable of anti-submarine warfare due to the addition of hanger facilities sufficient to support two naval helicopters.
Damen Shipyards, lead company on the construction side of the project, was founded in 1927 in South Holland by Jan and Marinus Damen. The Damen family developed a modular, rapid form of shipbuilding in 1969. The 2001 acquisition of the Dutch Navy’s principle frigate producer, the Royal Schelde Shipyards, led to Damen Shipyard’s entry into the naval marketplace. The company’s excellent pedigree in Dutch military circles, producing all of the Netherland’s frigates since 1975, led to a continuation of its preferred client status. The German subcontractors, contracted to fulfil the German government’s commitment to military construction remaining in German hands, are likely to be the German Naval Yards Kiel and Neue Jadewerft shipbuilding firms. The company’s are natural choices for such projects, with German Naval Yards Kiel being a preferred client of the German Navy for frigate construction over a 180 year period. Neue Jadewerft, part of the Lurssen Group of shipbuilders, is a known client of the German Navy having previously been contracted to upgrade and maintain the German Navy’s Bremen, Brandenburg and Sachsen class frigates. The company’s highly sophisticated shipyard and close distance to the Wilhemshaven naval docks would be too good a company to turn down. Once Germano-Dutch effort to built the structure is complete, the Thales Group can integrate its naval mission systems. The final 2028 delivery of the vessels will see them replace Germany’s four 1994 built Brandenburg-class frigates currently stationed at Wilhelmshaven naval base.