Monday, December 17, 2007

Fully Operational?

Since their commissioning, the three Type 124 AAW frigates have been wrought with one little problem - their FCS software is incompatible. This is the result of ordering the ships from three different yards, and splitting FCS installation along with the contract (something that will not be repeated with Type 125). The incompatibility isn't visible at first - each ship funtions perfectly well, as long as it's on its own. However, the three ships are not able to share battlefield information among each other beyond standard Link-11 datalink messaging. Which effectively means that they cannot form a joint AAW battlespace.

The problem has been known for over a year now. It pretty much popped up after the second Type 124 commissioned. And they're still working on fixing it, with about any attempt short of ripping out the entire system on all three ships. What adds time to is that the three frigates are doing their regular training; the Marine just keeps them "close" and doesn't send them on deployments. By most accounts, the problem "should be solved" next year.

Last week, the Type 124 frigate Hamburg completed the German Operational Sea Training. The GOST is held in a NATO framework at Plymouth under Royal Navy auspices every year. It lasts 6 weeks and effectively trains every part of the ship's crew in full wartime operations; this includes live-fire exercises, firefighting/damage control, and other scenarios, and is finished with the "Weekly War", a full War scenario for a flotilla.

Now, both her sisters, Sachsen and Hessen, completed the same in the years before as flagships of small flotillas. What's different about Hamburg is that she's now actually going to be deployed next year. Not to one of the full deployments (UNIFIL and TF150), but as leader of the EAV - the German training cruise flotilla, which will also include Type 122 frigate Köln and a AOR. In previous times, when a Type 124 lead the EAV, such cruises were short due to above software problems - North Sea, North Atlantic, Mediterranean perhaps.

This time, the three ships will "visit three continents, do live-fire exercises in South Africa, and do joint maneuvers with the South-African and Indian Navies as well as navies of other NATO partners". In short: It'll pretty much revisit SNMG1's cruise around Africa - with a stint across the Indian Ocean as well.

It'll be interesting to see how Hamburg will perform on this cruise. And how much it will be covered publicly. Especially when it enters the TF150 AoR.

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