Surface Forces: Loose Screws Embarrass The Swiss And Germans

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June 1, 2009: After six years of planning and construction, the German Navy commissioned  the first of its 1,800 ton K130 ocean going corvettes last year. But it was quickly revealed that there was a serious problem with the ships. It seems that the gearbox for the diesel engines were defective. Some screws came loose, fell into the gears, causing them fail. The gearbox was manufactured by a Swiss firm, and the Swiss reputation for flawless engineering was believed to have made a problem like this nearly impossible. But it turned out that the Swiss subcontracted much of the work to a Polish firm, which did not have the same Swiss standards of engineering excellence. The Germans have demanded that the Swiss clear up this mess, so that the first K130s can enter service next year. Two of the K130s were commissioned last year, but have been decommissioned until the gearbox problems are addressed. Three more K130s are not going be commissioned until they have any needed modifications to their gearboxes.

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. If the K130s have no further problems, the navy would like to have at least a dozen of them. The K130s cost about $380 million each.

 

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