Germany upgrades its air defense frigates with longer range radars

FGS Hamburg at sea. Photo: German Navy

Germany has decided to upgrade its Sachsen-class air defense frigates with the aim of improving their contribution to NATO’s missile defense system.

The ships’ long range radars are being replaced with new ones that will have a significantly broadened scope of engagement.

Apart from defending against treats in the ‘conventional’ airspace, the new radars are expected to be capable of defending against ballistic threats coming from outer space, outside of Earth’s atmosphere.

The German Navy is now looking forward to establishing a planning and acquisition process. The service hopes to have the radar system installed on its frigates from 2021.

With this new capability, frigates Sachsen, Hamburg and Hessen will be able to detect all missiles aimed at the NATO region and report the threat back to the NATO missile defense system headquarters in Ramstein, Germany.

The ships will not be able to shoot the missiles down on their own. Instead, the NATO headquarters will be in charge of deciding which unit or units will be tasked with the destruction of incoming missiles.

This role (of missile interception and destruction) has so far been the responsibility of U.S. Navy’s four forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with the Aegis combat system. The destroyers are stationed in the Naval Base Rota in Spain.

Belgian frigates should be capable of performing the same task from 2025 onwards. In 2015, Belgium joined a NATO missile-defense project group that was previously constituted by Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. The country vowed to introduce an active defense capability to the group with the aim of augmenting the group’s sensor-only capabilities found on Dutch, Danish, and soon, German ships.

Belgium and the Netherlands are already working together on new frigates that will be fitted with exo-atmospheric ballistic missile interceptors.

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