The Danish Navy's New Frigates
(Source: Denmark Defense Command; issued October 16, 2020)
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
The Danish Navy’s support ship Absalon, together with her sister ship Esbern Snare, docked in Frederikshavn where they were undergoing their transformation from support ships to anti-submarine warfare frigates. (Denmark MoD photo)
The Navy's two support ships are being reclassified as frigates. The "new" frigates are being equipped and trained to be even better at finding and fighting submarines, and the new designation as frigates makes it easier to cooperate with NATO partners.

The Navy's warships Esbern Snare and Absalon of the Absalon class have so far been called "support ships", but are now being reclassified to the more appropriate "ASW frigates". ASW stands for Anti-Submarine Warfare, and the ships will be equipped with anti-submarine equipment in the form of an advanced towed sonar that can detect submarines at a long range.

“When we have finished equipping the Absalon class as ASW frigates, Denmark will move up in a new league among the nations that have the capability to combat submarines. It is important that we can thus better provide NATO with the required capacity in that area. With the current geopolitical situation and the world's security situation, it is crucial that Denmark has a capable anti-submarine capacity,” says Rear Admiral Torben Mikkelsen, head of the Navy Command.

Operational run-up in 2026

The equipment of the ASW frigates is an offshoot of the latest defense agreement, and they are expected to be fully equipped in 2026. The time until then will be used to purchase the necessary sonar and computer equipment as well as adapt, test and certify the ships. In addition, the anti-submarine equipment must be integrated with the ship's other computer systems and weapon systems. In addition, crew members must be trained who can use the new equipment. Education will i.a. take place in a simulator so that the crew can be ready to operate the new equipment as soon as it is installed.

However, the ships already have a hull-mounted sonar that can detect submarines at a shorter distance, and the ship can defend itself against submarines. The new towing sonar makes it possible to detect submarines at a much greater distance. In addition to the new equipment, the ships' new Seahawk helicopters will be equipped with so-called dip sonar, sonar buoys and anti-submarine torpedoes. Together, this means that the new ASW frigates can monitor a much larger sea area and protect several ships in, for example, a naval force.

NATO better understands the term

The term "flexible support ship" has often caused confusion among NATO partners. This is partly because "support ship" can be translated to the English "supplyship", even though the Abslon class has always had size, capacity and weapons as frigates. Operating ASW frigates is well known in NATO and the new identity will make it easier for NATO partners to understand.

The reclassification of both ships will take place on Monday 19 October at a ceremony at Fleet Station Frederikshavn. The ships retain their names, but change the pennant number from L16 and L17, to F341 and F342.

When is a warship described as a frigate?

There is no fixed definition of this, but it is often said that ships with a tonnage between 3,000-6,000 tons and with a specific weapon equipment are frigates. The Danish ASW frigates of the Absalon class have a tonnage of 6,300 tons, and they are 137 meters long and 19.5 meters wide. They have, among other things, Harpoon missiles, Sea Sparrow missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes on board.

In addition, the ships can each operate two Sea Hawk helicopters.

Denmark already has three air defense frigates of the Iver Huitfeldt class: Iver Huitfeldt, Peter Willemoes and Niels Juel.

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