Surface Forces: The Swiss Nightmare


August 8, 2012: The German Navy is going through a shipbuilding nightmare with their new K130 class corvettes, which at this point are apparently going to be six years late. The first 1,800 ton K130 ocean going corvette, after six years of planning and construction, was commissioned in 2008. But it was quickly discovered that there was a serious problem with the ships. It seems that the gearbox for the diesel engines were defective. Efforts to fix this problem were complicated by additional design and component flaws showing up.

The gearbox was manufactured by a Swiss firm but the Swiss reputation for flawless engineering was compromised by poor management. The Swiss subcontracted much of the work to a Polish firm, which did not have the same standards of engineering excellence. The Germans demanded that the Swiss clear up this mess, so that the first K130s could enter service in 2010. All five K130s have been completed but all are waiting for the engines and other defective components to be fixed. Right now, it doesn't look like that will happen until 2014.

The K130s will replace S143/148 class coastal patrol boats, which were designed for combat along the Baltic Coast. The K130s are designed for moving long distances to support peacekeeping missions or any other type of mission NATO might have outside of Europe.

The K130 design is based on design designated MEKO-A100 frigate. The K130s can remain at sea for seven days without replenishment and 21 days if they receive some resupply via helicopter. The K130s are still basically coast defense ships but they are also built for long ocean voyages and are able to proceed at 25-30 kilometers an hour in heavy seas. Top speed is 46 kilometers an hour.

The crew of 65 operates a highly automated ship. Actually, crew size can be as small as fifty. Armament consists of a 76mm gun, two 27mm autocannons, two 21-cell Rolling Airframe Missile systems (for missile defense), and four RBS-15 anti-ship missiles. There is a helicopter pad but only for landing and refueling helicopters. The ships can carry a small helicopter and eventually the navy would like to have a pair of UAVs on board. The German Navy originally wanted at least a dozen of the K130s but now those plans are, to put it kindly, suspended. The K130s cost about $380 million each.


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