Hessen on 11 April 2013
Class overview
Operators German Navy
Preceded by Brandenburg class
Succeeded by Baden-Württemberg class
Cost700 million per unit
In commission2003–present
General characteristics
Displacement5,690 long tons (5,780 t) (Full load)
Length143 m (469 ft)
Beam17.44 m (57.2 ft)
Draft6 m (20 ft)
Speed29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph)
Range4,000 nmi (7,400 km; 4,600 mi)+ at 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Complement230 crew + 13 aircrew
Sensors and
processing systems
Electronic warfare
& decoys
  • 1 FL 1800 S II ECM suite
  • 6 Sippican Hycor SRBOC launcher
Aircraft carried2 Sea Lynx Mk.88A or 2 NH90 helicopters equipped with torpedoes, air-to-surface missiles Sea Skua, and/or heavy machine gun.

The F124 Sachsen class is the German Navy's latest class of highly advanced air-defense frigates. The design of the Sachsen-class frigate is based on that of the F123 Brandenburg class but with enhanced stealth features designed to deceive an opponent's radar and acoustic sensors. The class incorporates an advanced multifunction radar APAR and a SMART-L long-range radar which is purported to be capable of detecting stealth aircraft and stealth missiles.

Although designated as frigates, they are comparable to destroyers in capability and size and were intended to replace the Navy's Lütjens class. They are similar to the Dutch De Zeven Provinciën class, in that both are based on the use of a common primary anti-air warfare system built around the APAR and SMART-L radars as well as the area-defence SM-2 Block IIIA and point-defence Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) surface-to-air missiles.

The German government contracted for three ships in June 1996 with an option on a fourth that was provisionally to have been named Thüringen, but the option for this fourth ship was not taken up. At €2.1 billion for the three ships, the class was one of the most expensive ship building programs of the German Navy.


Following the reunification of Germany in 1990 at the end of the Cold War, the German Navy continued the construction program of the former Bundesmarine (Federal Navy), which projected a fleet centered on destroyers and frigates. The Sachsen class was the second group of frigates to be built in the post-unification era, following the Brandenburg-class frigates laid down in the early 1990s. The three Sachsens were ordered to replace the old Lütjens-class destroyers that were then over thirty years old.[1]

General characteristics and machinery

Hessen at Kiel Week in 2007
Hessen at Kiel Week in 2007

The ships of the Sachsen class are 132.15 meters (433.6 ft) long at the waterline and 143 m (469 ft) long overall. They have a beam of 17.44 m (57.2 ft) and a draft of 5 m (16 ft), though the draft increases to 7 m (23 ft) at the sonar array in the bulbous bow. They displace 5,690 long tons (5,780 t) at full load. Steering is controlled by a single roll-stabilized rudder; the ships have a turning radius of 570 m (1,870 ft). The frigates have a crew of 38 officers, 64 petty officers, and 140 enlisted sailors. They have accommodations for an additional thirteen officers and sailors as part of a squadron commander's staff, and they have crew provisions for female sailors. The ships can remain at sea for 21 days at a time.[2]

The ships' hulls were designed on the pattern of the previous Brandenburg class to allow for great commonality of parts to reduce maintenance costs; they were built using MEKO modular construction and incorporate seven watertight compartments. The primary improvement over the earlier vessels is the significantly reduced radar signature. The ships were designed with a capacity for an extra 270 long tons (270 t) of weight, to allow for future additions of new weapons and sensors without compromising the ships' efficiency.[2]

The ships of the Sachsen class are equipped with a combined diesel and gas (CODAG) propulsion system. The two operating shafts work independently. The diesel engines are installed in a non-walkable sound-proof capsule. The shafts drive two five-bladed variable-pitch propellers. The General Electric LM2500 PF/MLG gas turbine is rated at 31,500 shaft horsepower (23,500 kW) and the MTU 20V 1163 TB93 diesels provide a combined 20,100 brake horsepower (15,000 kW). The total 51,600 hp (38,500 kW) propulsion system provides a top speed of 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph); while operating the diesels only, the ships can cruise for 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km; 4,600 mi) at a speed of 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph). The ships are equipped with four 1,000 Kilowatt diesel generators that operate at 400 Volts (V) and 115 V.[2]

Steering is controlled via the Rudder Roll System, which communicates information about the ship's position and rudder dampening signals, allowing the ships to maintain "almost unprecedented stability" in as high as sea state 5.[3]


Sachsen launching an SM-2 missile
Sachsen launching an SM-2 missile

These ships were optimized for the anti-air warfare role. The primary anti-air weapons are the 32-cell Mk 41 Mod 10 vertical launching system, equipped with twenty-four SM-2 Block IIIA missiles and thirty-two Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles. Point-defense against cruise missiles is provided by a pair of 21-round Rolling Airframe Missile launchers. The ships are also equipped with two four-cell RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers.[2] In 2013, the German Navy considered modifying the ships' long-range search radar to allow the SM-2 missiles to be used in an anti-ballistic missile capacity.[4]

For defense against submarines, the frigates carry two triple-launchers for the 324 mm (12.8 in) MU90 Impact torpedoes. The ships also carry a variety of guns, including one dual-purpose 62-caliber 76-millimeter (3 in) gun manufactured by OTO Melara. They are also armed with two Rheinmetall 27 mm (1.1 in) MLG 27 remote-controlled autocannons in single mounts.[2]

In January 2003, Hamburg had a modified Panzerhaubitze 2000 turret with a 155 mm (6.1 in) gun fitted experimentally for the Modular Naval Artillery Concept. The experiment was a feasibility study for the projected F125-class frigate. The gun had a range of 40 nmi (74 km; 46 mi) and a rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute.[2]

Sachsen and her sister ships are equipped with a flight deck and hangar that can accommodate two Super Lynx or NH90 helicopters. The flight deck is rated to accommodate a 15-metric-ton (15-long-ton; 17-short-ton) helicopter in conditions up to sea state 6. The helicopter handling system from MBB-Förder und Hebesysteme uses laser guided and computer controlled manipulator arms to secure the helicopter after landing.[2]

Sensors and countermeasures

The APAR radar
The APAR radar

For this role the ships are equipped with an advanced sensor and weapons suite. The primary sensors for this role are the long range surveillance radar SMART-L and the multi-function radar APAR. The SMART-L and APAR sets are highly complementary, in the sense that SMART-L is an L band radar providing very long range surveillance while APAR is an X band radar providing precise target tracking, a highly capable horizon search capability, and missile guidance using the Interrupted Continuous Wave Illumination (ICWI) technique, thus allowing guidance of 32 semi-active radar homing missiles in flight simultaneously, including 16 in the terminal guidance phase.[5][6] The ships are also equipped with two STN Atlas 9600-M ARPA navigation radars.[7]

Modernisation efforts

In 2013, Atlas Elektronik and Thales Deutschland were awarded a contract to modernize the frigates command system, with the project to be completed by 2017.[8]

In August 2021, the German armed forces' procurement agency (BAAINBw) awarded a contract to German and Israeli companies Hensoldt and IAI, under which the Sachsen-class frigates will have their obsolete SMART-L long-range radar replaced by a new AESA radar system designated as TRS-4D/LR ROT.[9] It will be capable of tracking "very small and maneuverable" targets at distances of more than 400 km for air targets and up to 2,000 km for targets in earth orbit. This includes long-range ballistic missiles, allowing Germany to participate in NATOs BMD (ballistic missile defence) efforts. It is not planned to fit an anti-ballistic missile such as the SM-3 to the ships. The ships IFF systems will also be modernised.

Before installation of the three shipborne radars commences, an additional first unit will in 2023 be installed at a coastal facility near the Naval School of Technology at Parow in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania for purposes of training and evaluation. The first ship is planned to have its radar installed in 2024 and all three ships are to have been fitted with the new system by 2028.

The same Hensoldt/IAI system has also been selected by the German Air Force in order to replace its stationary HR-3000 - or HADR (Hughes Air Defense Radar) - early warning radars.


Pennant number Name Call sign Builder Laid down Launched Delivered Commissioned Fate
F219 Sachsen DRAA Blohm + Voss, Hamburg 1 February 1999 20 January 2001 29 November 2002 31 December 2003 In service
F220 Hamburg DRAB HDW, Kiel 1 September 2000 16 August 2002 September 2004 13 December 2004 In service
F221 Hessen DRAC Nordseewerke, Emden 14 September 2001 26 July 2003 7 December 2005 21 April 2006 In service
F222 Thüringen N/A

Service history

Hamburg refueling from USNS Bridge with USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on the right and USS Hué City in the background.
Hamburg refueling from USNS Bridge with USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on the right and USS Hué City in the background.

In August 2004, Sachsen completed a series of live missile firings at the Point Mugu missile launch range off the coast of California that included a total of 11 ESSM and 10 SM-2 Block IIIA missiles. The tests included firings against target drones such as the BQM-74E Chukar III and BQM-34S Firebee I, as well as against missile targets such as the AQM-37C Jayhawk and air-launched Kormoran 1 anti-ship missiles.[5] While serving in NATO Standing Maritime Force 1 in 2004, Sachsen took part in training operations with the United States' aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.[10] Since 2006, the three Sachsen-class ships have been assigned to Einsatzflottille 2 and based in Wilhelmshaven, along with the four Brandenburg-class frigates. The seven frigates together form the 2nd Fregattengeschwader (Frigate Squadron).[11]

Operations with American carrier groups continued through the 2000s and 2010s, including inter-operability exercises with Hessen and the carrier USS Harry S. Truman in 2010. Hessen thereafter departed for a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, Hamburg became the first German ship to fully integrate into an American carrier strike group in March 2013.[12]

Hessen served as the flagship of the NATO Standing Maritime Force 1 in January 2013. In March 2015, Hessen and the frigates Karlsruhe and Brandenburg took part in Operation Good Hope, a training exercise conducted with the South African Navy.[13]


Rumors emerged in July 2013 that Israel has agreed to procure two destroyers from Germany for €1 billion. These have been rumored to be Sachsen-class vessels.[14][15] Eventually, Israel purchased four Sa'ar 6-class corvettes from German shipyards in 2015.[16]

See also

Similar ships


  1. ^ Osborne, pp. 161, 174
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Wertheim, p. 245
  3. ^ Waters, p. 135
  4. ^ Waters, p. 191
  5. ^ a b Lok, Joris Janssen (October 2005). "Live firing tests rewrite the guiding principles". Jane's Navy International. 110: 38–40.
  6. ^ Friedman, p. 263
  7. ^ Wertheim, p. 237
  8. ^ "Thales Deutschland, Atlas Elektronik to Modernize Three F-124 Frigates for the German Navy".
  9. ^ Ruzhelnyk, Olga (2021-09-06). "Hensoldt – IAI: new long-range air surveillance and BMD radars for German Armed Forces". EDR Magazine. Retrieved 2021-10-19.
  10. ^ Kaylor, N. C. (13 March 2007). "CCSG 12 Visits FGS Sachsen". US Navy. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  11. ^ "2. Fregattengeschwader" [2nd Frigate Squadron]. bundeswehr.de (in German). Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  12. ^ Gorman, Timothy (4 April 2013). "Hamburg First German Ship to Deploy in U.S. Carrier Strike Group". US Navy. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  13. ^ "German Navy vessels make port call in Angola". DefenseWeb. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  14. ^ "Report: Germany to sell Israel 2 destroyers for 1 billion euros". The Jerusalem Post. 7 December 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  15. ^ "With Natural Gas Fields in the Eastern Mediterranean, Israel Now Has a New Front: the Sea". Tablet Magazine. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  16. ^ Vavasseur, Xavier (11 March 2020). "Israel Navy's New SA'AR 6 Corvette Begins Initial Sea Trials". Naval News. Retrieved 17 August 2020.