NVL Group christens future German K130 Braunschweig class corvette Karlsruhe

According to a PR published by NLV Group on May 7, 2024, the German Navy has received the third of five new corvettes that will enter service starting in 2025.

The third unit was ceremoniously launched by Karlsruhe’s First Deputy Mayor, Gabriele Luczak-Schwarz, at the NVL Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg, where the ship was christened with the name of the Baden city, Karlsruhe.

These new corvettes (boats 6-10) are being built by a consortium, ARGE K130, comprising the NVL Group, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, and German Naval Yards Kiel. The ship-naming ceremony was marked by the breaking of a bottle across the bow of the 89-meter-long vessel, a pivotal milestone in ship construction alongside keel-laying and steel-cutting.

Currently, all five corvettes are at various stages of completion at the Hamburg shipyard. The project teams have successfully conducted sea trials with EMDEN, the second corvette, which was launched in 2023. After its christening, KARLSRUHE will undergo final outfitting and extensive system checks in collaboration with the German Navy and the public customer’s technical departments.

The K130 Braunschweig-class corvette is the newest addition to the German Navy, intended to replace the Gepard-class fast attack craft. Five ships make up the first batch, while a second batch was announced in 2016, although its procurement has been delayed. This expansion was driven by NATO requirements, which mandated Germany to provide four corvettes at the highest readiness level by 2018.

Technologically, the Braunschweig-class employs reduced radar and infrared signatures, exceeding the stealth capabilities of the Sachsen-class frigates. They are equipped with two UMS Skeldar V-200 helicopter UAVs for remote scouting. Although the hangar is too small for standard helicopters, the pad can accommodate Sea Kings, Lynx, or NH-90s.

Initially, these corvettes were planned to carry Polyphem missiles, which were eventually scrapped, leading to the adoption of the RBS-15 Mk3 anti-ship missile. The German Navy has pre-ordered the RBS-15 Mk4, which offers an extended range and improved resistance to countermeasures. The RBS-15 Mk3 can also engage land targets.

Classification challenges arise due to the absence of an executive officer, which traditionally classifies them as boats in the German Navy. Nevertheless, they are officially considered ships because of their size, armament, and endurance, although they lack anti-submarine warfare sensors and weapons.

The contract for the initial five ships was awarded to a consortium in 2001, and the lead ship, Braunschweig, was launched in 2006 and commissioned in 2008. The remaining Batch I ships were commissioned by 2013 after overcoming various technical issues. In 2015, Israel ordered four Sa’ar 6-class corvettes, based on the Braunschweig-class design.

A second batch of five corvettes was announced in 2017, and after an initial legal challenge, a new contract worth around 2 billion euros was signed with a consortium led by Lürssen. The production arrangements were finalized in 2018. However, in 2022, integrating command and control systems led to significant cost increases and delays for the lead ship.

These corvettes are capable of a speed of 26 knots and have a range of 4,000 nautical miles at 15 knots. They carry a crew of 65, including the commander, officers, chief petty officers, and enlisted personnel. Their armament includes an OTO Melara 76 mm gun, Mauser BK-27 autocannons, and RBS-15 anti-ship missiles, along with RAM Block II launchers. They also feature the Cassidian TRS-3D/TRS-4D radar, MIRADOR sensors, and electronic warfare suites.

Plans are underway to build a third batch, while the first batch may be decommissioned and sold to a NATO ally by 2025 to offset modernization costs.

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