Big Story 10

Late and overweight: Germany's new frigates found wanting

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s much-delayed new frigates, built by ThyssenKrupp and Luerssen for at least 650 million euros ($710 million) apiece, are overweight and float with a persistent list to starboard, according to a confidential report seen by Reuters.

The ships, designed to need a crew of only 120, less than half their predecessors, are a crucial element in Germany’s plans to beef up its military to face an increasingly uncertain European security landscape and a more assertive Russia.

Designed to remain at sea for far longer than the German armed forces’ existing fleet, the new F125 frigates need extensive servicing only once every two years, compared to once every nine months for their predecessors.

The 1.3 degree starboard list and excess weight, which emerged during testing in September, means the ship is now close to the limit of its design parameters and will raise the class’s lifetime maintenance costs by around 20 million euros, according to a confidential annex to a regular German defense ministry report.

A defense ministry spokeswoman declined to comment on the confidential report, but said “in general terms” that the development of the four ships, the first of which was to have been delivered in 2014, remained on track.

“The design and performance parameters will be met,” she said, adding that a certain degree of listing could never be ruled out when building new ships. “In the case of the F125, appropriate counter-measures have been agreed with industry.”

Shipbuilding company Luerssen referred queries regarding the report to ThyssenKrupp, whose spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on current client projects.”

Reporting By Sabine Siebold; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Alison Williams and Mark Trevelyan