The German government has announced its intention to select Damen as the main contractor, together with partners Blohm + Voss and Thales, for supplying at least four Multi-Purpose Combat Ship MKS 180 frigates to the German Navy. The Dutch naval shipbuilder is extremely proud of, and satisfied with, the result of the evaluation process announced on 14 January 2020 by the German Government, though of course awaits parliamentary approval in Germany.
The ships will be built at Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg and at other shipyard locations of the North German Lürssen Group. Damen intends to build in this way in order to spend around 80% of the total net investment as added value in Germany. The same applies to the electronic application systems that are supplied by Thales Nederland to its own design. Around 70% of the services will be provided by the German subsidiary of Thales and by other German subcontractors.
With the North German shipyard group Lürssen – parent company of Blohm + Voss – and the Damen Shipyards Group, the partnership is based on two stable family businesses that have been successfully active in marine and commercial shipbuilding for more than 140 years.
The only naval builder in the Netherlands is pleased with this selection to be main contractor in the German project and the division of work between German and Dutch industry. For the Netherlands, it provides national knowledge and expertise. This offers the Dutch Government the option, in the coming Dutch naval construction projects for frigates and submarines, to have these types of strategic programmes devised, engineered, managed and deployed in their own country.
The MKS 180 project contributes to securing the export power and self-creation of both Dutch and German naval construction in the longer term. The project also opens perspectives for the requested European (defence equipment) cooperation.
The Schleswig-Holstein shipyard GERMAN NAVAL YARDS KIEL (GNYK) submitted the final offer for the construction of the multi-purpose warship MKS 180 on 18 July. Together with its cooperation partner ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, the company is competing for the largest naval contract in the history of Bundeswehr. GNYK is the only remaining German general contractor in the European competition of the German Ministry of Defense.
Jörg Herwig, Managing Director of GERMAN NAVAL YARDS KIEL, said: «By submitting our offer, we have done everything in our power to obtain this contract for Germany. Should we win the contract, not only we as a shipyard, but hundreds of small and medium-sized companies throughout Germany will benefit from the project. It is decisive that we as German shipyard receive orders from our own government. This is the only way we can become less dependent on exports».
The construction of MKS 180 could provide a major impetus for German naval shipbuilding. «This is vital for the innovative strength of the entire industry. Furthermore, thousands of jobs could be preserved permanently. With the construction of MKS 180, we as German shipbuilding companies have the opportunity to maintain our technological leadership in international competition», said Herwig.
GERMAN NAVAL YARDS KIEL will develop, design and build MKS 180 in Germany. The initial plan is to build four ships. The decision on the allocation is now incumbent on the Federal Ministry of Defence. A decision is expected at the end of 2019.
GNYK has a first-class infrastructure and the necessary experience to build technologically highly complex naval vessels. The shipyard is also able to repair simultaneously several large ships. An operating shipyard infrastructure on the Baltic Sea is of particular importance in terms of security policy for NATO operations or military exercises.
The German Navy plans the MKS 180 multi-purpose combat ship as an all-rounder. Mission modules will cover a wide range of missions – with superiority in naval combat the ultimate aim.
The MKS 180 will be an all-purpose weapon. Built-in modules designed for specific military missions will make this possible. These mission modules are at the heart of what «multipurpose combat ship» means in practice.
This modularity is the consequence of both the experience that the Bundeswehr now has with stabilization operations for conflict prevention and crisis management, some of which have lasted for years, as well as the requirements of a national and alliance defense in Europe.
The ship should be able to patrol large sea areas for a long time all over the world, monitor embargoes and, if necessary, evacuate German citizens from crisis situations, in the North Atlantic or the Mediterranean and, if necessary, engage in naval combat against other warships of its kind or underwater. No other single ship type can fulfill such a wide range of tasks so far.
The basic version of the MKS is already a full-fledged combat ship. Interchangeable components supplement this core capability and then adapt the ship for specialist missions. Two such mission modules are currently planned: one for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and one for custody module.
Self-defense and combat missions:
Creation of a maritime picture above and under water;
Maritime surveillance and embargo control, including boarding;
Military evacuation in crisis situations;
Escort for merchant ships;
Leadership of naval task forces;
Flexibility thanks to modular system.
The mission ASW module turns the MKS a dedicated submarine hunter. With onboard helicopters and their own sonars – in conjunction with the sensors of allied reconnaissance aircraft and submarines – the ship can secure a large sea area against dangers from the depths.
The custody module turns the MKS into a floating base for anti-piracy missions. Multiple cell rooms allow persons to be temporarily detained; An additional sanitary station makes medical examinations possible under quarantine conditions.
In addition to these two, the Navy plans more modules. One of them is equipped with a diving chamber and other special equipment for mine hunting.
The accommodation of the mission modules is divided into three areas in the ship. A so-called flex deck is located below the flight deck at the stern. Using an external crane, it can be equipped from the top through a hatch. Two additional flex decks are located approximately halfway along the length of the superstructure and can be accessed by an onboard multi-purpose container crane.
The Navy demands from the future shipbuilder that the replacement and commissioning of the modules can be carried out as quickly as possible and worldwide, without interfering with the ship’s structure and without a shipyard. In addition, the modules must withstand the climatic and oceanographic conditions that prevail in their respective field of application. Thus, the MKS will be able to travel in the tropics as well as possess an ice class to navigate polar waters.
Medium- and short-range anti-aircraft missiles;
Long-range anti-ship missiles;
Main gun 127-mm with extended-range ammunition;
Water cannons, heavy machine guns, marine light guns;
The modularity of the MKS has several advantages: Unused mission modules can be stored and maintained independently of their ship application platform. The modules do not have to be procured for each ship and can also be purchased independently, at other times. In case of changed operating conditions and technological advances, only the module needs to be modernized, and the standardized interfaces on board allow the development and insertion of new modules.
The size of the MKS ships is very impressive, compared to previous ships of the German Navy, notably because they need, among other things, enough space for the different modules.
The marine architects calculate a length of around 508.5 feet/155 meters for the MKS and a displacement of up to 9,000 tons of water. For comparison, the frigates of the «Baden-Württemberg» class are a good five meters shorter and nearly 2,000 tons smaller. And even these frigates are almost twice as large as the frigates of the «Bremen» class.
Compared to the frigates of the «Baden-Württemberg» class, which the Navy will put into service beginning this year, the MKS will adopt some features – above all automation and low maintenance of the technical equipment as well as the multi-crew concept.
This will also allow these new ships to remain in service for up to two years, while the crew of around 110 will rotate every four months. In addition to this regular crew, up to 70 people can be accommodated in the mission modules.