July 8, 2007: Germany has ordered four F125 class
frigates. These ships are unique in that they are optimized for peacekeeping
and counter-terrorism missions. To that end, they can stay at sea for up to two
years at a time. Each ship will have two crews, and each crew will alternate
four months at sea on the ship, and four months back in Germany undergoing
training or taking leave.
The 6,800 ton ships are highly automated, so a crew
of 110 is sufficient. These are large ships, 443 feet long, and half a century
ago, would have been called light cruisers. There is berthing space for another
fifty personnel (commandoes, aid workers, diplomats, whatever).
The ship carries a lot of weapons. There are 48 VLS
(Vertical Launch System) cells, which can carry SM-2 anti-aircraft missiles, or
Tomahawk cruise missiles. The latter are more likely on peacekeeping missions,
the better to send a message to hostile groups ashore. There are two 21 missile
RAM anti-missile launchers, plus eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles. There's a
127mm gun, four 27mm auto-cannon, seven 12.7mm machine-gun (five remotely controlled,
two manually) and some water cannons. There are several UUV (unmanned
underwater vehicles) for clearing mines, and two MH90 helicopters. There are
four 34 foot boats and space for a 20 foot cargo container. A powerful aircraft
radar (phased array) is on board, plus electronic countermeasures and lots of
The F125s will cost about $720 million each. The
first F125 won't enter service until about 2015. Note that the modern cruiser
was developed, over a century ago, partly to keep the peace in far off places.
But Europeans have been avoiding using traditionalÂ ship labels like "destroyers" and
"cruiser" because they are reminiscent of the bad old days when
Europeans were more warlike.