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Sachsen class

Anti-air warfare frigate

Sachsen class

In terms of displacement and firepower the Sachsen class is more closer to destroyers

Country of origin Germany
Entered service 2003
Crew 255 men
Sea endurance ?
Dimensions and displacement
Length 143 m
Beam 17.4 m
Draught 4.4 m
Displacement, standard ?
Displacement, full load 5 780 tons
Propulsion and speed
Speed 29 knots
Range 7 400 km at 18 knots
Propulsion CODAG arrangement with one gas turbine (35 514 shp) and two diesel engines (10 061 shp each), to two shafts
Helicopters 2 x NFH 90 or Sea Lynx Mk.88A
Artillery 1 x 76-mm gun, 2 x 27-mm guns
Missiles 32-cell Mk.41 VLS with 24 x Standard SM-2 and 32 x ESSM missiles; 2 x RAM launchers with 42 RIM-116 surface-to-air missiles, 8 x RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles
Torpedoes 2 x tripple 324-mm launchers for MU90 lightweight torpedoes


   Currently the German F124 or Sachsen class is one of the most advanced classes of frigates in the world. These vessels are extremely powerful and fulfill a primary role of air defense, at which they excel, with their world class radar suite and powerful armament.

    Development of the Sachsen class began in the 1990s as a replacement for the aging and obsolete Lutjens class of destroyers in the air defense role. A memorandum of understanding was signed in 1993 between the German government and the Blohm & Voss, Royal Schelde and Bazan (now Navantia) shipyards. The Sachsen class was developed in cooperation with Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan class and the Netherlands’s De Zeven Provincien class. The goal of this joint project was to produce a powerful class of warships able to operate in high-threat areas. The design that emerged is a joint German and Dutch project based on the use of a common primary anti-air warfare system using the Standard SM-2 and Evolved Sea Sparrow medium-range surface-to-air missiles.

   The design of the Type 124 Sachsen class frigate is based on that of the Type 123 Brandenburg class. This technologically advanced frigate has enhanced stealth features intended to deceive any opponent's radar and acoustic sensors. It also incorporates extensive Electronic Countermeasure (ECM) and decoy system suite, all of which enhance its survivability considerably.

   In 1996 the German government contracted for three ships with an option on a fourth that was provisionally to have been named as the Thuringen, but the option for this fourth ship was not taken up. Thus the class comprises three ships, the Sachsen, Hamburg and Hessen. Entering limited service in 2003, the Sachsen class replaced the Lutjens class destroyers. Actually in terms of displacement and firepower the Sachsen class vessels are more closer to destroyers. These warships have much ship platform commonality with the Dutch De Zeven Provincien class destroyers. Most likely that these ships are designated frigates for political reasons.

   Primary mission of the Sachsen class is air defense of the German fleet. Secondary roles are anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare.

   There is a Thales SMART-L radar for long-range aerial surveillance. It can detect and track ballistic missiles at a range of up to 480 km. At shorter ranges this radar can reportedly track stealth weapons. The SMART-L is capable of tracking 1 500 targets simultaneously and provides early warning.

   Mounted round the top of the superstructure are the four antennae of the Thales advanced phased-array air/surface radar. It provides 360° target detection, tracking and engagement. It can track 150+ surface targets to ranges of 32 km and 200+ aerial targets out to 150 km. This radar helps to guide missiles and artillery fire. Up to 32 missiles can be guided in flight simultaneously, including 16 missiles in terminal stage. Such capability is very important while defending against saturated missile attacks. Furthermore the APAR radar has a large Electronic Counter-Countermeasures (ECCM) suite.

    It is considered that radar combination of the Sachsen class is more capable than Aegis radar combination of the Spanish Alvaro de Bazan class anti-air warfare frigates.

   The primary surface-to-air missile armament is carried in the Mk.41 32-cell Vertical-Launch System (VLS) forward of the bridge. It carries a mix of Standard SM-2 IIIA missiles (range 150 km) as well as RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles (range 50 km) in designated cells. A total of 24 SM-2 and 32 ESSM missiles (4 per cell) are carrierd. Local defense against air attack is entrusted to two 21-cell Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launchers with RIM-116 short-range surface-to-air missiles. These have a range of 10 km and form the third layer of air defense for this frigate.

   In the unlikely occurrence that something passes through three of these layers of defense, two “last-ditch” Mauser MLG 27-mm autocannons are carried in remotely-controlled weapon stations. These are reasonably effective, since they have a high rate of fire—1 700 rounds per minute! In addition, the OTO Melera 76-mm dual-purpose gun is useful against aircraft and missiles. It is capable of throwing its 6-kilogram shells out to 20 km at around 100 rounds per minute. It has 85 rounds ready-to-fire.

   The Sachsen class carries a somewhat typical surface-to-surface armament. Two four-cell Mk. 141 missile launchers for the RGM-84D Harpoon (range of 120 km or more) are located amidships.

   The Sachsen class frigates also carry M2HB heavy machine guns and MG3 general purpose machine guns. Furthermore, the two helicopters carried on vessels of this class can use heavy machine guns or Sea Skua anti-ship missiles, range of 25 kilometers.

   Interestingly enough, a complete turret of the 155-mm PzH 2000 howitzer was tested on one ship of the class, the F220 Hamburg, for land-attack purposes. This weapon is certainly devastating, with its enormous 43.5 kg rounds, max range of 40 km, and 9 rpm rate of fire. Although the operation (named MONARC) was successful, it has not been installed on any other Sachsen class frigates.

   Anti-submarine capability is provided by two helicopters and two triple 324-mm mountings for EUROTORP MU90 lightweight torpedoes (20 km range). For submarine detection it has got an Atlas bow-mounted sonar, as well as towed array sonar. The Sachsen class can accommodate NFH 90 or Westland Sea Lunx Mk.88A helicopters. The helicopters can be equipped with sonar and torpedoes for the ASW role.

   Sensors and armament of the Sachen class are largely similar to that of the Dutch De Zeven Provincien class and Danish Iver Huitfeldt class. However the German Sachsen class has a small advantage in having hangars for two helicopters, compared to the single hangar on the other two.

   The Sachsen class uses a Combined Diesel and Gas (CODAG) propulsion system. It uses its two MTU V20 diesel engines, developing a combined output of 20 128 shp, for normal cruising and its single General Electric LM2500 gas turbine, developing 35 514 shp, for high-speed operations. Power is delivered to two shafts. This propulsion system is quite efficient, and the Sachsen class ships can go from standstill to max speed in only two minutes.

   The vessels of the Sachsen class are rather expensive to build and to maintain for a number of reasons. These include their advanced (as well as expensive) design, sensors, and weaponry, plus the large crew it takes to man these large vessels. Total cost of the three ships was 2.1 Billion Euros or about US $2.37 Billion. In fact, the ships were so expensive that the fourth unit was cancelled partially because of this reason.


Name Laid down Launched Commissioned Status
Sachsen (F119) 1999 1999 2003

active, in service

Hamburg (F220) 2000 2002 2004

active, in service

Hessen (F221) 2001 2003 2006

active, in service

Thuringien - - -

planned but not built


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