May 21, 2010

Future of the Danish Navy: Forget the Baltic Coastline's, look toward the high-sea !

Currently, the Danish Navy aligns +/-

5 “6000 tons StanFlex” Destroyers/Frigates
3 "Iver-Huitfeldt" class AAW Destroyers (Iver-Huitfeldt, Peter-Wilemoes, Niels-Juel), 6600 tons, to replace the 3 ageing 1450 tons corvettes of the Niels-Juel class (1980). Very efficient design, a single ship is capable of protecting the entire Danish airspace and even northern Germany ! And by reusing the basic hull design of the Absalon class, the Danish Navy have been able to construct the Ivear Huifeldt class considerably cheaper than comparable ships (€ 635 million for 3 ships, weapons excluding). Commissioned 2011/2013, with +/- 30 years service life, to be retired around 2042/2045.

2 "Absalon" class multi-purpose/flexible frigates (Absalon, Esbern-Snare). A very modular 6000 tons frigates (heavily armed: one 127mm gun, some SSM missiles, some AAW missiles, capable of delivering equipment, tanks, vehicles, small crafts, oriented on command & support roles)., and very cheap (269 $ million per ships) The major problem is has to want to be able to do everything…in the end these 2 ships are not a very good AAW platform, are not a very good ASW platform, are not a good amphibious platform and are not a very good mothers-ship. Commissioned 2004/2005, with +/- 30 years service life, to be retired around 2035.

It should be noted that these 5 vessels are designed on a common hull (only equipment, propulsion, armament, superstructure change according to the 2 different needs).

It seems that the purchase of these 5 large warships (Absalon, Ivar-Huitfedt class, equivalent in size to large French, Italian or british latest destroyers), is an enormous effort to the Danish navy. Made in these 5 big units show that the Danish navy to make new strategic choices (rather than used as a coastal navy during the 20th century, these new large ships will allow the Danish navy to go more often off the African , The Middle East, the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, in Mediterranean ..)

6 “Artic-Capable StanFlex” Light-Frigates/Ocean Patrol Boats
4 "Thétis" class frigate (Thetis, Triton, Vaedderen, Hvidbornen), 3500 tons, commissioned 1991/1992, to be retired around 2022, and very likely to be replaced by 2/4 much bigger ships:
- maybe a much bigger/improved “Knud-Rasmussen” OPV design ? (+/- 3/4000 tons), with integrated mast (Thalès I-Mast Family ?).
- or a improved Absalon/Ivar-Huitfeldt hull design, probably with integrated mast (Thalès I-Mast Family ?)

2 "Knud-Rasmudsssen" class OPV (Knud-Rasmusssen, Elnar-Mikkelsen), 1700 tons. Intended to replace two of the three Agdlek class cutters (330 tons, 1974’s, the last remaining ship of this class, “Tulugaq”, as to be retired by 2012). Commissioned 2008/2009, to be retired around 2040.

0 Submarines:
This is the great sacrifice for the new strategic Danish vision. Unable to afford both coastal submarines and 6000 tons warships, the Danish had withdrawn all their submarines (Narhvalen/Tumleren class, retired 2000’s). But despite this, the Danish Navy maintains some underwater warfare capabilities (mine-warfare, frogmen, special forces…).

13 Fast Coastal-Modular-Combattant
+/- 13 "Flyvefisken" class fast coastal modular combatant ships, 450 tons, in 3 groups:
- Batch 1 (Flyvefisken, Hajen, Havkatten, Laxen, Makrelenn, Støren, Sværdfisken), all in MCM configuration.
- Batch 2, is not equipped with hydraulic propulsion, but instead has an additional auxiliary engine (Glenten, Ravnen, Skaden, Viben in combat configuration; and Gribben in surveillance configurations).
- Batch 3, has one further auxiliary engine: Søløven, in surveillance configuration.

This 13 ships, commissioned in 1989/1996, with +/- 25 years service life, were likely to be retired around 2020 and replaced by new bigger (and fewer) modular combatant ships, maybe 8/10 ships of +/- 900/2000 tons range.

6 Medium Shore-Patrol-vessel
6 "Diana"-class 250 tons patrol vessels (Diana, Freja, Havfruen, Najaden, Nymfen, Rota), commissioned 2007/2009, to be retired around 2035.

+/- 29 Small-Patrol-Poats (Medium shore patrol vessels, operated by Danish coats-guards)
11 "MHV900" class patrol-boats, 87 tons (Enø, Manø, Hjortø, Lyø, Askø, Fænø, Hvidsteen, Brigaden, Speditøren, Ringen, Bopa), commissioned 2003/2009, to be retired around 2025/2040.

18 "MHV800" class patrol-boats, 83 tons (Aldebaran, Carina, Aries, Andromeda, Gemini, Dubhe, Jupiter, Lyra, Antares, Luna, Apollo, Hercules, Baunen, Budstikken, Kureren, Patrioten, Partisan, Sabotøren), commissioned 1992-2001, to be retired around 2018/2025

1 "MHV90" class patrol boats, 85 tons (Holger-Danske), 1975, probably to be retired soon. He and 5 sisters ships (already retired), are replaced by some MHV800 patrol boats.

Being given that MHV900 and MHV800 class are nearly similar in size and follow in time. It is possible that in future, towards the end of the 2010’s/earlier 2030’s, these 29 vessels are gradually replaced by a single class of larger and fewer patrol boats (maybe 100+ tons, 18/24 vessels ?).

+/- 4 Transport-Vessels:
1 "Sleipner", in service since 1986, likely to be retired around 2020
3 RO-RO ships ("Tor-Dania", "Tor-Future", "Stena-Forwarder", 2004/2007), chartered by the danish navy, 2007.

6 Fast-Light-Modular-Landing-Caft (Storebro SB90E type):
4 LCP (LCP 1-4), Landing Craft Personnel; carried on board the Absalon-class
2 SAR1/2, Search and Rescue vessels, carried on board the Knud Rasmussen-class

+/- 7 Mine-Warfare (small craft, well advanced in unmanned warfare) :
2 Holm class multirole-boats, fitted for remote-controlled mine-sweeping, (Hirsholm, Saltholm), 2007/2008.
4 MSF-class drone minehunters (HDMS MSF1-4), 1998-1999.
1 MRD-class drone minehunters (HDMS MRD1-3, 5/6 laid up, MRD4 in service as a tender at Korsør).

5 Training/Prestige ships
2 Svanen-class sail training ships (Svanen, Thyra), commissioned 1960/1961
2 Holm class vessels (Ertholm, Alholm), commissioned 2006/2007
1 Royal Yacht: (Dannebrog), 1932.

3 Icebreaker
2 Danbjørn-class icebreakers (Danbjørn, Isbjørn), commissioned 1996.
1 Thorbjørn-class icebreaker (Thorbjørn), commissioned 1996.

6 Surveying Vessels
2 Holm class multirole boats, fitted for cartography (Birkholm, Fyrholm), 2006.
2 Cartography vessels of the SKA-class (SKA-12, 6), all converted for Frogmans corps, 1981/1985.
2 Cartography vessels of the O-class (O-1, 2), 1998.

+/- 5 Support vessels
1 tending vessel « ex Barsø-class patrol vessels » (Læsø).
2 SKA-class (SKA 12, 16), converted to be used by the Frogman Corps.
2 VTS-class fast response vessels (VTS-1, 4).

7 Environmental protection vessel
2 "Sea-Supply" class environmental protection vessels (Gunnar-Thorson, 1981/1996; Gunnar-Seidenfaden, 1996).
2 "Sea-Truck" class environmental protection vessels (Mette-Miljø, Marie-Miljø, 1996).
2 "Miljø" class environmental protection vessels (“Miljø” 101-102), 1996.
1 "Lægtvand" class environmental protection vessels (“Miljø 103”), 2008.

4 Harbor tugs
2 Arvak class tugs (Arvak, Alsin), 2002.
2 Balder class tugs (Balder, Hermod), 1983.

Naval Aviation, 8 helico’s:
8 Lynx, progressively upgraded to Super Lynx Mk.90B standard (with a new airframe and exising equipment reinstalled. With only seven left operational, a damaged airframe in storage will be included in the upgrade).

It may be that in my opinion, I forgot programs? (or made few mistakes ?), then said it! Feel free to comment and give your opinion !

In all cases, it is clear that
- Will future threats, the Danish Fleet is facing the open sea and forward deployements
- The Purchase of large vessels will seriously reduce the size of the Danish Navy.


  1. Mike,
    May I also suggest that the aquisition of the Stanflex destroyer/frigates might well also be an act of great foresight on behalf of the Danish government in regards to Greenland.
    As we know, Greenland is a self governing territory of Denmark who are still responsible for that nations foreign affairs and security.
    In recent years large deposits of highly valuable minerals have been found in Greenland and are only just now being started to be exploited.
    Also with Oil and Gas being to the forefront of much discussion in the Arctic regions and the arguement over who has jurisdiction of disputed continental shelves, these larger vessels would be invaluable in protecting the interests of both Denmark and Greenland.
    Just a thought !

  2. HDMS Absalon (L16) may seem like a compromise between different goals, but that particular ship is the number one catcher of Somali pirates. All of those features including two helos and multiple small craft make it a very capable pirate interceptor.

  3. @ Anonymous:
    obviously, the melting poles, offers new perspectives to the Nordic countries. Tensions between USA/Canada/Denmark/Norway/Russia are only just beginning!.

    @ D.E.Reddick:
    Yes, a compromise between different goals, yes fot the 1st "Pirates Killer". Of course, this "concept" is not perfect, but probably enough good for the Danish needs...
    ...This is probably different for a major navy (US, UK, FR....).

  4. The last Danish sub in commission was actually the former Royal Swedish Navy's HMS Näcken. She was leased to the Royal Danish navy from 2001 to 2005, and operated as HDMS Kronborg (S325). She was then restored to her original name of Näcken upon her return to Swedish control.

    HMS Näcken, the world's first operational AIP sub, was first commissioned in 1980. From 1987 to 1989 she was converted with two Stirling-cycle engines, and later operated in the RSwN from 1989 to 2001.

    Most likely it was pressure from NATO that forced the RDN to abandon submarine operations. The Danes were however partly compensated for this with four extra Merlin helos and one extra patrol ship.

    /Per Nordenberg

  5. Thanks Per Nordenberg for these details

  6. All the last 8 of the Standard Flex ships were decomisioned this week. 1 will be kep and converted to a diving tender (Flverfisken)

  7. Thanks for these details Knight :-)
    You have a official source please (even in danish language !) ?

  8. @Per Nordenberg ("Most likely it was pressure from NATO that forced the RDN to abandon submarine operations. The Danes were however partly compensated for this with four extra Merlin helos and one extra patrol ship.")

    NATO has nothing to do with the Danish abandonation of submarine operations. In contrast, the existing submarines were decommisioned and the construction of 3 new submarines (AIP, possibly to be armed with Tomahawk cruise missils+torpedoes - part of the Scandinavian Viking project) were cancelled, because the Socialdemocratic party in the Parlament dislikes submarines. Thus, the abandonation was the result of a compromis following political negotiations, and no 'scientific' motivation was given. (Something similar happened to the frigates of the Peder Skram class about 25 years ago.)

    Link to the Viking programme (in Danish): The Viking programme later turned into the Swedish A26 project:

    The four Merlins were cancelled too (->Afghanistan). A second attempt is being made now, including about 12 new marine helikopters (replacement of 8 Lynx helicopters + helicopters for the new 'frigates'). The candidated are AW159, MH60R, NH90-NFH, CH148 and AW101, see e.g. (in Danish).

    The extra patrol ship (=frigate) is not included in the plans, although the original proposal were for 2+4=6 frigates and 10 units of the Flyvefisken class. In addition, the build-up of the crew for the 3rd frigate has been canceled (postponed) due to budgetary problems.

    @Mike Colombaro: With respect to the decomisioning of the Standard-flex 300 (Flyvefisken class). Here is the news from the defence (in Danish): A container-based MCM system is being developed to replace the MCM units of the Flyvefisken class.


  9. The Medium shore patrol vessels, noted as "operated by Danish coats-guards" are manned by the all volunteer Naval Home Guard and as they mainly operate outside normal working hours they complement the regular navy very well.

  10. The Icebreakers were built as follows: "DANBJØRN" og "ISBJØRN" 1965/1966 from Odense Stålskibsværft).
    "THORBJØRN" from Svendborg Værft in 1981. t
    They were probably last on service (= commisioned) i 1996. The Minestry of Defence annonced they were to be scrapped - date not announced - due to cost...

  11. Thanks "Peter Kamp Nielsen" for these details ;)