Historically, Germany has made some well designed ships in insufficient numbers. Bismarck and Tirpitz were both well designed and well regarded. Bismarck was formidable enough that the Royal Navy issued orders to avoid one-on-one engagements with her.
In general, modern German Frigates1 are high capability ships. I’m quite fond of the Sachsen class, which are excellent ships with a fine SAM suite. Unsurprisingly given the feature set and the small production run, they’re quite expensive. They may or may not be the right choice for you depending on your budget, priorities, and the other ships in your Navy.
But all things must come to an end. And the long chain of well-designed German ships came to an end with the F125 class.
I do not understand the F125 class at all. They’re the biggest “Frigates” in the world, with a displacement of 7,200 tonnes. They are also massively expensive. I am not opposed to large frigates or expensive ships. But I want something for my money. The FREMMs that Fishbreath is fond of and the Sachsens I alluded to earlier are both high capability ships. They’re suitable for any standard mission you might expect from a modern maid-of-all-work from air defense to antisubmarine warfare to land attack to antiship work. The F125s aren’t.
Looking at the F125, it is clear something is missing. And that something is the VLS. The VLS is where you put your surface to air missiles. And, if you’re smart like the Germans, you’ve got a VLS like the Mark 41 that can also take cruise missiles. So the VLS gives your ship the ability to defend itself from incoming antiship missiles and to strike targets over 1,000 miles away. Without it, the F125 is like a clawless, toothless tiger.
The F125 does have the RIM-116 point defense missile system. This is presently the best CIWS in the world. But it is no substitute for proper SAM capability. The CIWS is only able to protect against a small scale attack. It is not capable of contributing to the anti-air umbrella of a task force or providing protection to nearby ships. This might be fine for a small corvette or patrol craft, but the F125 is expensive and important. To put it plainly, the F125 will require escorts, like an aircraft carrier does.
Of course, an aircraft carrier carries aircraft. There’s a reason it has no space for missiles. But the F125 isn’t an aircraft carrier. There are no squadrons of Sea Typhoons ready to scramble from a flight deck. The F125 has one 127mm gun, some smaller remotely operated guns, four RHIBs, a submarine ROV and a pair of helicopters. It has a mere eight Harpoon launchers, and a small crew of only 110. I don’t know what happened to the space. I wish I could tell you.
Such a simple ship should be cheap, but it isn’t. In the tradition of other recent German projects, every gold-plated technological innovation has been thrown at it. The radars are split between the two superstructure islands. Command and control has been split as well. Plus, the ships have plenty of fancy modern stealth shaping. All wasted on a useless hull.
The F125 is optimized for the not very difficult mission of antipiracy hunts off the Horn of Africa. What a spectacular waste of
Reichsmarks er, Euros.
1.) Fishbreath would probably quibble about the use of the term Frigate here. Most German frigates follow the European standard of being a destroyer in all but name.