The MKS 180 multi-purpose combat ship is being built for the German Navy. Credit: Damen.
Damen and Thales signed a contract for the mission and combat system in November 2020. Credit: Damen Shipyards Group.
All four MKS 180 frigates are expected to be delivered by 2031. Credit: BAAINBw/MTG Marinetechnik.

MKS 180, also referred to as F126 frigate, is a new multi-purpose combat ship being developed for the German Navy to replace its Brandenburg class frigates.

The four MKS 180 (MehrzweckKampfSchiff) ships will serve as a multi-mission platforms and will be commissioned by the German Navy as F126 frigates.

The ships will be primarily built at Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg, while Blohm+Voss’ shipyards in Bremen, Kiel, and Wolgast will also support the construction.

Construction of the frigates is expected to commence in 2023 and the first ship will be delivered to the German Navy in 2027. The remaining ships will be delivered by 2031.

The MKS 180 frigate can support self-defence and combat missions and create maritime situation report both above and below water.

It will also be capable of performing maritime surveillance and embargo control, including boarding, military evacuations during a crisis, escorting merchant ships, and leading task forces at sea.

MKS 180 frigate development

The budget committee of the German Bundestag approved the financing for four frigates and two options, in June 2020.

The German Government announced its intention to select Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding as the main contractor to design and construct four MKS 180 frigates in January 2020. Damen will work with Blohm + Voss and Thales to construct and deliver the frigates.

"The MKS 180 frigate can support self-defence and combat missions and create maritime situation report both above and below water."

Damen Shipyards Group and the German Bundesamt fur Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr signed the contract for the construction of frigates in June 2020. The contract also includes an option to build two additional frigates after 2032.

In November 2020, Thales received a €1.5bn ($1.77bn) contract with Damen to deliver mission and combat system for the frigates. The contract also includes four ship systems, logistic services, and multiple land-based test and training sites.

MKS 180 frigate design and features

MKS 180 frigate will have an overall length of 160m and displacement of 10,000t. It will have the capacity to accommodate up to 114 crew members and will also feature 80 additional berths for the staff.

The basic variant, a full-fledged combat ship, can also be added with two different mission modules such as anti-submarine warfare situation report and module detention.

The mission modules of the frigate will spread over three areas. The flex deck will be located below the flight deck at the stern and can be loaded from above by using an external crane.

Other two flex decks will be located in the superstructure and can be accessed through an on-board multi-purpose container crane.

The ship can also accommodate one medium / large helicopter with anti-ship missiles and two VTOL unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Mission and combat management system

The mission and combat system to be supplied by Thales will include the Tacticos combat management system and above water warfare system (AWWS) fire control cluster.

The AWWS is an advanced warfare suite, which enables the crew members to counter and neutralise complex saturation attacks with the help of analysis and optimisation of tactical environment and deployment of resources.

The frigate will also be equipped with Satcom system, gatekeeper 360° IR/TV system, and mirador MK2 EO tracking and observation system. It will also feature KORA C-ESM and R-ESM electronic warfare sensors, as well as TRS-4D c-band air and surface surveillance radar.

F126 weapon systems

The F126 frigate will be armed with a 127mm main gun with Vulcano extended-range precision ammunition. Other weaponry on board the warship will include MK41 vertical launch system (VLS) for ESSM Block 2 missiles, as well as naval strike missiles (NSM) and RAM close-in weapon system (CIWS).

It will also be fitted with medium and short-range anti-aircraft missiles, water cannons, heavy machine guns, and light marine guns.

MKS 180 frigate propulsion

The multi-mission frigate will be powered by a silent propulsion system. It will be able to cruise at a speed of 18k and attain a range of 4,000nm.

The maximum endurance of the ship will be 24 months, while the service life of the frigate will be approximately 30 years.