Beautiful, isn’t she? A news release this morning from Germany’s MKU brings to mind my high flying times about battleship USS Iowa, and the largest peacetime military buildup in history. But the $500 million it cost to shake down Iowa in 1984 was peanuts comparatively. The F-125 Frigate Project will cost in excess of €650 million euro per ship. Welcome to Cold War II naval capability.
Two familiar German companies, Thyssen-Krupp and Lürssen stand to make hundreds of millions producing a whole new class of German Navy frigate. As for MKU’s press release and their part in the building program, MKU GmbH announced their association for advanced armoring of the class of vessels. The “unique project” they report of evidently involves very advanced armoring aspects, as MKU is a key developer and producer of NATO ballistic protection components.
At just over 7,200 tons displacement, and almost 500 feet in length, the T-125 class are large more aptly called “destroyers” than the smaller “frigate” designation. Even so, €650 million price-tag seems high for a military vessel of this class. The comparison is not a fair one, but the trillions spent out gunning the Soviet Union back in the 1980’s almost broke the United States. For all Ronald Reagan’s good points, Russia retracted from Berlin for one very good reason, the arms race cost too much and the Soviet bloc countries were too big a drag. Military buildups being the current economic and detente issues facing all the world’s countries, getting press releases about German naval might is a might disturbing especially considering the country’s debt problems.
The new vessels are to be named for German states as follows; Baden-Württemberg, which will be the type vessel, Nordrhein-Westfalen,Sachsen-Anhalt and Rheinland-Pfalz (ironically where our offices are). The first of the class was christened at the Hamburg site of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems yards last year. The Baden-Württemberg is scheduled to join the German fleet in late 2016.
It’s worth noting here that ThyssenKrupp has for years been trying to outrun a reputation as the forged steel legend that armored Hitler’s war machine. But bribery and mega profit losses brought to light as recently as last year have further stained the world’s most famous makers of steel. Lürssen has a much cleaner profile as a modern fast corvette and frigate builder, as well as being the famed creators of World War II “E-boats”, Germany’s Schnellboots, the inspiration for the American PT. Lürssen is widely accepted as today’s premier super-yacht builder and most modern shipyard.
The German navy, for those who study history, has been famous for building warships of legendary character and proportions. I mentioned my service on BB 61 the USS Iowa out of coincidence, but it’s interesting to note Lürssen is working in conjunction with maybe the world’s iconic shipyard, Blohm+Voss Shipyards in Hamburg. That yard built the “death star” of its time, Battleship Bismarck (image above) which set out on sortes in May 1941. What’s significant in Germany, and the world, is the number of companies that have manufactured death machines of monumental capacity, which are still functioning today.
It’s tough being an old sailor and admiring the form of a beautiful ship cutting a wake, and knowing what one knows what lethal and oft misused power and resources entail. In fairness, the German navy today bears no resemblance to Hitler’s famous Kriegsmarine, but the ships of war are nonetheless striking looking today.